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An unusual reward for Sharon

3rd October 2014

The willingness to take on some of the most complex cases, and to stick with them through all weathers, is something we are very proud to see in our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs), and obviously brings great benefits to the families our POWs work with.

In one case, which closed earlier this year, one of our POWs – Sharon (pictured) – was honoured to find that she had been thanked in a rather unusual way… when a family named their baby after her!

The mums-to-be that our POWs work with face a wide range of issues, which can include medical, legal, money and housing problems. Uncovering and prioritising these issues, then deciding the most appropriate way to tackle each one, is at the core of a POW’s work.

We can’t be experts in everything, however adaptable we are, but if we don’t know the answer, we are experts in finding someone who does. We have extensive networks and know what help is available and how to access it. The POWs aren’t there to do everything for the family but, instead, to support them as they engage with specialist services themselves, and to help them get to a point where they can continue independently.

Most POWs support the mother for eight weeks after the birth. In some cases, however, they will keep the case open longer because it’s just so complex, and we feel that taking the POW away might cause things to unravel. The ability to offer this consistent support can be vital.

One such case was Sharon’s client Lanh Nguyen*.

Lanh’s story

Lanh’s biggest barrier at first was language; she spoke no English at all. She was living in a homeless centre, having been trafficked to the UK from Vietnam with her partner. As refugees, still potentially under the control of traffickers, she and her partner were understandably distrustful of everyone.

After bringing the family some initial supplies – food, baby milk and clothes – and sourcing interpreters, including a Vietnamese interpreter from our own agency, Sharon began the work of building their trust and finding out exactly what sort of help they would need. It turned out to be one of the most complicated cases we’ve seen, with numerous legal issues to cover.

Fortunately for Lanh’s family, Sharon is particularly good at signposting; she has a vast contact list and is very skilled at co-ordinating. Throughout her time with the family, she worked with more than twenty different agencies and individuals to get them the help they needed. As well as midwives and GPs, these included employers, landlords, government agencies, international charities and a series of legal specialists.

Sharon said, “I’ve never had a case like this before. At every turn we were finding out something new. I’ve had to learn a lot myself to be able to support Lanh, and to co-ordinate a number of processes that were new to both of us.”

The family was so grateful for the support that they asked Sharon if she would mind if they named their new baby after her. Baby Sharon Nguyen was born in January.

After the baby was born, Sharon wanted to continue providing support until she knew the family would be able to continue positively on their own. After all, she was the only professional that they had had consistent contact with since they had arrived in the country.

It’s this kind of tenacity that really sets our POWs apart and, for the Nguyen family, clearly changed their lives. Last week, we received this letter:

Dear Mrs Sharon,


On behalf of my wife and daughter, I would like to send you our most enthusiastic words.

First, we would like to wish good health to your family.
Honestly, I do not know what else to say apart from our family’s deepest appreciation to you and the Gateway Family Services’ Management, who had provided the useful services and with great love for the people – helped our family in difficult times. My daughter was born in the help of your care. This represents humanity and civilisation of the country and the British people.

I just want to tell Mrs Sharon that I always remember and appreciate your particular helps in the difficult times, which perhaps will make you fully understand why the heart and mind of our family set out for you as a person, as well as your work.

– First, I asked you to allow me to name my daughter after you.

– Second: The following day my daughter would have run out of her formula milk. Had you not brought it over that afternoon she would have had no milk left to have. That always was remembered in our hearts. You are the only one, who would understand very well our circumstances at the time,

I have just sent you such lines of thought. You can report to your management committee that your work for our family has successfully completed by the humanitarian heart. I would like to take this opportunity to send my greetings to all the people working at the Gateway Family Services, from staff to the management, our good health wishes. Many people need your help. Not everyone can do this kind of job. You are compassionate people, loving others with the most sincere feelings. The things you do for other are so great. You and your agency are so respectable. Everyone always appreciates what you have done for others.

I believe my daughter will do something that will please you in future. I am very proud to name my daughter after you. I think that was all what I wanted to say to you.

Again, I wish good health to you and those who are doing work like you.

Sincerely yours,

Nguyen* family.

The support Sharon gave to the family included:

  • providing interpreters
  • providing food, equipment and clothes for baby
  • supporting mum to arrange and go to antenatal classes
  • helping mum and baby to find and register with a GP
  • booking an appointment for baby to have her injection
  • arranging doctors appointments for mum and baby
  • helping mum to overcome a lack of ID and to legally obtain new ID
  • helping mum to get an NI number
  • helping her to set up a Post Office account
  • helping her to navigate the benefits system
  • helping her make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance
  • accompanying her to interviews at the Jobcentre
  • help with her CV and job search journal
  • working with the Jobcentre to arrange language assessment and English classes
  • help with travel costs to get mum to interviews
  • contacting family reunion specialists, to help the couple bring their three year old son to the UK
  • helping to register the baby’s birth
  • helping the family to fill in travel documents
  • arranging for the family to see a number of specialist lawyers about their refugee status
  • calling and writing to housing associations and landlords to sort out rent arrears
  • sorting out electricity bills
  • helping mum to understand official letters
  • completing housing benefit forms
  • arranging meetings with Shelter to sort out housing issues
  • finding new housing
  • working with other agencies to find carpets and furniture for the property

*not her real name

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1 Comment

  1. Mandy Shanahan

    You and your colleagues are truly amazing showing care and compassion to those most in need.
    Your phenomal ability to manage all those agencies is a testament to the difficulty people have in navigating our health and care systems without expert help.