Ellie and Mia, Feb. 20, 2010
Sometimes, I look at Ellie and Mia, and I think to myself, "What if we had never gone to the orphanage Feb. 20, 2010?"
The Save the Children Orphanage only accepts babies after their mothers have died, most often from complications of childbirth. (There are rare exceptions.) The orphanage is in an isolated area in the mountains of eastern DR Congo.
The truth is I know what would have happened to them.
Since we visited the orphanage a year and a half ago, generous friends and family have partnered with us at the orphanage and we have done trainings, provided formula so every baby can drink full strength formula, provided whole powdered milk with vitamins for the older children, and hired extra staff.
At their present age of 21 months, most likely one of them would have died.
In 2009, 5 children died at the orphanage, two of those children were a part of a twin set. In a USAID report on Congo from August 2010, they noted that, "in 2007, for every 100,000 births, there were 549 maternal deaths; infant mortality rates were at 92 for every 1000 live births. The estimated figures for 2010 have improved, but the country is still among the bottom 20 in the world for maternal and child health."
The surviving twin most likely would not be walking. She would not talk or smile. She would shudder and cry when touched.
Nsimire was just about 2 years old in this photo, she wasn't walking, and would cry if I held her.
This is how I found the children under 2 years old when I went to the orphanage in Feb. 2010. There was not enough staff, nor enough food and formula. Too many babies and too few mamas to watch other them. Some days there were 35 babies and children (or more) with 2 women to watch them.
She would probably weigh about 12 to 15 lbs and have ricketts from rarely going outside and from only receiving watered down formula until 6 months old.
Moise was almost 9 months old in this photo. Read his incredible story here
(and make sure to follow it all the way to the end).
Since then, not only friends and family have helped support the orphanage but also folks I have never met, who have felt moved to help the babies and children of the orphanage. To make a difference in their lives.
If we had never gone, then today she would have been rarely be held, she would have spent most of the day in her crib on her back or wishing to be held.
This is Gloire, on one of our visits early in 2010. He still needs a sponsor.
This is Ziruka. She is fully sponsored!
Today the story is different at the orphanage. Today, the children are held. Little Chantal is walking at age 16 months. The newborns are fed full strength formula and all the children are brought outside.
One of the newest babies.
The children that were the same age as my girls are doing now, are doing well. They are alive, they are held, they are told they are loved, they are fed. They walk, they talk, they smile, they giggle! This is the difference love and food can make. As more and more infants come to the orphanage (because the families have hope that they will be given a chance to live instead of die) the need is greater for sponsors and supporters of the orphanage.
Nsimire one month ago.
Tumaini was started to provide hope to the children of eastern DRC. Tumaini means hope in Swahili. At the Save the Children orphanage our main project is to provide formula for the newborns and babies, powdered milk for the children over age one, and salaries for additional staff so the babies and children are held.
Are you interested in partnering with us as we work at the Save the Children Orphanage? Please follow this link or the ones on the right side of the screen to find out how to help. Our website is www.tumainidrc.org.
Mia and Ellie