Centro da Mãe is a non-profit institution founded in 1998 in Funchal with the objectives to support young women in need. In 1999 it was recognised by law as a Private Institution of Social Solidarity to help young, mostly adolescent mothers with children, and pregnant women who are at risk. From the very beginning of its existence, the centre seeks to fulfil its mission by attending, supporting and accompanying these young mothers at risk.
The three major programs that the centre provides with these young women in need are counselling centre, social shop and shelter for pregnant women and for those with new-born children. Through these programs, the centre offers a variety of informative and practical services, mostly free of charge.
“At the beginning, the project aimed to start something that would respond to the need of women seeking help. The main goal at that time was to provide these young pregnant women or mothers with a shelter where they could stay for some time and raise their children” explains the coordinator of the centre, Ana Mafalda.
The first service opened in Centro da Mãe to support the young mothers was a counselling centre. “It was basically a space for young women with the possibility to provide them with things that are indispensable for proper childcare such as diapers, clothing, equipment, books and toys.” Says Mafalda, adding that the centre was at that time operated solely on a voluntary basis: “They were all volunteers, but little by little, each year something more was accomplished, and the institution grew.”
The counselling centre provides the basic services for all the newcomers and offers various activities such as workshops (how to cook nutritiously and economically), leisure activities with a practical focus (knitting course) or training classes led by teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals. The primary objective of these courses is to discuss diverse topics related to the actual problems and situations these young mothers are facing. Many of them interrupted their studies, and the focus of the lecturers is to motivate and to support the mothers to keep on studying and eventually graduate successfully.
The organisation is now an established institution that has its place in the local social service network and collaborates with other associations, non-profit organisations and public institutions daily. However, several years of progressive work have been necessary to reach their original goal – giving the young mothers in need a place to stay, an asylum where they could feel home and safe.
In 2010 Centro da Mãe started to run a shelter that can provide 10 women with long-term accommodation and with other additional services. This house is open 24h per day, and there is a team of professionals that provides 24/7 services for the mothers.
The users of the shelter are, in most cases, women that either do not have enough support from their family members or do not have families at all. Most of them must work hard to develop the practical knowledge and skills they lack. “We work complexly on improving their situation and, if it is necessary and possible, to establish better relationships with their families. We are trying to make their lives happier and easier so that they can focus on their children.” She gives an example of a client that recently moved to the shelter “This girl is sixteen, and she just delivered a baby. She could not follow the school classes because she felt confused and she did not feel well at school during her pregnancy. She chose to stay in our shelter and started to follow an individual study plan from here because she felt more secure.”
In 2012 Centro da Mãe opened a so-called social shop that provides mothers with all the necessities they need to take care of a new-born baby. All the goods in the store are available to the clients for free. This service is designed for single parents or families with children under six that are in a difficult economic or social situation and cannot afford the necessary equipment for their kids.
“People come here, and they ask for all sort of things – beds, baby cribs, equipment, everything. The bulk of the things we receive is given to us by our supporters who are mainly the local people”, explains Ana Mafalda.
Regular supply of unsalable but otherwise safe food and products from supermarkets is also significant support for the centre. Moreover, the centre occasionally receives material assistance from other institutions, among others the Bank of equipment managed by Entrajuda, a social solidarity institution based in Lisbon. Unfortunately, the Centre cannot benefit from their services to the fullest as the delivery to the island is expensive.
Nevertheless, after more than twenty years since its founding, the awareness of the existence of Centro da Mãe has spread across the island and therefore the material, and financial support from the local actors are usually sufficient for them.
Since the establishment of the shelter in 2010, the centre is mainly publicly funded. However, it is still partly financed by individual donors as well as by the sale of products handmade by the women during their regular activities. These objects, mostly handbags made of the leftover fabrics from donated but unusable clothing, are sold in an online shop, the latest project of Centro da Mãe.
To see their products, visit the online store.
Info and contacts:
Avenida Luís de Camões, Barrio do Hospital 14 r/c, 9000-180 Funchal