“Ajuda de Mãe – Help for Mum”
Letter to Friends around the World # 90

Young mothers and pregnant teenagers in very precarious living conditions avoid having to give up school thanks to the “Ajuda de Mãe” organisation (Help for Mum), a teaching and support project where participants also learn to abide by rules and acquire working habits.

This project is a partnership with a Lisbon secondary school, and is for “any young mothers who have left school or may have to leave school because of their baby”, explains the president. She adds “Very often they want to leave school because they are ashamed of being pregnant. And then it’s difficult to find them again to get them to finish the school year. After that they can stay for the following years, or go to a normal school while their baby is looked after in a daycare centre.

During the first month after giving birth, the young mothers can take lessons at home. Afterwards they return to the “Ajuda de Mãe” school and can leave their baby in the institution’s daycare centre. During classes, the mothers may be called on to breastfeed their child. The exam pass rate of our pupils is 85%!”.

At “Ajuda de Mãe” the mothers also learn to prepare for the birth. Joana told us about this at the end of a class explaining how to bathe a newborn baby. When she discovered she was pregnant at the age of 19 Joana was very frightened because she “knew she didn’t have enough money”. When her pregnancy was discovered she was dismissed from her job. With no family and no job, what could she do?

Fortunately someone told her about “Ajuda de Mãe” and a week later she was accepted in the institution’s centre for adult mothers. Here she receives the support she needs. “I was all alone, she says, I only had the baby’s father to help me, but he lives a long way away and doesn’t have any money either”.

“Ajuda de Mãe” runs three centres, which are always full, with a total capacity for 25 mothers. In addition, last year the institution was in contact with roughly 1,300 families, and the same number during the previous year. “Ajuda de Mãe” supports roughly 150 families per month, and distributes nappies, milk, baby food and many other things.

Once the most urgent needs have been met, the families “are more available to undergo vocational training, in the hope of finding a job once more.”

Susana S., Portugal