In April 2019, with lots of excitement we agreed to take on the role of overseeing Shylah House, a ministry for unwed mothers in our location. Below is a description taken from the website of the founders of Shylah House:
"For various reasons, many underprivileged young women in Northern Thailand experience unplanned pregnancies. Sometimes it is her lack of education, sometimes it is abuse and neglect, and sometimes it is simply poor decision making driven by a yearning to have the love and affection of a male, which has been missing her entire life.
Sadly, many of these pregnancies end in abortion. For the few children who do make it to birth, without outside help the most likely scenario is that they will be sent back to the families village, to be cared for by other impoverished (and probably elderly) family members, so that the child's Mother can immediately head off to work in the city. In most cases, the child's Father is already entirely absent by this time.
This of course means that the baby becomes an immediate burden on the already struggling extended family, and therefore is at extremely high risk of being trafficked or enslaved in the future. For the Mother, poor employment opportunities combined with her own impoverished upbringing mean that her best chance at any income is prostitution.
With broken hearts, but hopeful for change, we founded Shylah House in June 2018. It exists not only as a crisis pregnancy home, but also an access to long term support for both Mothers and babies. Through our family based care model, we aim to provide discipleship, education opportunities, counselling, life-skill training and vocational training, as well as any parenting, spiritual and emotional support we can offer along the way. But this is just Stage 1 of our overall vision for Shylah House.
The second stage of this project is currently underway, being a Child Care facility to allow Mothers to work and support their child more independently, without having to send their babies hours away in order to do so...
...Stage 3 will see Mother and Child living independantly with less intensive, more "community" based support. Along the way, we aim to maintain connection with village families, also helping them out where we can, but primarily allowing them to continue to function as extended family units for the young women we support. This will help to maintain and even strengthen family ties, but without placing unnecessary burdens on those who are themselves struggling."
As I (Karis) worked with unwed mothers while we were located in Isaan, we were very excited (and a little nervous!) when we realised that God's heart for us in this season is to oversee this ministry. With the exact same vision that God placed in my heart many years ago, overseeing Shylah House is like picking up from where we left off. More to come as the vision and ministry develop!
WHAT DOES SHYLAH HOUSE MEAN?
Again taken from the website of the founders of Shylah House, "the name 'Shylah House' was chosen for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a childhood friend of ours had a baby girl a few years ago named Shylah who sadly passed away shortly after being born. We thought it was a beautiful name and a beautiful way to honor her short, but precious, life. Then, upon looking up the name, we found that it had two very different, but very profound meanings.
Firstly: 'Devoted to God, Strong'. And secondly, 'Daughter of the mountain', which is very fitting considering the most at risk girls for trafficking and lack of any kind of support are Hilltribe girls from the mountains.
'Strong daughter of the mountain, devoted to God'
which is exactly the hope that we carry for these girls."