Alli and André: A Survival Story
In a poem, Alli, a 17-year-old mother, shares the joy and hardship of pregnancy: “Have you ever lay quietly on the couch and felt like there was a butterfly inside of you?” she writes. “Have you ever walked around with a planet attached to your belly, stopping every minute because you felt out of breath?”
Even though many mothers have felt the very things Alli describes, there are few people who can understand Alli’s unique struggles. Pregnant and homeless at 16, Alli moved into a maternity homeless shelter called Grandma’s House in Bend, OR. When her son, André, was born on October 31, 2010, doctors quickly discovered that he suffered from hypopituitarism, a condition in which the pituitary gland doesn’t produce normal amounts of hormones.
“We went through a lot of tests,” Alli says. “They found a bunch of hormones that he was missing. They saw the part of his brain that was undeveloped.”
André’s medical condition is treatable, however, and he can live a healthy, normal life if he continues to take his medication.
“He is in big trouble if he doesn’t get his treatment,” explains Katie Woods, André’s doctor. “It’s absolutely essential that [he] gets [his] medications.” Without his medications, André could suffer from seizures and brain damage. It is also imperative that André eats nutritious food. “Nutrition is a really big deal with André,” Alli explains. “With his thyroid problem, if he doesn’t eat healthy, he would become an unhealthy, obese baby, because he doesn’t have a metabolism.”
In order to ensure that Alli and André get the nutrition they need, Alli applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—two programs that help mothers and children like Alli and André. During fiscal year 2010, the number of women, infants, and children receiving WIC benefits each month reached 9.17 million. Children are the largest category of WIC beneficiaries and many would go hungry without these important programs.
These benefits continue to support Alli and André.
“I get vouchers for cheese, milk, berries, vegetables, beans, tortillas, and bread. It’s really nice,” Alli says. “André wouldn’t be as healthy as he is without WIC because he wouldn’t have everything he needs. I would not have been able to supply all of that [food].”
Alli graduated from high school last year and got a job working as a bank teller at The Bank of Cascades, where she receives full benefits and childcare. With this additional funding, she and André were able to move into an apartment and the two are living on their own—something that was always Alli’s goal.
“Money is my biggest stress,” Alli confesses. “I want to be able to give André the world … . I want to be able to support me and André by myself. I want to show him that I can do it.”
Jeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @jeanniechoi.
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