Jennifer Heng: Giving Second Chances to Women

Jennifer Heng Dayspring New Life Centre
Jennifer Heng Dayspring New Life Centre

As a Woman’s Day special, Jackie talks to Jennifer Heng who helps women with unsupported pregnancies navigate their social and emotional challenges.

Jennifer started DaySpring New Life Centre in Nov 2014, who’s primary mission is to empower women and families with unsupported pregnancies to make life-giving choices. Contrary to what most people think, DaySpring New Life Centre is completely privately funded and Jennifer herself does not receive any salary as the Director of the Centre.

Asked why she would want to do this, “I have waited for this for 13 years, it is a personal commitment and challenge to myself. It’s been a liberating experience, working for no reason other than passion.” She started with 2 part time and 2 full time staff and now have a team of 5 full time and 1 part time staff, not including herself, even then the workload is extremely demanding on their small team.
DaySpring New Life Centre
One of the aims of DaySpring New Life Centre is to provide objective and complete information for women to make the choices which are most suitable for themselves.

“Most women will struggle tremendously when deciding not to keep their child. It’s an extremely hard decision, one that may haunt them for a life time.” However, the society expectations and monetary requirements to raise a child can be very challenging for a single mum to raise her child.

“There isn’t enough accurate and comprehensive information available, what kind of options these women have.” So it’s really important to know that even if they chose the abortion route, they have thoroughly considered all the alternatives and have somebody to guide them along the painful journey to recovery. At the moment, Jennifer is also working with a group of students from NTU to setup a portal for this purpose.

The Centre also provides free accommodation, support and guidance for clients who need it. Accommodation is provided up to 4 months after birth of child. All services and case management are provided for as long as needed, so they will continue to accompany the mother and child on their journey.

 

“I have waited for this for 13 years, it is a personal commitment and challenge to myself. It’s been a liberating experience, working for no reason other than passion.”

 

Helping Women Find New Purpose
Some of the Centre’s most vulnerable clients are teenagers with half of them below 25. The youngest residential client is 16, while the youngest non resident client is 12. Such cases are normally complicated as it involves multiple agencies, such as hospitals, police, social welfare agencies and both sides of the family.

For most clients, the main issues are housing, employment and parenting capabilities. DaySpring New Life Centre seeks partners to collaborate and equip clients towards a more stable future. Many organisations and individuals are well-meaning but it is often challenging to find those who truly emphathise with the challenges of a young single mother.

Even married women need help, especially if they were not expecting the pregnancy. “No one plans it, by the time you realize that you are in that situation it’s too late. It really doesn’t hit you how traumatic it is until you know someone close who have been through that journey, ” remarks Jennifer.

In fact, Jennifer met a 65 year old lady before starting the Centre who had an abortion 40 years ago but did not tell her husband all these years due to fear of being stigmatized. However, she was suffering in silence carrying the burden all by herself. “We need to be able to talk about it, then we can reconcile with ourselves and begin healing.”

Jennifer Heng Dayspring New Life Centre
Jennifer Heng Dayspring New Life Centre

On Second chances in Life
Since leaving behind her past, Jennifer has gone on to become a pastor and also counsel women with unplanned pregnancies on a personal basis. In 2014 plans to set up the Centre began to materialize.

Word got to Member of Parliament Christopher De Souza and after sharing proposal and vision he encouraged her to talk to the ladies at DaySpring, which helps abused teenage girls. They hit it off right from the beginning as like Jennifer, DaySpring was set up from pure passion and they decided to partner and setup DaySpring New Life Centre.

Within the next few months, Jennifer had to find a new place to rent but was not able to find a place. Coincidentally, DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre was to be moved out of the present DaySpring New Life Centre and she pitched to get the space. However, even after talking to the various ministries, they couldn’t make any progress.

“Only when people are willing to talk about the topic can we have the chance to educate and advocate the importance of helping unsupported pregnant women. If I have to be the face to make it happen, I will do it.”

 

However, luck has it that on 4th July 2014 which was the opening of DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre’s new location, President Tony Tan was there. Jennifer took the opportunity to presented to the president and member of parliament Vivian Balakrishnan. Within days, Jennifer and DaySpring got the news that they will be assigned a beautiful property to start DaySpring New Life Centre. “Even when thinks are looking bleak you just keep pushing on and something positive will come out of it.”

On being the Face of DaySpring New Life Centre
Even up to now, Jennifer has been criticised and even accused of promoting the lifestyle of premarital sex and promoting single parenthood. Although these remarks to get to her sometimes, it is important and advantageous for her to be the face of DaySpring New Life Centre as she has been getting media attention both with her story and her work.

“Only when people are willing to talk about the topic can we have the chance to educate and advocate the importance of helping unsupported pregnant women. If I have to be the face to make it happen, I will do it.”

Jennifer’s life story is documented in her book ‘Walking Out of Secret Shame’. – LB
This article first appeared on the March/April Issue of LadyBoss Magazine

More from Jackie Yeo

5 Things I Learnt From Running The LadyBoss Event

We recently ran our LadyBoss launch event, which received overwhelming response. We...
Read More

Leave a Reply