Unlike most other stories of the inspirational women involved with the Aberdeen Women’s Centre, Susan wasn’t introduced to the AWC with the intention to become a nurse or staff member. Instead, she was booked in by the Centre’s antenatal team during their community outreach service, heavily pregnant with her baby.
At this time, Susan was barely 17 years old. Her life had already been fraught with struggle and an all-to-soon encounter with death, as her mother died when Susan was just six months of age, and her father a few years after. She left her home village in Sierra Leone’s southern district of Moyamba, taken in by a new family. Here, Susan lived with her adoptive parents for 12 years, in which time they took good care of her. And yet, Susan suffered another death as her adoptive father passed away. With her adoptive mother unable to support them both on her own, she was forced to take Susan back to her village, returning to what one could only imagine to be a place of deep grief and pain.
It was then a relative took Susan to Freetown to stay with a cousin. But after a misunderstanding, they refused to accept Susan in their home, forcing her to leave and stay in an unfinished apartment with a violent man. She was ill-treated and abused. Eventually, she became pregnant.
It seems impossible to fully understand the effects of such trauma not only on one’s body, but one one’s mind and spirit. After Susan gave birth at the Aberdeen Women’s Centre, she was invited to take part in the Dream Team, a programme run by the Aminata Maternal Foundation that gives both health care to young mothers, as well as vital education in health and literacy. Importantly, she received psychosocial counselling, giving her space that would let her emotions breathe, that would allow confidence to grow.
We see the trace of this confidence already starting to show; Susan has recently joined the skills training programme in the hope to soon become a tailor.
To the Aberdeen Women’s Centre for their support, to the counsellors who shared her pain, and to the teachers who sought to lift her spirits, Susan says “Thank you very much for everything.” But we also must thank Susan for sharing her story and for the privilege of being able to hear it.