Panel mulls how to build support system for Sophia teen moms

A frequently expressed sentiment in relation to rearing children is that  “it takes a village”. Yesterday the question of where to find or how to build this village consumed a panel discussion directed towards helping teen mothers in Sophia. 

According to Nutritionist Angela Applewhite- Hercules the initiative was crafted by the Ministry of Public Health’s Food Policy Division initiative after they learnt of the number of teenage mothers registered in the Sophia Health Centre’s Teen Mother’s Support programme.

“Dr. Fraser was the one who made the connection as she runs the support group at the Health Centre. I do not have an exact number but from the last data we have over the last year they would’ve had over 100 teen mothers,” Applewhite- Hercules explained adding that the division felt compelled to act since at every visit to the health centre they encountered increasing numbers of teen mothers including several who had had another pregnancy soon after the first.

“We labelled this initiative ‘Help Me So I Can Help You’ as a way to find out some of the issues they were having so we can address it and prevent them from having additional pregnancies,” she said. 

Yesterday’s panel discussion was part of four days of activities and was specifically set up as an analysis of initiatives available to teenage mothers to address the challenges they face in their communities.

For the most part the three-hour discussion focused on skills training and employment opportunities but each question asked soon circled to the issue of childcare.

Those present were keen to hear about how to find a daycare which is safe and suitable for their children while they step into the world of work.

The advice offered was varied for Executive Director of Youth Challenge Guyana Dimitri Nicholson it is better to find a relative who can be trusted or someone in the community with whom the child is familiar so that they can build relationships.

Adolescent health services officer at the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Travis Freeman also noted that at least one Non-governmental Organisation, Women Across Differences (WAD) offers childcare services.

He added that mothers should work to include the fathers in the process from conception to birth so that they can develop a sense of responsibility and benefit from training offered which will help them become a useful part of the village.

Nicholson made sure to acknowledge how the stigma attached to teenage pregnancy affected the support participants can access before encouraging them to take advantage of training programmes being offered at the Carnegie School of Home Economics and the Government Technical Institute. 

Social Worker Janeil Osborne also urged the mothers to develop a support system not just for assistance with the baby but also to offer mental health support those times when the process becomes stressful or frustrating.

She urged those who may not be able to access mental health support at home or in their community to reach out to the Mental Health Unit.

Mothers were also urged to reach out to their religious leaders for comfort and counselling.

Other members of the panel were Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Bureau Dr. Lowell Porter, Public Health Nutritionist Gillian Trim, Psychologist Mosa Hutson and Manager of the Guyana Foundation Sunrise Centre Miriam Hinds. 

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