One of the huge challenges in providing family support is identifying those families at most risk of neglecting, abandoning, or trafficking their children before it happens.
For several years, we have been working to develop key relationships with health care providers here in Mae Sot that will strengthen our ability to catch families in critical situations before they fall apart.
Last year, we received a referral from the Mae Sot General Hospital regarding a young pregnant woman (17 years old), who had escaped a severely abusive marriage in Myanmar, traveled here to Mae Sot where her mother is, and only upon receiving her first prenatal exam learned that her husband had given her HIV.
Tae* (not her real name) and her little extended family were alone, in a foreign country, critically poor, discovering a sickness that gets you rejected by the surrounding community, with a baby coming to a young and inexperienced mother, and the danger of giving this new life the same sickness that the mother just discovered that she now has to deal with for the rest of her life.
They were completely unable to pay for the C-section needed to give the baby the best chance of not contracting HIV during birth.
It is no surprise that they were meeting with “orphanages”, intending to give the baby to one when he arrived. They could clearly see the crisis of their situation with the risks to everyone involved along with the fast approaching deadline and were trying to make the best decisions they possibly could. They could see no possible hope that they would be able to effectively care for this new life, let alone have any hope of a bright future. This family was simply trying to slow the descent into hell.
A doctor at the hospital reached out to The Charis Project, and we were able to begin weekly coaching and counseling meetings with Tae, along with nutritional support, to help her heart and mind and body to grow and prepare for a strong and healthy baby and provide her and her mother and stepfather with education about living with HIV and keeping the whole family safe from infection. Also, with emergency help from a few special supporters, we were able to fund a C-section to safely deliver the baby while minimizing the possibility of infection.
Now, nearly a year later, this tiny family is flourishing.
In the mornings, Tae goes to her steady job working at a street side breakfast snack cart. Her boss takes good care of her, even giving her a phone. She is slowly saving money to help provide for their future. They live down the road from her mother and stepfather, whom they see daily. Her mother, or a neighbor, watches the baby while she’s working to support herself and her child.
When we visit them, they greet us with huge smiles. She is an affectionate mother and it’s obvious her child is thriving.
The baby’s last test indicated no HIV. Tae is taking her medicine and staying healthy.
A year ago, this simple yet happy life seemed impossible to this family. They had no hope. They had been dealt a devastating blow, and they didn’t know how they would cope with it.
Thanks to the encouragement and support you partner with us to provide, Tae and her family were able to decide to keep her baby once he was born, and continue to have the resources to grow stronger.
We’re thankful that our relationship with the hospital is strengthening, as it gives us better opportunities to provide support to desperate families like this one before it’s too late.
*Names have been changed and photos edited to protect this family’s identity.
Carrien is co-founder of The Charis Project, Family Education Curriculum Developer, and mom of 6.
You can get her free mini-course on Making Your Family More Resilient here.