Being young, single and pregnant makes for a tough combination in any circumstance. But unmarried, expectant mothers in Peru frequently have to endure poverty's sting as well.
A ward Relief Society in Lima recently stepped forward to help a few such young mothers. It began when the sisters of the La Molina Ward, Lima Peru La Molina Stake, decided last Christmas to organize a service project. One of the La Molina women had a sister who had once worked as a Franciscan nun in Buen Pastor, a Catholic-owned facility for displaced pregnant girls.
Buen Pastor takes in expectant mothers between 11 and 17 years old who are without homes or anywhere to turn. "Many are street children," said Serena Adams, a La Molina Ward member.
The ward Relief Society learned from the sister that resources at Buen Pastor were often limited, so they began collecting baby items from folks in the ward. Some contributed clothes or baby toys. The wife of one Lima-area mission president donated blankets that her daughter had made in Texas. Others pitched in with baby powder and wipes.
"We gathered up all the items, then delivered them to the nun in charge," Sister Adams said.
While at Buen Pastor recently, the Relief Society sisters toured the facility, giving them the chance to look at the faces of the young women they were helping. The facility takes the girls in during their pregnancies, then allows the young mothers and their babies to stay for about a year. While at Buen Pastor, the girls attend school and learn job skills such as sewing and computation designed to empower them with independence and self-sufficiency when they leave.
The facility also works with the girls' families during their pregnancies in hopes of eventually bringing them back together.
Sister Adams was touched by what she saw at Buen Pastor.
"In the [dormitory] we often saw stuffed animals in both the cribs and [mother's] beds," said Sister Adams, realizing many of the mothers were still children themselves.