Miri’s mother, Eva worked as a prostitute. She had no idea how to look after her daughter.
Miri (not her real name) is 18 months old. Miri has been attending the WIZO Holland-sponsored Jessie Cohen Comprehensive Day Care Center in Holon since she was one year old. When her mother first brought Miri into the day care center, Miri was dirty and neglected. Her clothes were unwashed, her skin was red and scaly and she had a very bad case of diaper rash. It was clear that she had not had her diaper changed for some days. Miri was also very unresponsive, and did not feed well. She did not smile and was very disturbed by unfamiliar faces. She was clearly a child in great need of the tender loving care that her mother was ill equipped to give her.
Miri’s mother, Eva (not her real name), worked as a prostitute. She confided with the social worker that she had no idea how to look after her daughter. Eva was completely alone with no support from family or friends (she had left home when she was 16 and had worked on the streets since then). Her family had disowned her. Eva knew no other way to support herself or her daughter than the ‘profession’ she chose.
Eva was painfully thin and tired. She was severely depressed and wept uncontrollably at her first meeting with the day care centre director and social worker. She confided, “I do want what is best for my child but I don’t know how to be a mother.” Choking back the tears, she added, “I cannot do it alone, and I have no one to turn to. Help my baby.”
The social worker worked out a personal care program for Eva, which included all the basic tools that a mother needs to care for her child, from personal hygiene to nutrition. There was no doubt of Eva’s maternal instincts but her depression – the result of unresolved post-traumatic issues – put a barrier between her and her child; the baby that she was so desperate to love. Eva simply did not know how to interact with her child, how to play or even how to hug her.
As part of the personal care plan, Eva comes to the day care center twice a week, where she is encourage to play and care for her baby under the watchful eye of professional nursery nursing staff. She learns how to interact with her own baby and the other babies who attend the day care center. She attends one-to-one meetings with the director and the social worker and works on her parenting skills. The day care center director, Carmit, arranged for Eva to have someone (a volunteer in the community) visit her at home to alleviate her loneliness and to take an interest in her. This has been of great benefit to Eva.
Carmit, says: “Eva is a good woman, a kind and caring woman, who just needed someone to believe in her, to show her that she is worthy. Eva’s wish is to give up prostitution and WIZO is working with her to retrain herself for a more wholesome career. We will support her every step of the way, because we know that to help the mother, is to help the child.”
There has been a marked improvement in Eva’s manner. She holds her head high and she hugs her baby close. She is optimist.
Eva and her baby Miri are making great progress. Miri is walking now. She smiles, giggles, and feeds well, although she is still quite suspicious of unfamiliar faces but she grows in confidence, as does her mother.
“I was so embarrassed by my situation, but here they don’t judge,” Eva says, “When I was hungry, they fed me – and they did it in an ‘elegant’ way. They did not make me feel like I was begging or that I was inferior. They embraced me just as much as they embraced my child. Many times, the cooks would discreetly give me food to take home. It was pure kindness.”
Miri is just one baby, Eva is just one mother. At the Jessie Cohen Comprehensive Day Care Center situated in such an impoverished area of Holon where desperation is the norm, there are many babies, toddler and infants and each one of them has a story.
It is our job, WIZO’s job, to give those stories a happy ending.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)