FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)

FASfacts

"We keep the women strong, though, and we remind them that when you don't drink, you give your unborn baby a future."

FASfacts, a Worcester-based not-for-profit organisation established in 2002, works with local communities at risk, to raise their awareness about the impact of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The organisation is reliant exclusively on donor funding and Distell has been one of its major benefactors since 2008.

FASfacts uses a range of educational materials and experiential learning initiatives to raise awareness of FASD and the steps to prevent it.

In certain high-risk rural areas, it is estimated that anywhere between 40% and 72% of children may have symptoms of FASD of which permanent brain damage is the most predominant. They frequently have problems in concentrating, can be hyperactive, behave unpredictably and have poor anger management skills. They often drop out of school, can become delinquents and substance abusers. As they become older, they can engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour, become violent and be responsible for many crimes, from minor infractions to rape and murder.

FASfacts directs most of its resources towards its Pregnant Women Mentoring Program (PWMP), run in partnership with community members and their leaders, schools, youth, as well as several church groups, and also taverners.

During the first two years of the PWMP, close to 100 people a year underwent the voluntary mentorship, although this has been stepped up to 120 in 2015 and the aim is to increase the intake and the number of mentors, every year.

After a two-month training module, mentors recruit pregnant women through consultations with community and family members and door-to-door campaigns. Participants have to sign a contract, pledging not to drink while pregnant. They are closely monitored to ensure they comply and are provided family counselling.

Says a mentor, who was previously mentored herself: "Some people, when they stop drinking, find their families become very angry. It's because when you stay sober you make them feel bad about themselves. We keep the women strong, though, and we remind them that when you don't drink, you give your unborn baby a future."

Key to PWMP's sustainability has been the increasing inclusion of men in the initiative. They are also mentored and, in turn, can become mentors themselves. As founder Francois Grobbelaar explains: "There is a sharing of the responsibility to take care of the unborn child, and if both members of the couple are involved, it reduces the temptation for the expectant mother to start drinking again".

The PWMP is managed by a social worker and currently there are 30 female and 10 male mentors working with the group of 120 mentees.

In 2014, PWMP trained 30 mentors who achieved a 77% success rate amongst the 79 women recruited, in terms of their refraining from alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Currently 72% of the original group have remained sober. Amongst them were 13 school-going girls of whom 10 have returned to school.

The PWMP empowers women on many levels in the Worcester community. It gives women the knowledge to look after their own health, as well as the health of their unborn babies. By making healthy choices during their pregnancies, they deliver healthy babies, decreasing the burden on the community as well as on the state by decreasing the secondary consequences caused by FASD.

FASfacts

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