Maria Louisa is 13 years old. She lives on the land of her grandfather in a rural barrio just outside of Diriomo. She inhabits a small room with her 20-year-old boyfriend Carlos. Their walls are made from bits of torn plastic, their roof of rusted zinc, and the only floor beneath their feet is muddy, uneven earth. Maria left school in the first grade and she cannot read or write.
Maria Louisa is 14 years old. She is pregnant. Her boyfriend takes a job on a farm on the other side of Managua. He travels back and forth over an hour each way. His job is to take care of the cows and mend the fences. He earns the equivalent of $160.00 each month and $40 of that is spent on transportation.
Maria Louisa is almost 15 years old. She gives birth to a baby boy two months premature. She has had no prenatal care, no prenatal vitamins or appropriate nutrition, no education on delivery or caring for a baby. The baby boy whom she names Carlitos, has a birth weight of just under 4 pounds. He is jaundiced and has an underdeveloped sucking reflex. After just two days in the public hospital both mother and child are released. She brings her precious bundle home to her plastic casita with its dripping roof. There is no bassinet, no crib, no changing table, no diapers, no newborn layette. The only piece of furniture in the small 5’X11’ abode is a bed made from a few slabs of wood atop some cinderblocks with a musty blanket on top. This is where Maria Louisa, Carlos and baby Carlitos will sleep.
Baby Carlitos is 9 days old. Maria Louisa walks with him in her arms, just over one kilometer to a clinic at Los Rayos de Esperanza. When she and the baby are registered, she states that the reason she is there is because her baby is constipated. The director of Los Rayos is called in by the clinic volunteers and it only takes a few seconds for she and the medical providers to assess that the baby is severely dehydrated and literally starving to death. Listless and barely responsive they decide to take Carlitos and his mother to the nearest private hospital immediately.
Over the next six days, the director of Los Rayos and a couple of compassionate volunteers from Bless Back Worldwide stay with the baby, advocating for him, ensuring he gets the best of care, and educating his young mommy on how to nurse him and how to care for him.
Over the next six months the amazing staff of LRdE makes frequent visits to the home, continuing the education, giving check ups to the baby and providing basic food provisions to nourish the mom so that she may nourish her child.
Today Carlitos is a growing and active one year old, thanks to God, and the care he received from compassionate volunteers and the staff of Los Rayos de Esperanza.
Nicaragua, the poorest country in the western hemisphere has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in all of Latin America. Over the past decade, the rate of young girls having babies has skyrocketed. In the 10-14 year old range, it has doubled. Now, one in three teenage girls has her first child before she turns 17 years of age.
What becomes of these children born to young teenage moms? They are raised in abject poverty. They rarely exceed the education level of their parents. If they are males they will try to find work in the fields. If they are females, they are likely to have a child of their own before the age of 15, and the cycle of poverty continues.
It’s because of Maria Louisa and many others that Bright Beginnings was developed.
Part 1: To reach these young girls before they get pregnant. This will be done through education, empowerment, relationship building, and discipleship.
Part 2: For those young girls who do get pregnant, there is grace and mercy. This part of the ministry will provide prenatal care, regular medical check ups, vitamins, nutrition and lots of education.
Part 3: Is to provide post–natal health care, breastfeeding help and advice, and newborn medical care.
Part 4: Is to provide a series of Mommy & Me classes and playgroups that the mommies will attend with their babies and toddlers. We will teach them how to stimulate their child in developmentally appropriate ways, how to play with them, how to discipline them and how to care for them.
This vision is medical, social, emotional, spiritual and practical. It meets real and immediate needs as it encourages and equips these young girls to be the best mothers they can be for their children.
Through this program we will show these young mothers that there is not only hope, there is Bright Hope.