Sometimes I wish I was a better writer. Then I could share what is on my heart with much better clarity and ease. Instead, I stumble along, fearfully putting myself forward, falling on my face often. Making my blog public was a hard decision for me. Who am I kidding, making a blog in the first place was a terrifying decision for me! I pretty much would rather do anything else than public writing. Anything. But, over a year ago I started to truly see and I could not be silent. How could anyone be silent when understanding floods your heart. I knew I had an obligation to speak, to speak for children who could not be heard. So I did. And now I am continuing into even more uncomfortable water. I'm trying to raise a group of people who will come along beside myself and others who care about the children of eastern DRC and want to help make a difference. What I have seen, the children who have touched my life forever-I can never be silent and I will fight for them. They will not be forgotten again. This is what I whisper in their ears when I visit-- "You are not forgotten, you are not alone, you are loved, stay strong, you are not forgotten, you are not alone, you are loved, stay strong"...again and again.
The first time I walked in the baby room at the orphanage I was so overwhelmed. I just didn't know how to take in what I was seeing. I was told there was 3 children under the age of six months. But I simply couldn't believe it. Weren't all of these children under 6 months old? I had heard horror stories of babies left in cribs all day long in places like eastern europe, but Africa? Where babies are on their mamas backs all day, where every family has "orphans" they have taken in and sheltered? In Congo, where there are humanitarian aid organizations everywhere, even in remote locations? Even here?
There was a little boy in one of those cribs that day. His name was Moise. He was found next to his dead mother's body when he was about 2 months old. No one knows how long he was there, or how long ago she had died, but he was barely alive himself. I am a pediatric nurse, I have seen sick children and I volunteered with a feeding center locally, so I have seen malnourished children, so I suppose I should have been prepared for this little boy, but I wasn't. Maybe it was the setting. The bright blue cribs, the animals painted colorfully on the walls, the solid concrete of the building, the brilliant orange bed sheets. I felt set up. I should have paid more attention, I should have looked more closely. I should have looked closer for even the walls, the words cried for me to listen. The words painted on the walls said, "who will deliver me from this miserable death?" These heartbreaking words on the bright blue background with animals and children painted playing together. I looked at the joy and missed the death.
Moise was seven months old that day. He probably weighed no more than 5 lbs. He was only skin covered over bones with big eyes. And the smallest hands. Hands that I are not easily forgotten, for his hands, they reached out. He never cried, he never was held. He just laid in his crib, looking and reaching. I looked at him, held him, and knew that this little boy would not be long in this world. He was 7 months old. That meant he wasn't even getting the watered down formula that the younger babies were getting. He was getting porridge in a bottle with some powdered milk thrown in when they had it a couple times a day. And not held. I said goodbye to him that day, thinking he would not be there the next time I came, I told him that he was going to a much better place. I was too overwhelmed, I had no idea what to do that day. I had brought one can of formula with me. One can.
The next time I went, Moise was still there. He was still alive. His little hands kept reaching out. I didn't need anymore motivation. How could I possibly ignore his pleas? It was impossible. I knew something had to be done. So, I brought more formula. We brought him flagyl. And we prayed. I said goodbye to him again. And his hands still reached out and he still never cried.
Again, the next time I came, he was alive. Still so skinny, still with hands reaching out. What a spirt! What in indomitable little soul. He didn't seem to be gaining any weight, and I felt hopeless. I was bringing formula. Why did he still look like a brisk wind would lift him off to heaven in a moment. I asked. No one knew how to mix the formula. No one trusted that more formula would come. They were still watering it down and only giving it to those children under six months old. I cried that day. That was a really hard day. There were 2 mamas that day. Only two. My husband and I, we carried 2 or 3 babies around, we fed who we could, we rocked, we sang...it was completely heart wrenching and I felt hopeless. I gave the director any money we had on us. I told him, "hire more women today, please." And he did, that day. He hired four more mamas.
The next week, I went up again. All the mamas came and I sat down and told them, "You will not be forgotten anymore. These children will not be forgotten. Give them this milk I bring. I will bring more milk every month. I see how hard you are working. How you are doing the best you can. How much you love these babies. These babies need you. You are their mamas. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. You are loved. Be strong." I showed them how to mix the formula correctly. We went over it again and again and again. I brought Moise out (he was 9 months old at this point) and I said, "Give this little boy milk, give it to him every 3 hours, hold him, he wants to live, he needs you to live. " I talked about how milk was just as important as them touching these children. That they would die without their touch.
And, you know what? They held those babies and they fed those babies. People gave money, gave formula and we brought it up there. And this year, Moise walked. Not only did he live, but he is chubby! He smiles often (check out the next post). And those same mamas, now they will bring me Moise, and they smile with so much joy and pride. They know that they were a part of saving that little boy. Their hearts had been breaking too and their pain was healing as well. They love those children, and to see them suffer, broke them more that it did even me. They had brought joy and love into his life again. And now, he doesn't reach out anymore, because he is already being held.
All of those of you who are helping us, you are helping us give these kids a fighting chance. Thank you.
If anyone is interested in joining us as we work to help the children of Kaziba, please check out this post about Tumaini and what sponsorship is about or check out our website.