In a typical year, First Hand volunteers eagerly travel to Cambodia on service trips to meet with our partners at Damnoek Toek and Mother’s Heart. But 2021 is still not a typical year! Instead of a physical trip, on March 5, many of our volunteers participated in a Zoom call with Mother’s Heart. Sidana Touch (Country Director), Zarah Jane Rushworth (Communications and Donor Relations) and Somphors Seong (Director for Client Services) took time to explain Mother’s Heart’s mission, the organization’s impact and the Covid-related challenges they currently face.
Mother’s Heart’s Mission
Mother’s Heart began in 2010 as Cambodia’s first crisis pregnancy organization. Their mission is to:
Sidana shared some startling statistics that illustrate the need for Mother’s Heart’s services. 28% of women in their program are underaged or minors. 54% of the pregnancies they deal with are a result of rape, incest, entertainment (prostitution) or trafficking. It costs $2,700 (US dollars) to cover all the costs for one woman and her child in their pregnancy support program.
Mother’s Heart offers 3 programs to support a woman through her crisis pregnancy and beyond:
- Pregnancy Support Program (PSP)
- Alternative Care (kinship care, temporary foster care, permanent foster care)
- Abortion (Mother’s Heart refers women to a reputable clinic that legally and safely performs abortion)
The Pregnancy Support Program (PSP) provides a woman access to supports and services that make parenting a viable option for her. She is assigned a social worker who provides support until her child is 18 months old and she has access to safe, community-based housing, medical care, a food allowance, parenting education, vocational skills training and job placement, family re-integration and day care.
Growth Plan to Serve More Women
Sidana told us how Mother’s Heart is working to grow their support services for women. The organization began in 2010 in Phnom Phen, and in 2017, they expanded to provide services in Battambang. Sadly, the demand for their programs is growing and in 2020 they accepted 35 women at their Battambang location, although they had only planned for 26 women. Mother’s Heart also plans to extend their PSP to cover the first 24 months of a baby’s life.
Zarah shared that this increase in care creates increased costs and the advent of Covid has impacted Mother’s Heart’s funding. They expect a shortfall in their funds but rather than cut services, they are looking for innovative fundraising opportunities. Zarah explained that Mother’s Heart has partnered with online fundraising forums, such as One day’s Wages and Global Giving, that offer donation matching. Global Giving is featuring Mother’s Heart in their International Women’s week fundraising campaign and will match donations in a 5 day crowd funding activity. Zarah also emphasized that sharing Mother’s Heart’s initiatives on social media is very helpful as this gives the organization further international exposure and expands their donor base.
Response to Covid
During Covid lockdown periods, Mother’s Heart has stayed in contact with their clients using mobile phones and social media. However, many women in remote areas do not have access to technology and many women are also reluctant to discuss sensitive issues remotely. Face to face interviews allow social workers to assess a woman’s home environment and body language to ensure that each woman is safe and healthy.
Sidana explained that the Battambang and Phnom Phen centres rely on tuk tuks for transportation, to visit their clients and to take women to medical appointments. He said that Covid has emphasized the need for the tuk tuks and the problems of relying on technology. Mother’s Heart needs to replace 3 of the motorcycles that drive the tuk tuks. Each motorcycle costs $1,800.
A Hopeful Future
Despite the challenges, Sidana, Zarah and Somphors remain optimistic about Mother’s Heart’s ability to help women facing crisis pregnancies. They are filling a very real need with a kindness and empathy that will create a lasting impact on the women and children they help.