2014 Caroline Lacey – “Carrying Trauma, Carrying Baby” These photographs are copyright Caroline Lacey and are used here by permission. They may not be used elsewhere without her permission. Cotonou, Benin– The bond built between mother and child does not come easily for the young mothers living at Maison du Soleil, a temporary home for exploited and abandoned girls. The girls, often still suffering from their own traumas, need intense psychological rehabilitation to help them accept, nourish and find a home with their new children. At the home they are taught basic survival skills from cooking and cleaning to proper breastfeeding and childcare. Often rejected by their families and communities the girls are forced to face the world on their own. In the busy city center of Cotonou, with nowhere to play outside, the children occupy themselves within the confines of the four-room house. For a variety of reasons some of the children will come into the house severely malnourished. These twins are still suffering from some symptoms of kwashiorkor, a protein deficiency. Part of the rehabilitation includes nutrition counseling for both mother and child. At the Maison de l”Esperance the girls get a basic education, learn skills like cooking and house keeping and acquire trades to sustain them when they leave. Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in assuring proper nutrition and bonding. At the Maison de l”Esperance the girls are taught to cook, bake and make crafts and soap. A bakery, maintained by the girls, is stationed in front of the center and helps offset the costs of running. Exhausted, but determined to succeed, this mother finishes up her day of working and soap making. For the majority of the day the mothers are out and away from their babies leaving only a few guardians to take care of the chaos. The Maison du Soleil tries to work with the families to help bring the girls back to a supportive environment but often times the stigmas leave them forever on their own. Mothers at the Maison du Soleil (House of Sun) spend their days between childcare and learning basic skills at a training facility called Maison de l’Esperance (House of Hope).