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The activity was intended to be a day focused on fun for the little children in attendance, but I was surprised to see that rather than the children, their very young mothers were the ones enjoying themselves the most. At first I didn’t understand the mothers’ unbridled enthusiasm for a piñata. But then it hit me—these teenagers hadn’t had the chance to be little girls, because they became mothers too soon. They were little girls with babies. We watched their kids while they played with the piñatas and the inflatable playground, and decided that for future years we would have to buy two piñatas; one for the mothers and one for their young children.
That visit changed me. I felt connected to those girls and so impressed by the program—Social Project for Mother and Child (La Obra Social de la Madre y el Niño in Spanish, abbreviated as OSMAN)—that I have continued to support the group’s work for almost 20 years. Throughout my 30+ year career with Johnson & Johnson, I was always actively involved in the company’s volunteer and contributions programs in Venezuela. I was introduced to OSMAN in 1996 while looking for organizations that could implement the Johnson’s Baby program, through which mothers are taught how to provide the best care for their babies. I was immediately captivated, seeing teen and pre-teen mothers taking care of their children instead of playing with toys and dolls.
During a visit to the organization, my then 10-year-old daughter met a mother who was even younger than she, an experience that affects her to this day. In 2011, Venezuela had one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in all of Latin America, according to theWorld Health Organization. OSMAN is one of the organizations helping to address this issue through a range of activities and life-skills training for teenage mothers. They teach a variety of essential values, healthy habits, and how to manage household chores, and the organization also helps empower these young mothers by teaching them leadership and business skills. One unique strategy is to use tokens that are earned by showing responsibility and cooperation. These tokens can be collected by the young mothers and exchanged for donated clothes, toys, and other items.
OSMAN’s work has inspired many who have gone through the program to help teach other young mothers. The graduates of this program are able to successfully settle into stable relationships, and choose to wait before having more children. Many of the girls have even gone on to receive scholarships to college and find full-time jobs.
OSMAN provided me with an invaluable opportunity to educate my daughter and my family on the delicate subject of teenage pregnancy and responsible parenthood. Our family’s involvement in this program has had a lasting effect on my children who, as adults, have chosen to contribute their time to giving back to others. It is my belief that resolving the issue of teenage pregnancy and creating a better world begins in our own homes.
Johnson & Johnson employees have led volunteerism and socially responsible efforts beyond their roles in the company over its 126 year history. Many of their stories are not only moving and inspiring, but they exemplify the company’s commitment to caring for mothers and children around the world.
View Esmeralda Villanueva de Ramírez’s original post here, to learn how you sharing this post can help moms and babies everywhere!