By Sandra Pineda
Before going to visit Mother’s Heart, all our volunteers in Singapore helped us to collect donations of maternity clothes, bottles for babies, breast pumps, baby clothes, and nappies. We are extremely grateful to all our friends and supporters that donated these items. We managed to put together more than 100 kgs of donations.
After receiving the Certificate of Clearance emitted by the Singaporean police, Evelyn Abbot, Karin Hesse and I were ready to go to our journey. On the day that we arrived in Phnom Penh, Sam Sophun, our very kind guide, was already waiting for us and of course the donations.
On the first day, we visited the killing fields and the S-21 prison from time of the Khmer Rouge, when more than 3 million people died of execution, forced labours, starvation and diseases. As sad and emotional as it is, we had to visit these places to understand the story, the sadness, and the fight Cambodians are living. Many of the country’s educated people died in this way, leaving a country without professionals or educated leaders. Now, knowledge is considered a tool to succeed.
The second day, we brought the donations to Mother’s Heart head quarters. We did a tour around the building. The introduction room is where the women experiencing a crisis pregnancy will have their first visit. They give the options and in case the women would like to continue with the pregnancy, Mother’s Heart will facilitate the services of midwives and counsellors depending on every situation. For Mother’s Heart it is important to empower women in the decision-making.
We met the team that run Mother’s Heart. Emily Scott, Director of Client Services, was our host, and we also met Sidana Touch who is the Director of the whole charity. Emily gave us a briefing about how Mother’s Heart works. It was really interesting as this organisation provides support to women during pregnancy, delivery and in some cases until the children are old enough to attend public primary school. They provide education about nutrition, the baby, and childcare. Moreover, they encourage the new mums to learn a new skill, or to find a job, all the way until they are ready to go back to the community.
It is important to point out that first of all, Mother’s Heart encourages the mums to find help in their own family. However, if that is not possible, they provide a home for the mum and the new babies. They were very happy to receive all the donations to refill their stocks.
We visited the childcare facilities where the babies and children of these women can stay while the women are working or learning new skills. We had time to see the children before they closed so could see that the facilities are amazing, creating a good and happy environment for the children. It is important to bring donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste for future visits.
On the same day, we helped to prepare a room where a mum and new baby were coming to stay. This single room was to be her new home, in a shared house with other women that Mother’s Heart was supporting. We cleaned the walls of the room and went back the following day to paint it.
After cleaning, we met Somphors Seong. She is a senior social worker and her role is also known in some countries as a Health Visitor. We did a home-visit to a mother with a 3 week old baby. The mother had to leave her hometown since her parents didn’t want to support her. She moved to her brother’s house in a different city and has been supported by her brother. Somphors helped her giving her advice about how to feed the baby and will go with her to the doctor’s appointment. Somphors told us her story about how she struggled in the past and so now is very eager and motivated to support other women. She has been in the organisation since the beginning. Now she is in charge of all the social workers.
At the end of the day, we met Sidana Touch, director of Mother’s Heart. He shared his story about his time during the Khmer Rouge when his dad never came back and they had to walk out of Phnom Penh. He was only 6 years old. Afterward this, he was separated from his mother and stayed with his grandmother. He reunited with her mother years later when they could go back to Phnom Penh. He has been working in different organisations, manly in the provinces. Nowadays, he is the director of Mother’s Heart. It was really inspiring talking to him.
On the last day of our trip, we visited the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC). This organisation is partnered with Mother’s Heart. The Center provides protection to the survivors of rape, legal assistance, physical and psychological help. By supporting them, the organisation aims at reintegrating the survivors both economically and socially. In the CWCC, they train the survivors with new skills such as sewing and restaurants services. In the sewing workshop silk items such as bags, dresses and scarves are designed and made. We are open to new designs that we could share with them.
We came back grateful that we are helping but feel that it is never going to be enough. However, we are having an impact, not just on the women that Mother’s Heart helps, but also on the workers and their families. Thank you to all the supporters of First Hand.