The Origin of EWYL
When we set up our pregnancy care center many years ago, we did what most centers did: we set up a closet full of free items to give away. We also scheduled parenting classes. Our “free closet” was very popular; our parenting classes weren’t. We had scheduled a series of six weekly classes with specialists, who graciously had agreed to come and share their knowledge. Excitement gave way to disappointment as week after week the numbers dwindled and the attendance was sporadic. We felt like we were throwing parties and no one was coming.
Meanwhile, at the center, volunteers felt as though they were giving pregnancy tests and handing out freebees but not making any long-term impact on the clients’ lives. It seemed that clients came back only when they wanted something.
We needed a program that would positively impact the majority of our clients and engage our volunteers in the process. With that goal guiding us, we developed the “Earn While You Learn” (EWYL) program. We set up the “Mommy Store,” a large room in our clinic filled with nicely displayed baby clothes, quilts, formula, and diapers. Our clients earned “mommy money” by attending a weekly one-on-one meeting with a volunteer instructor. Each week, the client viewed a video and discussed it with the instructor. The clients received “mommy money” at the end of each lesson and could save it or spend it however they wanted. We no longer gave anything away free, nor did we have to monitor what clients took.
Initially, we expected the clients to resist the change, but they enthusiastically embraced it. Not only did they love learning new information and spending their “mommy money” in our store, they developed meaningful relationships with their instructors. They returned week after week, bringing friends with them. Now, every client with a positive pregnancy test is introduced to the program. Sixty percent of them sign up.
Our little center, which had about forty visits a month when we started the program, exploded. The volunteers were happy because they were not only teaching but bonding with their clients. Fathers started coming, and we had to make “daddy dollars.”
As our numbers grew, our volunteers simply could not keep up with their clients’ hunger for knowledge. Unfortunately, our program lacked a curriculum that was well organized, easy to present, and easy to understand. A year later, the EWYL curriculum was in place. It contains two hundred lessons in forty modules that take a young woman from early pregnancy to the toddler years, with a lesson and a homework assignment for each one-hour session. The lessons cover pregnancy, postpartum care, the developing pre-born, the emotional needs and physical care of a newborn, first aid, foundations of discipline, abstinence, and much more. Each client receives a personalized lesson plan that maps out each week’s lesson.
Not only did our clients respond, the community did also. Businesses love the EWYL approach and have underwritten much of our expenses. While a community might be hesitant to support a program providing the sole service of pregnancy testing, our community has been eager to get behind this program that teaches young mothers parenting skills.
Our experience has been so positive that we decided to write a manual for the program and offer the EWYL curriculum to other centers. Over seven hundred centers are now using it and are thrilled with the results. “This is a life-changing program for the center, the peer counselors, and the clients,” says Barbara Rosteutcher of Crisis Pregnancy Services in Midland, Michigan. “Prior to EWYL, our peer counselors were struggling with how to engage our clients in meaningful conversation. EWYL has changed all of that. What an incredible tool! Our volunteers love this program. We have seen dramatic results and had unbelievable experiences as our clients learn invaluable information while bonding with their peer counselors. I recommend this program to every center that is seeking a way to impact a client’s life in a meaningful way.”
Connie Moore of Pregnancy Help and Information Center in Tallahassee says, “What we are seeing with EWYL is unbelievable. Our clients love this program. They take it very seriously. They keep their appointments, bring in their homework, and often budget their “mommy money” to purchase something they really want. Most importantly, they are becoming the self-sufficient, loving, and good parents that they want to be.”
We are now in our third year of EWYL. Since our clinic’s inception six years ago, we have grown from one half of a room shared with another ministry to a large main center, two satellite centers, and a maternity home. Even though we are in a very small, rural community, our main center has over two hundred fifty visits a month. One fourth are for pregnancy tests, and the rest are for EWYL.
To handle the numbers, we created a parenting instructor position for volunteers who have a heart for teaching and mentoring but not crisis pregnancy counseling. The training is less involved, and they are seeing clients in a relatively short time. Parenting instructor Mimi Petersen sums it up: “It is so exciting to see young women come into the clinic week after week to learn. We bond with them. The relationship that develops opens up wonderful opportunities to share Christ’s love, both in words and action. Not only does this program provide clients with the material things they need for their babies, but also useful information that will impact future generations. I love being part of such an awesome program!”
Dinah Monahan, Founder, Living Hope Women’s Centers