Rebekah Ali- Gouveia is nursing her seven week old baby girl while we engage in conversation about her other baby - The Elpis Centre which she founded about two years ago to support women and families during and after crisis pregnancies. Elpis is Greek for "Hope".As the mother of four children Ali-Gouveia must know a thing or two about motherhood and she's obviously good at multi tasking.The married 36-year-old attorney-at-law with her own private practice, chose to downsize her duties as a lawyer to focus on the Elpis Centre, and of course motherhood." I've been called a fool and crazy by some," she said bluntly about the response to the path she has taken." I attended a conference in 2007 which dealt with issues facing women and families, and I left feeling very strongly that women needed support during crisis pregnancies."Ali-Gouveia identified crisis pregnancies as unplanned pregnancies where the mother is fearful or encounters pressures from work, school, her spouses, partner or other member of her family. Essentially, it's a pregnancy where a mother may find her self feeling overwhelmed and would need support, especially in cases where she may be considering abortion.
Ignited by her cause, Ali-Gouveia relentlessly did research for two years and has since , attended conferences in Holland, USA and Trinidad, even partnering with Life International and Heartbeat International for expertise and training on providing care and support for pregnant women in crisis and abortion recovery for women." I did a lot of networking and research because I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was well established."In 2009, the Elpis Centre opened its doors to women and families in need, and since then has provided hundreds of individuals with information, training and materials on the sanctity of human life and family issues in person and via the radio. Included in this number are clients who have directly benefited from their counseling services.The Centre, which provides help from two locations –Woodbrook and Chaguanas – offers parenting classes, sanctity of life, parenting and child abuse workshops, one-on -one psychological and peer counseling for mothers and families, medical referrals, meals, clothing and even post pregnancy support and abortion recovery support.
The staff of the Elpis centre are volunteers who give of their time and expertise for free and all client services are free and confidential save for subsidised cost for training and education programmes.Even though Ali-Gouveia is a resolute pro-child, pro woman activist, she said the Elpis Centre is open and non judgmental." We don't tell clients what to do, we listen and allow them to offload their fears. We then walk through the options and give them factual information and emotional support."From her experience though, she has been convinced that many mothers indeed want to experience motherhood, but that the initial shock of an unplanned pregnancy makes them fearful."They just want to be heard. There has to be somewhere they could have a voice to offload their fears."According to Jeannie French 'the answer to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the crisis not the child ' and that is what we are here for."The sentiment of gratitude from families and women alike, is the hallmark of those who have walked through the Centre's doors.Even though the Elpis Centre has been operating as a non-profit organisation for the past two years, the transition from attorney to running the Centre, on an almost full time basis, has been trying at times for Ali-Gouveia. The centre also accepts donations of gently used items from individuals, organisations and churches that share the views and vision of the Centre. These are then distributed to those in need or sold at a very low cost of $1.00 and up at their second chances yard sales.
" There have been adjustments I've had to make moving from an independent professional , earning as much as I wanted to running an NGO."She also thanked her husband for his understanding and support in her new career-focus.Ali-Gouveia is relentless in her efforts to educate those about the sanctity of human life and post-abortion stress. She possesses a quiet resilience in her quest to ensure that the Elpis Centre would one day become ubiquitous throughout T&T and in the establishment of shelters for women in need of emergency accomodation and transitional shelters during their pregnancy. She also hopes her story can conjure a light of hope for other women and families in crisis, or even inspire individuals to do what they can to help others within their own communities."No amount of money that I have foregone could replace the joy and healing that comes when a mother reconciles with her child."