Picture this: a baby is being abandoned right now by a woman who doesn’t have the resources or the support to help her make the right decision.
We’ve all seen those horrific news reports which describe women leaving their babies in dumpsters. The fact of the matter is that many young women who are pregnant don’t know how to confront their families. They are scared and don’t know what steps to take.
Bobbie Lynn Stephen, a recent public health science graduate from UC Irvine, first volunteered as a crisis hotline operator for a non-profit organization called Project Cuddle to help women through pregnancy crises.
The hotline provides women who have been hiding their pregnancy the freedom to talk to a volunteer about their options.
Many women often have so many things on their mind while being pregnant. Some fear confronting their parents, while others don’t know the importance of getting prenatal care or having the money to raise a child.
Stephen remembers waiting anxiously for a call during her first shift. Her scheduled shift was from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours passed by, and no one called. She knew that there were so many women who didn’t quite know about organizations such as Project Cuddle.
Even though Stephen didn’t receive any calls during her first day on duty, she continued being patient, and eventually got her first call from a young woman who didn’t think it was important to get prenatal care.
Stephen felt like she made a difference because she helped the young girl understand the importance of taking care of her body, taking vitamins, visiting the doctor and nourishing the baby.
As a mother of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Stephen knows the importance of taking care of one’s body and making sure that you have support when going through a pregnancy.
Even if it’s not immediate family, it can be reassuring to know that there’s a dedicated group of volunteers who will take you to your home to help break the news to your parents, or find shelter for you and walk you through the pregnancy process.
Stephen wanted to create a unique club at UCI to spread awareness about baby abandonment, including women’s sexual and reproductive health. In March 2011, Stephen was able to gather friends and create an official club on campus called Insight at UCI.
By using Project Cuddle as inspiration, members of Insight at UCI wanted to reach out to the UCI community by also providing resources and information about women’s health and baby abandonment.
Stephen believes it is vital to provide a club that provides such resources to a college campus.
“For me, the original goal was to market and publicize for Project Cuddle,” Stephen says. “Now, it’s grown into really just educating my peers on campus and helping them know that there are resources available for women who are in a pregnancy crisis. My goal is to also bring consciousness on campus about baby abandonment.”
Co-presidents Kelsey Hayton and Amanda Lopez, as well as board members Tiffany Giordano and Jacklyn Mancilla, are looking forward to creating an official website which will list possible clinics around the area, as well as information about sexual and reproductive health and safe surrender sites. The club is also excited to put forth more fundraisers.
Just recently, members of Insight at UCI put together a Maternity Clothes Drive in Verano Place. Since Verano Place is very much family-oriented, Insight at UCI felt it would be great to encourage women to donate their old maternity clothes to pregnant women who don’t have the money. The donated clothes will go to one of the Project Cuddle offices located in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Hayton says that some of the long-term goals for Insight at UCI are to reach out to not just college students, but women in Orange County and high schools as well.
During one of the club meetings, Insight at UCI showed a video of a 15-year-old girl who was too frightened to tell her parents about her pregnancy because it was looked down upon.
As a result or her lack of support and resources available, she gave birth in the bathroom to a dead baby.
“There are instances where people throw their babies in the dumpster,” Hayton says. “I don’t think people realize that it happens. There’s a statistic that says ‘every 25 minutes, a baby is abandoned.’ And it doesn’t have to happen. There are safe surrender laws. You can give your baby anonymously to a proper home.”
For more ways to get involved in Insight at UCI, join the Facebook group titled Insight @ UCI.