Empowering Teen Moms

Patrick Kelly, an undergraduate student at Temple University, participated in the Summer International Health Fellowship (SIHF) in July of 2016. During his time in Huancayo, Peru, Patrick worked with several other Fellows on a project aimed at helping teenage mothers improve their self-esteem and creating projects that could help them gain an income. Patrick is now part of FIMRC's Alumni Program, and shared with us his reflection on his time with the teen moms, explaining how they were able to begin achieving FIMRC's goals.

For our independent project, Teen Moms, we worked with five teenage mothers who all live in a communal house. While living here, they receive support as they learn to raise their children and foster better lives for themselves. Our initiatives were planned with four main tenets in focus:

  1. Emotional development
  2. Physical health
  3. Environmental awareness
  4. Financial well being

With our guiding principles in mind, our group planned various activities that would expose the teenage moms to all four important aspects. Working with women who have experienced the worst that the world has to offer, it was important that we fostered an environment where they felt loved, appreciated, accepted, and safe.

After introducing ourselves to the moms, we handed each of them diaries so that they could document their emotional healing process during our work with them. This not only made them feel valued because of how infrequently they receive gifts, but it also provided them with the resources to express themselves. Journaling can dramatically decrease the burdens of traumatic experiences and therefore is evidently important for the moms to embrace. Not only will journaling aid the mothers in coping with their emotional stress, it provides educational enrichment through the expression of their thoughts in prose, poetry, or drawings. Afterwards, we made flower crowns with them. Using artificial flowers and leaves, the ladies picked out a floral arrangement and hot-glued them to an elastic band. The crowns are genuinely beautiful and it was evident that they valued the activity based off of the apparent lift in their spirits.

The following week, we decorated terracotta flower pots with paint and melted crayons. FIMRC donated various herbs and vegetables that we then planted in the pots. Our hope is that the moms will associate self-sustainability with their own artistic abilities in order to boost their pride in their creations. That day, we also had them write down something about their pasts that they would like to let go of. Afterwards, each mom had the opportunity to burn their papers as a symbolic representation of progress following their traumatic events. The final day, we had an exhibition of all of the crafts that they made throughout our time together. They were able to share their favorite part of the experience and sell their creations. Each mom will be provided with instructions detailing how to recreate each craft with the hopes that they can eventually sell them at a local market as a source of income.

The strength of a relationship is not something that is quantitatively measured, nor is the pain that someone has felt. It is the indefinable, intangible beauty of life when people from across the world are able to connect over purely human experiences. Our hope is that the bonds we have formed with each mom will again teach them the beauty that is in this world.

With love and the utmost respect,

Patrick Kelly, Brooke Bodhaine, Annika Neerdaels, Julia Pikula, Chenin Ryan

SHIF FIMRC Fellows 2016