I went to the orphanage for the first time 2 years and 2 months ago. There were three babies under age one years old. Why? Because though the orphanage was the only one that accepted babies in that area of eastern DRC (which is a HUGE area), it was also known as the orphanage where a lot of babies died because there wasn't enough formula or staff to care for them.
Two years ago we made changes at the orphanage and we never stopped. Now the orphanage is a place where people know they can send babies that would otherwise die (because their mothers have died and no way to keep them fed and alive had been found). The word is out and now there are 17 babies under the age of one at the orphanage.
Two years ago, I knew I wasn't going to live in DRC forever. We were looking to move that year actually (though it got pushed back another year). When I first brought formula to the orphanage I expected that the women would use it all and so the next time I came (two weeks later) I brought more. What surprised me was that they didn't use it all up, they continued to water it down, ration it out. The babies and toddlers were still starving. Why? They didn't trust me to keep bringing it. And rightly so. Aid in eastern DRC can come in waves and it stops and starts. It's not consistent. I told them that day, and every day I visited afterwards, I would bring formula and I wouldn't stop. The director had a dream to make the orphanage more sustainable. I told him we would help. And we helped him build a garden and a huge community of people around the world helped me bring that formula for the next year and a half. And then I left. And they told me, "Don't forget us. Don't forget the babies."
I haven't forgotten them, but it's scary and overwhelming.
Some folks have written asking me some questions. I thought I would answer them briefly here.
1. Where do the babies come from and how do they get there? Babies are brought from all over the province by family members (and sometimes church members). Most of the times they walk long distances to get the baby there. Two babies have died shortly after arrival because they were sick and starving when they came. One woman walked with twins for a week because she knew that they would die without milk.
2. What happens after the family drops the baby off? Do they visit? Yes, most do visit. The purpose of the orphanage originally (and still) is to be a safe haven for babies. When the baby is age 1 to 5 years old the family comes back and gets the baby. Most of the time this is after frequent visits, sometimes they rarely visit. Most children are age 4 or 5 when they leave. We would like to work on this so that most children go home under age 2 (more like age 6 months to one year if they are strong enough) to family members they know and recognize; we still have work to do.
3. Do we get a tax donation slip? Yes, you do, from Children's HopeChest.
4. Do we get updates? Yes, this is something we are working on, right now it's about every 4-5 months, though our goal is every 3 months.
What we are doing is family reunification and preservation. We could do it better, that is clear. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But one of the most important things we have to do first is get to full monthly sponsorship so that the babies have enough formula.
It has been very clear to me from the beginning that I cannot and never have been able to do this alone. So, thank you for coming along side of us and helping us raise the funds to support these babies.
The previous post has photos of all the babies that need sponsors (except the newest baby). Follow this link to donate and send me an email (hmulford at gmail.com) if you are choosing a sponsorship to let me know which baby you want to sponsor. Thank you!
|Feeding babies formula.|