She wasn’t even supposed to be there. When Comfort walked into the churchyard, a baby perched on her hip, her pregnant belly swollen under her thin dress, everyone assumed she had come to register at the newly opened Sankor Baptist Child Survival Program. But Comfort was simply helping her aunt, who had asked Comfort to offer a second set of hands in getting the aunt’s twins registered.
Comfort handed her cousin back to her aunt and prepared to leave. Where would she go today to beg for food? To her parents, who had kicked her out when she got pregnant? Or to her boyfriend’s home, where she was scorned and ridiculed by his family?
Before Comfort could leave, she was approached by several staff members. They could tell just by looking at her that Comfort was extremely malnourished and anemic. They invited her to register, promising to help her and her unborn child. Comfort found no judgment in the eyes of the women, no condescension for her decisions. The teenager craved this kind of love. Before the day was over, she had registered for the Child Survival Program.
Comfort had her firstever prenatal appointment the day after she registered. She struggled to answer the doctor’s questions — she didn’t even know how far along she was in her pregnancy. She was underweight and her blood levels were dangerously low. She had to have a transfusion before the doctor would even let her leave the clinic. Comfort’s health was so bad that she would have likely not survived the rest of her pregnancy.
But the teenager did live. Each day she grew stronger. At the center she received baskets of dairy products, beans, fish, vegetables and eggs. Workers went with Comfort to her doctor’s appointments and made sure she had all of the medication she needed.
To the Child Survival Program staff, Comfort’s emotional well-being was just as important as her physical health. Soon after she was registered, a group visited her parents. When Comfort had first told her mother and father she was pregnant, they were devastated. Her father had been making plans for her future, and to him, her decisions had ruined those plans. She had moved in with her boyfriend, but his parents resented her.
The staff explained to Comfort’s parents her need for stability and love — and the dangers of a pregnant woman being essentially homeless. Within weeks, Comfort’s parents agreed to have her move back home.
Three months after registering at the Sankor Child Survival Program, Comfort gave birth to a healthy baby girl, whom she named Emmanuella. Now 5 months old, Emmanuella is a happy child who adores her mother and responds to her voice with smiles and laughter. Comfort talks to her daughter, working to create a bond that she never had with her own mother.
“I was always scared of my mother, so I could not talk to her,” says Comfort. “I believe that if my mother had been there for me I would not have become pregnant. It was my older cousin who was always advising me. I will not let that happen to Emmanuella.”
Comfort believes that the Child Survival Program literally saved her life — and is daily saving the life of her daughter.
“If I had not been registered, I would not have been sent to the hospital, and I would not have been alive to give birth to Emmanuella. Nobody cared about me.”