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Feature HER: The Zoe Project

The Zoe Project helps mums in-need and mums to-be.

The Zoe Project is a South African NPO which was founded by Tracey Aitken in 2001. In 1988, Tracey began running educational programs at Retreat Maternity and Obstetrics Unit (MOU) in Retreat, Cape Town, which services pregnant women from the community and surrounding areas. When she was made aware of the needs of the women who come to the MOU, she started collecting and making essential dignity packs for disadvantaged mothers and babies.

The first young pregnant girl that Tracy counselled came from an abusive relationship and broken family, however, with support and counselling the girl decided to have the baby adopted. The baby's name was Zoe (meaning 'life'). Thus, the Zoe Project was born.

The Project aims to be of service to disadvantaged pregnant women, mothers, babies and young girls. Tracey had no intention of the Zoe Project becoming an NPO. Tracey fell pregnant at a young age and gave birth to a son with cerebral palsy. Her now 36-year-old son is her inspiration. Her experience as a young mother gave her the heart to want to help young mothers in Cape Town.

The Zoe Project currently has approximately 40 volunteers who help at the MOU. They work closely with the staff at the midwife obstetrics unit and assess new mothers booking into the clinic.

The Zoe Project offers one-on-one counselling, substance abuse support groups, antenatal classes, and mother and baby classes called the '1000 Day of Life Programme' to the Retreat community, who experiences many social challenges such as drug abuse, gangsterism, gender-based violence, and poverty.

Tracey wants the Zoe Project to give love and hope to the women they work with.

They work with social services and other NGOs in the surrounding area. The team is made up of doulas who provide birthing companionship to expectant mothers, including teenage mothers and those who have had particularly bad birthing experiences.

They work in two maternity units and one hospital, where they also provide mother and baby packages inclusive of a set of baby clothes, body cream, soap, diapers, a blanket and teddy bear to enable “mothers to take their new babies home with dignity”. The Zoe Project also helped to upgrade the maternity ward to create a living and warm atmosphere.

However, during lockdown the Zoe Project has been unable to birth with the mothers. In order to adapt to the pandemic, they created a campaign called ‘Masks for Moms’ which called on the public to donate masks for expectant mothers at the clinic. To date they have donated approximately 5 000 masks to four maternity clinics. The campaign has afforded dignity to the women, who are able to stay protected while giving birth.

‘Mom’s in Need’ is another initiative they have created in partnership with NGO Fixed Forward. The aim of the campaign is to identify foreign pregnant women and women with newborns who are unable to get grants for food from the government. The campaign has allowed the Zoe Project to provide R400 vouchers from Shoprite for six months.

One of their success projects is the Princess Project, which was created to address the rise in teenage pregnancies. The project targets grade 8 students at schools that are in close proximity to the Centre. The aim is to build an ongoing relationship with the schoolgirls who are welcome to visit the Centre for advice and guidance.

The Project is implemented annually at the same schools in order to build trust with the schoolchildren and teachers. The Zoe Project approaches the girls by chatting to them about their identities, backgrounds and emotional intelligence. They want to establish an open relationship with the girls, who are made to feel welcome to sing, cry and express themselves. This approach makes it easier for the girls to understand their bodies and therefore, make good choices.

The Zoe Project seeks to create love, accountability and dedication to helping others.

To contact, donate to or find out more about the Zoe Project visit:

Website: https://thezoeproject.co.za/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_zoe_project/

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