Lucy November and Rebecca Coles went to Sierra Leone in September. The aim was to finish collecting data for Lucy’s feasibility research study and to train the new coordinator and mentors, which will allow us to double the number of young people being supported.
Twenty two girls were in the initial study and sixteen have had safe births so far.
Time was taken to share why 2YoungLives was started and the importance of having a heart and vision for the pregnant women. It was wonderful to see how passionate the mentors are about the girls. The women are all from the local community and all spoke with a real love for these teenage girls and want to see them thrive.
Reviews took place with both girls and mentors in 1-2-1s and group discussions. There were stories of breakthrough, reconciliation and hope. The project has adapted and developed over this pilot year, thanks to the commitment of Mangenda and her team of mentors.
Impact can be seen in the gorgeous healthy babies and mothers, who are lovingly caring for them. It’s in the relationships and community that has been built: a place of belonging for young women who are very vulnerable and often alone. The pregnant teens and mums look out for one another and enjoy being together.
Vision for the future is to see this grow organically and naturally. As well as doubling the team in Kuntoloh, Lucy and Mangenda had opportunity to travel to Punduru to see if it would be possible to replicate there. They met with local heath staff who were very positive, as well as the Betteh Tumara community outreach team, watch this space as this develops.
Supporting disabled pregnant teenagers hadn’t been one of our main aims but after having had one deaf girl, we can see that support for this group of people is really important. Rebecca, whose parents are both deaf, delivered some deaf awareness training this time and was able to visit a local Special Needs school, as well as talk with the family of a young deaf woman in the community. We produced pregnancy communication cards for the deaf girl in the project and for a deaf pregnant woman in the community, which they will trial for us. Mentors now feel more confident to approach girls with disability and we have already seen the deaf girl who has not only been welcomed into the group but an active member.
The mentors are offering business support, money management skills, breastfeeding support, family counselling and even being birthing partners. These amazing women are walking alongside each of these teenage girls, offering real practical help, support and a listening ear. The girls recognise their importance and value. The mentors have also said that they feel confident in all the things they have learned and often talk to pregnant women in the community to ensure they are looking after themselves.
We already have nine new girls for the new mentors and the existing mentors are looking to recruit more over the next month. The criteria for a teenage girl being accepted is being under 17, 21 if has a disability, and having no family support.