Universal support: Annie Bateley and Brian Gull say the success of a new Hope House for teenage mums in Marlborough will be realised with help from the whole community.
Improving the lives of babies born to teenage mums is the mission for a new facility opening in Blenheim.
Hope House will provide pregnant teens with care and accommodation, encouragement to continue their education and in-house courses to better prepare them for parenting when their babies are born.
The project was the brainchild of Christian-based family-support service Bread of Life. Other community agencies want to be part of it and a separate Hope House Trust is being formed, said Bread of Life manager Brian Gull.
The trust’s first public fundraising project will be a Celebrating Youth concert, to be held on April 12 at the Floor Pride Civic Theatre.
“It’s got to be a community project, it’s not just us,” Bread of Life team leader Annie Bateley said.
Long-term plans are for Hope House to be a purpose-built six-bedroom facility with separate en suites and study areas.
That is still a long way down the track, though, so the trust is accepting the offer of a four-bedroom dwelling to use in the meantime. Details have not been completely finalised but Brian and Annie are happy that the Hope House plans are being realised. It will help pregnant teens prepare for the next stage of their lives and weigh up which options will have the best outcome for their babies.
A website titled “Kiwi Families” said New Zealand has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world with about 50 teenage girls in every 1000 falling pregnant. Half of those pregnancies end in abortion but more than 3800 babies are born to teenage parents every year.
Teenagers most “at risk” include those born to teenage parents themselves, those in low socio-economic groups, and Maori and Pacific Island teenagers who have a higher fertility (completed pregnancy) rate than European. Their abortion rate is also higher.
Trust members are not wearing any “rose-tinted glasses” when planning the Hope House programme, Annie said.
When visiting a similar facility, the House of Grace in Wellington, they learned how poorly equipped some teenage mums are.
One girl had never boiled or cracked an egg – yet she was about to bring a baby into the world, Brian said.
“Some of the most effective communication is at the sink, peeling potatoes and the girls start to unload.
“Sharing chores together . . . that’s when they start to talk.”
Hope House will have one full-time paid “day mother” who will encourage girls to continue their education and run courses at the house on good nutrition, cooking, budgeting, babies’ health and general life skills.
Overnight “house parents” will ensure the teens are never left on their own at night and mentors will encourage them to put into practice what has been learned when they leave Hope House.
“Many young girls will be coming from families not normally supportive.
“We will try and restore that, if possible,” Brian said.
A “strengthening families” programme run at Bread of Life reveals children who grow up safely with their own families have the best prospects in life.
Opportunities for children in low-income and single-income families can be restricted, so the Hope House Trust is starting a children’s sponsorship programme.
Donors will deposit a sum of money each month into a single child’s account, much the same way people sponsor disadvantaged children in developing countries.
Mothers will not have access to their children’s accounts, Annie said.
Instead, it will be used by the trust to ensure a child can enjoy being a Kiwi kid, attending school camps, playing sports, maybe learning a musical instrument team.
For more information about the Hope House Trust, contact Brian Gull at Bread of Life, 03 578 1355
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