Like an Extended Family

Holt’s long-time partner in Thailand helps single mothers succeed for their children.

When Prim attends school, her mother lovingly cares for Bell.
When Prim attends school, her mother lovingly cares for Bell.

When you bring your first child home — whether from the hospital or through adoption — your whole world changes. Life before baby quickly becomes a distant memory. At once, your world is flooded with a love you never knew was possible, as well as fears you never knew existed. Suddenly, you have so many questions you never had to ask before. Is she getting enough to eat? How will I know if he needs something? What if I mess it all up? The newness of it all can prove overwhelming and exhausting.
Enter grandparents.

Always around to answer questions or just offer a listening ear, your parents know just how to help. They’ve been there, after all.

And when imperfect circumstances find a new parent raising a child on his or her own, one can only hope that a helpful grandparent, or equivalent support system, will be there to support the needs of the frightened parent and fragile baby.

But in countries like Thailand, where a stigma against unwed mothers endures, single mothers rarely receive support from their families. Out of shame and fear, many choose to relinquish their babies into institutionalized care.

When *Prim, a university student in Thailand, became pregnant at the age of 20, the baby’s father abandoned her. Terrified, Prim kept her pregnancy hidden from her family for as long as she could. When Prim gave birth to little *Bell, Prim’s mother, *Ning, insisted that she relinquish Bell to an orphanage to avoid scandal and disgrace.

Today, Bell is a lively and healthy toddler.
Today, Bell is a lively and healthy toddler.

At the urging of a relative, Prim instead looked into the range of services provided by Holt’s longtime partner in Thailand, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF).

Founded on the belief that every child deserves to grow up in a permanent, loving family, HSF is a prominent provider of child welfare services. Over the years, HSF services have expanded to include counseling, financial assistance, vocational training, educational sponsorship and income-generating projects.

To assist unwed mothers like Prim, HSF also provides shelter, health and postnatal care, as well as counseling to help them cope with discrimination, and ultimately make an informed decision about whether to relinquish their child.

Through HSF intervention, Prim made the decision to keep Bell, and Ning agreed to assist in raising her grandchild after she received counseling and training. “Ning loves Bell very much,” says an HSF social worker. HSF offered Prim financial help to finish her education, and while Prim attends school, Ning looks after her granddaughter. Both Ning and Prim also receive financial management counseling.

Prim deposits funds monthly into a savings account designated for Bell.
Prim deposits funds monthly into a savings account designated for Bell.

Today, precious Bell thrives in her mother and grandmother’s care. “She is a lively and healthy girl,” says a social worker. Ning received the tools she needed to assist her daughter in raising her grandchild, and Prim no longer feels shame about being a single parent.
To date, about 80 percent of the single mothers who receive HSF support eventually decide to keep their baby.

When Prim felt hopeless and alone, HSF came through for her, acting, in a way, like a special surrogate family. Now, not only does Prim have her mother’s support, she also has the entire HSF community there to encourage her. Like many new moms before her, HSF helped Prim cope with the dramatic, wonderful change that is parenthood.

Ashli Keyser | Staff Writer

*names changed

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