Bonnells Bay, New South Wales
Mother and son team Louise and Nat Ginn are all set to ride a gruelling 1000 kilometres over 10 days to raise $100,000 for the Blossom Project. Their epic journey will begin on Monday, December 14 and take them from Sydney to the peaks of Mt Kosciusko and back. All for the sake of young mums-to-be and unborn babies in Vanuatu.
More can be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies, more can be done to support young people in need, and churches, with their influence, networks and resources, are in a prime position to make a significant impact.
Louise met Pastor Dorolyn Laloyer through a friend Jenny Wigglesworth in 2011, when Dorolyn was director of Women’s Ministries at the Vanuatu Adventist Mission. Dorolyn passed on her infectious passion to love and care for babies abandoned by teenage girls in Vanuatu. She told Louise and Jenny about the tragic case of a newborn baby found abandoned in a bush toilet. Together that evening they prayed and Louise committed to helping in whatever way God led her.
“I don’t think any mother should feel they need to abandon their child but there are women in Vanuatu that feel they have no other option,” says Louise, herself a mother of four. “I would like to give them another option.”
With the passion and enthusiasm to truly make a difference, Jenny and Louise dived in with Dorolyn to form a residential building project concept they together named “El-Haven.” With the incredible support of Avondale Memorial Church in Cooranbong (NSW) they commenced fundraising, awareness-raising and an intense personal learning journey. They conceived the idea of an epic bike ride to raise much needed funds. As testament to the relationship that mothers can have with their children when given the opportunity to grow up in a loving home, Louise’s 16-year-old son Nat offered to share the epic ride with his mum on a tandem bicycle.
“I can’t imagine life without loving parents,” says Nat. “All kids should have the same opportunity.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia supported the team by funding a full needs assessment and project design through ADRA Vanuatu. This would ensure their concept could become a good-practice, effective development project, achieving maximum impact with limited resources.
“We needed to really understand the problem and the extent of infanticide,” said Louise. “It was also important to us that we weren’t replicating already available services in Vanuatu or overriding the traditional informal support systems.”
The research identified that an average of 100 babies are born each year to women in Santo and Port Vila who did not plan their pregnancies; of these about 20 are born to teenage mothers. The Federal Police acknowledge that while two to three cases of infanticide are reported each year, some cases do go unreported. In 2009, a report by the Vanuatu Women’s Centre revealed that one in three women in Vanuatu reported having experienced sexual abuse under the age of 15 and some babies are born as a consequence of this abuse.
Gaps in services and support identified in ADRA’s report include reproductive health education programs being introduced too late in the lives of young boys and girls, educational institutions not providing adequate support for young mothers to continue their education after delivering their babies, and churches not playing an active role in educating young people on their reproductive rights and responsibilities.
“More can be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies, more can be done to support young people in need, and churches, with their influence, networks and resources, are in a prime position to make a significant impact,” said Pia Reierson, ADRA Australia’s Gender Advisor.
What has now evolved from the initial El-Haven residential concept is the renamed Blossom Project, a two-pronged approach implemented by ADRA Vanuatu in partnership with the Vanuatu Adventist Church. The project has a specific focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies, while also supporting young women who are pregnant to ensure that babies born to these mothers are provided with appropriate care through case management, counselling, life-skills training and other support.
“It’s an approach that will see hundreds of young people supported through existing church and school networks, helping kids to make informed life decisions,” says David Cram, ADRA Australia’s Program Manager. “It will also ensure young girls who do get pregnant have every opportunity to stay in school or gain other skills that will enable them to support their babies into the future.”
Pastor Laloyer and a group of supporters are continuing to explore a separate residential care venture for young women unable to find support within their communities.
To show your support for the women and children of Vanuatu, and to help Louise and Nat raise the resources to get this ADRA project moving, go to www.adra.org.au/blossom.