By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
To assist teen parents who are struggling financially, facing unemployment, and in some cases even turning to prostitution to make ends meet, a Community Care Baby Drive will be held later this month to offer assistance and take some of the pressure off.
Diapers, baby clothing and milk are needed to help these teenage mothers and fathers who are facing great challenges in trying to provide for their children.
The drive is being hosted by Teen Life Skills Service which was launched in February this year by Felicia Campbell. It is designed to bring awareness to the needs and issues teenage parents face in the community by using social media and other initiatives.
So far, members of the general public have donated items such as baby chairs, play pens and pampers. However, much more food, clothing and diapers are needed.
All supplies can be dropped off to the Elizabeth Estates Library up until June 16, when the event takes place from 11am-3pm.
"Donations have been coming in slowly," Felicia told Tribune Woman. "Supplies will go to any teen parent that is having a hard time. We want them to know that the community cares."
"Also at this drive, a survey will be taken on how they can be assisted better by this organisation. Teen parents will be assessed and referred to other organisations such as the Crisis Centre because really and truly one organisation cannot do it alone," she said.
This is the first drive held by Teen Life Skills Service and another one is expected to be held later in the year.
Felicia knows firsthand the struggle of being a teen parent, having had her first child at the age of 16. This resulted in years of hardship for Felicia, who was forced to juggle motherhood and her education while working two jobs.
"I decided to host the drive because I realise in these hard economic times,teens have a hard time providing for their kids," she said.
"I see them all the time coming in to the library to apply for jobs or asking for assistance to fill out resumes. I talked to a few teen mothers and they have dropped out of school, not working and looking for jobs. I also asked if they have reached out to Social Services and more than 20 per cent said they were to embarrassed to go. More than 30 per cent said that they have, but because they are talked too poorly they were declined. This brought back my own memories when I reached out to Social Services at 17. Even though I received help - I was given a $60 cheque for two months - it was taken away from me by the social worker because I showed up a day late, leaving me depressed. So I decided to organise the baby drive to a assist teens facing hardship in a judgement free zone. Our culture is very harsh on teen parents, even though more than 40 per cent of society are single parents or teen parents," she said.
Felicia said in hosting the drive she hopes to give teens the help they need, and also help sensitise the public to their struggles.
"Teen Life Skills Services is not in no way, shape or form encouraging teen pregnancy. We promote chastity and God's design for sex, marriage and the family. However, Teen Life Skill Services does recognise that teens who decide to engage in sexual activity, some through no fault of their own, are facing challenging risk factors. Also, the kids of teens parents are being neglected, abused, and are innocent no matter how they came into this world," she said. "The 242 community is full of teen parents and children of teen parents. But because of the shame of teen pregnancy they never really speak out or help other teen parents."
Ultimately, Felicia hopes Bahamians embrace, empathise and offer help in a way that gives teen parents dignity.
"I find that the biggest need for teen parents is providing for their kids. This is one on the biggest reasons why teen parents do not return to school. This simple act of kindness also reduces abuse of the child, depression and prostitution that teen parents are facing. We see it every day and just shake our heads. This simple act also elevates the financial stress on the parent of the teen."
One initiative Felicia said she is working on is getting governmental support to assist teen parents once they go back to school.
"This then makes their (re-entry) experience into school a smoother one. This simple act can save a life of the mother. This simple act can change the mind of a teen father who just might resort to gang violence or robbery because he is under the stress to provide for his child," said Felicia.
For more information about Teen Life Skills Services, contact 456-4071 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.