Home battles to keep doors open

The Mater Domini Home in Claremont.

The Mater Domini Home in Claremont, which takes care of destitute pregnant women, is in danger of closing and desperately needs more funding to continue its mission.

With the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign starts next Monday, November 25, and this non-profit has been protecting women’s rights for the past 12 years.

House manager Celia Dawson, said they assist all pregnant women from all cultures who are in need, which includes homeless women, women from abusive relationships, women who are unemployed and women who are disconnected from their families.

Founding member Sally Hall started the home in Pinelands in 2007 after she was approached by a pregnant woman who was told by her family to have an abortion or move out.

Ms Hall tried calling various organisations to see whether they could provide shelter for the expectant mom but was unsuccessful and with no help coming, she and Amy Servais formed the Mater Domini Home.

After five years in Pinelands, the Mater Domini Home needed more space.

Ms Dawson said a private donor from the United Kingdom was aware of their problem and bought their current home in Claremont, which accommodates 15 pregnant women at a time.

Ms Dawson said due to space constraints it is hard for women to stay on after they give birth. “Within three months after they give birth they need to vacate the home, though we do make a strong effort to reconnect them with their families,” she said.

If women can’t raise their children by themselves they are put in touch with accredited adoption agencies who can help place the babies in safe homes.

However, after helping the first pregnant woman in crisis 12 years ago, Mater Domini is struggling to stay open. They can’t afford counsellors to assist the women – the same with basic services like housekeeping and administrative services. They rely on the help of unpaid volunteers to provide assistance. They also struggle to pay for electricity on an intermittent basis.

They currently don’t get any financial support from the provincial Department of Social Development.

Department spokesperson, Joshua Covenant Chigome, said currently there were 22 943 registered non-profits in the province and they only provided funding for 2 100.

“Every three years the department puts out a call for proposals for very specific social welfare and community development services, and organisations may apply for funding,” he said.

Mr Chigome said even though non-profits applied for funding, there was no guarantee that they would receive funding.

He said non-profits could apply for funding from the department before June 2020 to receive funding by April 2021.

Ms Dawson said they relied on help from private donors who provide financial support as well as some corporations that provided food donations though the home still needs more support.

The Catholic Women’s League(CWL) helps by donating funds, clothing and food to the home.

Amanda Jones, a member of the CWL said: “As a mother and CWL member, my heart goes out to expectant mothers who don’t have a safe and secure place to give birth and nurture the little child for at least two to three months, therefore I am happy that Mater Domini exists.”

Despite going through tough times, the home’s doors remain open to pregnant women in need of their assistance.

One of the women that the Mater Domini Home had a life-changing impact on, is Taryn Little. Eight years ago she landed on the home’s doorstep in an attempt to escape the escalating abuse from her partner. She left her five-year-old son behind. “The choice was run and leave him behind, or have him witness the abuse,” she said.

Ms Little returned for her son. With Mater Domini’s help she received immediate counselling and was advised that the abuser needed to leave the home, not the abused. Soon afterwards she managed to secure an interdict against her partner and he was removed from the home.

Ms Little would like to give back to the home and hopes to stage her one-woman play titled Who Am I, which is based on her life’s story, as a fund-raiser for the home. If successful she would like to donate all proceeds from the play to Mater Domini.

Ms Little currently works as a psychology lecturer at Cornerstone Institute and is also a motivational speaker. She said it would be a travesty if the Mater Domini Home closed.

“My stay at the Mater Domini saved my life in so many ways,” she said.

The Mater Domini Home is having a fund-raising Christmas market at its premises at 10 First Avenue, Claremont, on Saturday December 7 at 5.30pm, and everybody is welcome to attend.

The home can be contacted on 079 891 6749 or log on to http://materdomini.net/ for more information.