Vicheka found herself surrounded by a group of concerned women. Heavily pregnant, she would wash dishes, do mending, or help sell food, anything to earn enough to buy food for herself. At nights she settled down to sleep on the street. She had attracted the attention of some local women who worked and lived in the area. With compassion they collected some money together to give to her. One of the ladies allowed her to sleep in her home. Another gave her Mother’s Heart’s phone number.
At seventeen, Vichekahad arrived in Phnom Penh hunting for work. In the province, it was her mother’s aunt who had raised her. Her own family – mother, father, grandmother and younger brother had all died while she was a child. In Phnom Penh, Vicheka worked as a maid or doing odd jobs. It was not long before she met a boy…
Unfortunately, her partner was a savory character. Their first child died. Then Vicheka was pregnant by him again, this time with twins, yet her partner would not take responsibility for her or the babies.
34 weeks pregnant, Vicheka called Mother’s Heart and was taken into the pregnancy support program. She was found a place to stay until delivery.
The birth did not go well. Vicheka lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion. An impassioned scrabble ensued as Mother’s Heart social workers struggled to find blood donors. There is a widespread policy in Cambodia that in order to receive a blood transfusion, the relatives or friends of the sick person must donate an equivalent amount of blood before the transfusion takes place. Often doctors or staff will donate blood when there is no family. But Vicheka was giving birth on a holiday, there was hardly any staff around. A dear friend of Mother’s Heart was able to give 4 units of life saving blood for Vicheka.
Gradually recovering, Vicheka left hospital. Her stalwart neighbors urged her to give one or both of her babies away. “Yes but how will you provide for them? At least give one of them away.” Vicheka was very torn. She truly did not know what to do. It is so hard for single women with one child to survive but two, impossible!!!
With Mother’s Heart counseling, Vicheka was able to clearly evaluate whether or not she was able to keep her babies. Staff assured her it was her decision; they would support her in whatever she chose.
Vicheka has decided to keep both babies. Together she and Mother’s Heart staff created a plan for her future. She desperately wanted a job so Mother’s Heart staff set up an interview with a partner organization. At this interview Vicheka excelled and was accepted into their one-year program. Now she has a safe place to stay, a supportive community, and a job.
Vicheka, is proactive about the care of her twins, everyone notices it. She still gets help from Mother’s Heart; they provide her with nappies, formula to supplement her breast milk, and emotional support from the staff when she needs it. But Vicheka is succeeding to make a life for her small family in Phnom Penh.
She is an amazing, strong, and determined young woman and all involved in her life are extremely proud of her.
Any city-dwelling Cambodian is never far from the province of their childhood. This is the home of their extended family and an older rhythm of life. Mother’s Heart’s Social workers are currently putting a lot of effort into provincial care; reintegrating clients into the support of their families and coordinating clinic and hospital services as well as partnering with regional NGOs, so that the women and babies continue to receive quality health care while being amidst the network of their families and community.
Face it…sometimes caring for a newborn baby can get on top of you. Rajana was under a lot of stress with bad and broken relationships, she’d got to the point of wishing her baby child dead. Social workers at Mother’s Heart spent long hours in counselling with her in Phnom Penh, helping her to regain emotional stability. While Rajana was on maternity leave, Mother’s Heart staff took her to her province so that she could spend time with her mother. The social workers saw in every visit that she was improving mentally and emotionally. She has gradually become more and more independent. Back in Phnom Penh, Rajana is completing the last of her training and starting work.
To be seen, truly seen in the midst of her situation and helped by Mother’s Heart staff is something for which Rajana is very grateful. She has become an empowered young mother.
The provinces are the future for another mother, Goriyan. Abandoned by her boyfriend, she was alone in Phnom Penh without help and losing hope. In Mother’s Heart she has received counselling, food, housing and entry into a beautician’s course. She is able to work while her baby is in day care. A great mom, Goriyan has even reconnected with the father of her baby who is showing that he is now serious about their relationship. Their plan to shift closer to his family in the province once she finished training, has now become a reality.
“In the hardest time of my life you helped me,” says Goriyan to the staff. “Thank you.”
*Due to the need to protect the privacy of clients of Mother’s Heart, names and images that might reveal their identity are avoided. Thanks for your understanding.
Pheap is an 18 year-old girl with an unplanned pregnancy. Estranged from her family in the provinces, she came to Mother’s Heart. All was normal during her pregnancy and she delivered a beautiful baby girl.
However things changed for the worse very quickly. On day 4 she was complaining of a headache and blurred vision. Despite immediately receiving medicine for high blood pressure, she suffered a small convulsion that afternoon. On day 7 she had a series of severe convulsions resulting with bleeding in her brain and 4 days in the Intensive Care Unit. Her baby was placed in foster care and then as Pheap had not recovered and doctors did not know her prognosis, the new-born was taken to the province by Mother’s Heart staff for Pheap’s stepmother and family to care for. This was very scary for Pheap as she did not know how her family would feel about their grandchild. Their relationship had not been good in the past.
It is nearly 6 weeks after the delivery of her baby and Pheap has fully recovered from her stroke. She is convalescing in Phnom Penh while doctors try to wean her off her hypertensive and convulsive medicines before she can return to her family in the province.
The family loves their grandchild and brought the baby back to Phnom Penh for the convalescing mother to bond with. The whole process has bought about family reconciliation and restoration.
We are so grateful for the wonderful care provided by the medical team, and all the thoughts and prayers of the people around us.
Life at Mother’s Heart is a creative story. And you never know… you might just catch them joyfully dancing…