Dorothy, at the time of referral, was a 19-year-old woman who was referred to the program by the Health Department. She was six months pregnant and living with the father of her baby. At the age of 13 she left her mother in West Virginia and went to live with her father in a trailer park in Virginia Beach.
During her teen years, her relationship with her mother and her mother's sister who lived in Northern Virginia, was sporadic. When she was 17, her father married again and his new wife insisted Dorothy must move out. She came to the Fairfax area, got a job in a fast food restaurant, entered into relationship with one of her co-workers and eventually became pregnant.
The referring public health nurse was concerned that Hosea, the father of the baby, was abusive to Dorothy. The public health nurse felt Dorothy lacked common sense and good coping skills, and that she didn't have a basic knowledge of what constituted good nutrition.
The volunteer assigned to this client was Gail C. She took Dorothy grocery shopping and helped her to select nutritious foods and taught her how to prepare these foods. She gained Dorothy's confidence and learned that Dorothy loved Hosea very much, but that he was abusive whenever he drank too much. She helped Dorothy understand that she didn't have to take this abuse. She helped Dorothy develop a safe plan for when Hosea became abusive.
When Dorothy and Hosea separated, Gail helped her enter a church sponsored housing program where she could take computer classes that would improve her job marketability. She gently and persistently urged her to reconcile with her mother and her aunt. Eventually these relationships did improve. Dorothy had a healthy baby and with time she and Hosea reconciled and moved out of the area. A year later she contacted Gail and told her that she and Hosea were going to be married. They wanted Gail to be a guest at their wedding.
La Juan, at the time of referral, was a 23-year-old woman who was referred to the program by Human Services. She was seven months pregnant. The referring social worker said that La Juan was a high functioning mentally retarded woman who was living at home with her mother and assorted family members. La Juan wished to get back on her own as soon as possible.
The volunteer assigned to this client was Helen J. She helped La Juan plan for the baby. She helped her contact the community resources which could provide her with a layette and other needed baby equipment. She took her to all her Fairfax Hospital appointments and used the travel and waiting time for appropriate health teaching. Helen worked closely with the social worker in helping La Juan connect to other appropriate community services. Helen has been very encouraged by La Juan's parenting skills and by her commitment to both well baby visits and the necessary immunizations for her baby.
Connie was matched with Elena, a 19-year-old from El Salvador. Elena lived in a small but clean two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend and his brother. Due to the economy, her boyfriend was working on average only four to 12 hours per week in construction. Elena worked as a nanny for a neighbor until she had her own baby. Despite having very little money, resources, or parental support, Elena and her boyfriend were very excited about the arrival of their baby!
Never close with her parents, Elena felt isolated as she wasn’t allowed to have friends or go anywhere after school for years. Once she started dating her boy- friend her parents wanted nothing to do with her. Connie’s relationship with Elena turned out a lot like a mother-daughter relationship. Sometimes she was very firm with her and other times they talked for hours about how Connie had overcome poor choices in the past and persevered. They spent a lot of time planning and taking action on items such as applying for WIC and Medicaid, finding a pediatrician and developing a resume so she could apply for work.
Elena gave birth to a beautiful baby and has proven to be a great mom and her son is thriving. She appreciated the education and support provided by The Naomi Project.
Making a difference in someone’s life is what being a Naomi Project mentor was all about for Rita. She was matched with Lupe from Central America, the mother of twin baby girls. When Rita first met her, the babies were four months old. They lived alone in a bare, second-floor apartment and got little help from anyone, including the girls’ father. She had no telephone and knew none of her neighbors.
Lupe passionately loved her babies but did not know how to take care of them. At four months old, they could not roll over and did not do so until they were about one year old. She kept her babies in car seats most of the time and never gave them “tummy” time to build up strength in their little arms. She cleaned them with a washcloth, but had never given them a bath or washed their hair. There was not a toy, rattle or stuffed animal to be seen; hence, the girls were under- stimulated.
The first thing Rita did was help Lupe to get the babies into a program that offered weekly physical therapy visits for the girls and parental education for herself. Rita also helped her get a phone. With limited English skills, little things like that can be very difficult. The Naomi Project gave her a much-needed crib and stroller from their supply of used nursery items. The twins are now two little girls walking, smiling and playing. Rita gave them and their mom something very important, and that was the gift of her time.
Rosa was 18 years old and 6 months pregnant when her public health nurse referred her to Naomi Project. She was matched with Ellen who had to quickly brush up her rusty Spanish to communicate with her. Rosa was not gaining weight, had poor vision and failed to show up for prenatal appointments. She had come to the U.S. from Guatemala about 2 years before to join family. She shared an apartment with the baby’s father and his relatives.
The first thing Ellen did was to take Rosa for a free eye exam provided by the Lions Club. Her vision was so bad she had trouble reading signs at the health department and the bus stop. Once she had glasses she was able to use public transportation and apply for the social services she needed.
As her due date approached, Ellen got her a crib and stroller from the Naomi Project Storage Closet. When the baby was a few weeks old Rosa suffered depression and Ellen helped her see a psychiatrist who prescribed medication and therapy. Ellen also took Rosa to a food pantry for food and diapers when needed and helped her enroll in English classes.
Maria, at the time of referral, was a 41-year-old woman from El Salvador. She had come to the United States at the urging of her husband who had been here for a year. She became pregnant soon after her arrival. What her husband had neglected to tell her was that in the year he was here alone he had started an American family. When Maria found this out, she separated from her husband and did not tell him that she was pregnant.
She was referred to the program by the Health Department. The public health nurse said that this was a lovely woman who was very alone doing her best to cope. She had just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The volunteer assigned to this client was Kathy M. She helped Maria adjust to her new dietary restrictions. She provided Maria with someone to share her fears of pregnancy.
At the time of delivery, Kathy was in the labor room at Maria's request and served as one of her coaches. When she came home from the hospital, Maria had some problems with breast feeding. Kathy was there to encourage her.
In those first months of parenting Maria showed a natural skill but needed reassurance that she was doing the right thing. Kathy shared her own experiences of parenting and helped Maria grow confident in her own skills. She helped Maria obtain appropriate day care when she returned to work. Maria was trying to live on a budget and Kathy taught her how to grocery shop for bargains. When the baby was a year old, Maria decided to return with the baby to El Salvador to help her sister who needed a kidney transplant. Kathy helped arrange her transportation. Maria and Kathy have remained in touch.
Tina, at the time of referral, was a 24 year old woman from Columbia. She spoke no English and was very fearful. She was referred to the program by the Health Department. The public health nurse at the time of referral said Tina was twelve weeks pregnant with no family support. The father was not involved. The bilingual volunteer assigned to this client was Susan L. The client had nothing for the baby. She needed maternity clothes which the volunteer helped her obtain. She worked with her on good nutrition, and she helped her to understand the body changes that were occurring at the various stages of her pregnancy. She also encouraged her in her decision to ask a friend to be with her at the time of delivery. With time and support, Tina was comfortable with breast feeding. She was eager to be a good parent and was not afraid to turn to Susan with her many questions. Susan has been working with Tina for two years now and feels that her greatest reward had been watching Tina come into her own - confident in her parenting skills.
Lori was Gayle's first client. She left a verbally abusive second marriage, with her 13-year-old son from her first marriage. They lived in a shelter while going through a very messy divorce. Lori was undergoing treatment for depression and was on an anti-depressant. She was unemployed with limited training and skills. Lori decided that the stress and instability was proving too much on her 13-year-old son. She contacted the son's father in Minnesota, who agreed to take the son in on a permanent basis. Lori started dating a man during the divorce, and at 36 years old, unemployed and in struggling mental health, became pregnant.
Gayle became Lori's mentor when she was in her 7th month of pregnancy. Gayle was impressed at how Lori was very aware of services available and had seemed to arrange for the services she was entitled to receive. She and Gayle visited often in the months of December and January. They talked a lot. Gayle was impressed with her sensible nature. Lori told Gayle she had not told her family of the pregnancy for fear of rejection. Lori had discovered a new church and was gaining a lot of support through her contacts. In January, Lori became increasingly concerned about her ability to deal with a new child, and was terribly uncomfortable with the pregnancy. She was preparing her apartment for the child though, and the churchwomen gave her a baby shower. Gayle accompanied her to doctor's appointments, hospital tour and helped with the baby's room.
A few weeks before the baby's birth, Lori confided to Gayle that the child would be biracial and she was very concerned about acceptance by friends, church and family members. Lori had her baby by c-section in February of 2000. Gayle was with her through the birth and recovery. She was a natural mother and right away took great care with Victoria. Lori and Gayle's relationship began to wane, with Lori's increased support from her church. Lori found a job, good day care for Victoria and was making plans through her church to try to get a townhouse. Gayle felt the time was right to let their relationship end.