Tuesday, September 27, 2011

on becoming an orphan

One of the newest babies in the orphanage is a little baby named Benjamin.  I wrote about him here and here.  I met him on my last visit to the orphanage.  He was so very skinny.  Tiny thin hands.  Huge eyes standing out in his too thin face.  He wasn't tolerating his formula well, vomiting the entire bottle after eating it, he was too malnourished.  I worried about him.  If you go visit those two posts you will see the difference in him from July to September.  He is doing well.

His mother died after giving birth to him.  Like many babies that are born to women who die in birth, he was barely kept alive on watered down porridge.  He was near death from starvation and he was brought to the orphanage to save his life.

A child becomes an orphan when his mother dies.  You need your mother to survive.  The smaller you are the greater the need for your mother.  The fortunate ones have a "rich" relative that can afford to buy formula for the baby.  Or maybe they will find a wet nurse.  The majority of babies that find themselves orphaned at birth have only a small chance of living.  Yet, some survive and are brought to the Save the Children orphanage to be given a chance at life.

Benjamin was brought to the orphanage, and miraculously, he is living.  He is four months old and he weighs 11 lbs.  Pretty amazing I think, considering when I last saw him in July he weighed under 5 lbs, was extremely weak and vomiting his milk that he desperately needed.

When a baby loses his mother at his birth, he not only is orphaned but so are his older brothers and sisters.  Often, these orphaned children are taken in by extended family members.  Sometimes they are treated well, sent to school and fed.  Some are not treated so well.  They are not sent to school, fed regularly, and are commonly the house help or servants.  Unfortunately, new wives will add to the problem and treat the children unkindly as well.  Sometimes they become street children.  Sometimes they die from starvation, especially if they are young.  Here is a post I wrote about what it can sometimes mean to be an orphan in eastern DRC.

I don't know how many brothers and sisters little Benjamin has.  But I now know he at least has an older sister.  He has a 3 1/2  year old sister, named Nayenge.  She was starving, so the family begged the orphanage director to also take her in.  This has happened two times before since I have been working with the orphanage.  A newborn is brought in after the mother dies in birth and then shortly after the 2-3 year old sibling is also brought by family members begging the director to take the older sibling too.

The orphanage in general only takes newborns after their mother's have died.  But, if the director has the resources he will often accept the older sibling who is starving to death.  It is a sad and tragic reality.

Here is little Nayenge, with some sad little eyes.  She has already suffered so much in her short three years.  I can't imagine the fear, pain, and hopelessness she must feel.  


 She and her baby brother Benjamin need sponsors.  Are you interested in being their sponsors?  Here is our website.   Thank you. 

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