Monday, July 23, 2012

the face I never saw

All the babies that come to the orphanage we support have lost their mothers.  Most have lost their mothers in childbirth from preventable causes, most die because of bleeding.  Some are twin births and the mother doesn't receive help when she needs it.  There are a lot of twins in the area of DRC where we lived.  In the past five years there have been seven sets of twins brought to the orphanage after their mothers died giving birth to them (including our girls).   Out of those seven sets, three of the sets have lost one of their siblings.  I met two of the little ones left behind on the first day I came to the orphanage, Kenga lost her older twin sister, and Chito Wambili lost her older twin sibling before I visited.

I found out today that one of the little twin baby girls I told you about has died.  I never saw her face, I don't know anything about her, other than she was the younger of the twin girls and she died one week ago.  She was 3 1/2 weeks old.  Her name was Chito Isenge.  "Chito" means younger twin.   Our manager is going up to the orphanage this week so I'll find out more about her illness, though it's likely she was small and malnourished when she came.  Like these little ones that against all odds, lived.

I'm not sure what else to write at this moment.  Death is expected.  Death happens daily and too frequently in this area of the world.

Yet, I sit here thinking that I will never know her face.  I will never be able to put a face to her name.  That she should be alive, her mother should never have died and left to vulnerable little girls.   That yes, she had a chance, but it wasn't enough and there is still a long way to go.

I struggle to make sense of her death, even if expected.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"brown like my mommy", early morning talks with my girls

This morning as I was sitting at the table with the twins, Ellie pointed out her skin and said, "brown like my mommy".  And I answered, yes, "brown like your mommy".  The girls have known for a long time that they have two mommies.  They know that one of their mommies has brown skin and one doesn't.  They know they come from the body of one of their mommies and not their other one.  They know one of their mommies lives with Jesus and the other one takes care of them here.  They are a little over 2 1/2 years old, so I don't know how much they understand, but we keep talking.

We are very fortunate to have a photo of her.  They love that photo.  Love it.  They love it because I really believe there is a deep connection to their mother that they feel even so young.  I feel like this connection is so vital to them, a big part of who they are, so I talk about her whenever I can.

Part of their story I feel very comfortable sharing because it is the story of every child from the orphanage we support.  Their mother died giving birth to them.  And like the twin girls that just arrived at the orphanage last week, they were brought there to give them a chance at life.  The rest of their story and why they were adopted is theirs to share and to know.

I feel so thankful to know their story, because I am so thankful that they can know their story and know their family.  Of course, they are young.  They are still convinced their (first) mommy ate them and that is why they were in her tummy and not mine (that was before we changed to more literal terms to describe pregnancy!).   There is a lot of pain with their story.  Today I felt it acutely again.  Two beautiful little girls, they faces smiling, talking a mile a minute, light shining on their braided, beaded hair and gorgeous brown skin (Mia is in her ballerina tutu that she has worn for 3 days straight).  And as I talked to them about their mommy, as we looked at her picture (as they kissed and hugged the photo), I felt their loss all over again, and grief came again.  I felt grief and anger that their mother died from a preventable cause.  That there is such poverty that a woman can die giving birth, and though she is mourned, her death is not unexpected.

The girls are calling, it's time to play and in doing so, I will celebrate their life and the love which brought them into the world at great sacrifice.

run, cat, run!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Interested in being a part of keeping families together in DRC?

For those of you that just started reading my blog because of my more recent and very much needed post on DRC adoptions, I thought I would quickly tell you about what we are doing in DRC (besides stirring up the waters about DRC adoptions!).

About 2 1/2 years ago, while we were living in eastern DRC, I went and visited a small orphanage in that took in babies when their mothers died in childbirth or shortly thereafter.  The babies all had known families.  Because the families were in dire poverty and wet nurses couldn't be found, and they couldn't keep the baby alive otherwise, the babies were brought to the orphanage until they were old enough to go and live with their fathers again (or other family members).  When my husband and I first visited the orphanage, funding had been low for about 2 years and there wasn't enough formula for the babies or staff to care for them, so the babies and children were very malnourished and suffering from developmental delays as well as rickets.  Many also had not been held much of their lives so were extremely sensory deprived.  We immediately started bringing up formula.  Which we found out in the subsequent months wasn't being used.  It was because they had learned funding came and went.  They didn't want to use all the formula up (because it takes a lot of formula to feed babies) and then the babies would die when the formula stopped coming.  So, even though we kept bringing formula, they were still watering it down.

So, we told them, "We will bring the formula. Please, feed the babies".  And we kept bringing it, week after week.  We were only able to do so because people came alongside us and helped us buy the formula.  Week after week.    A group of people committed to the children at the orphanage came together and we formed Tumaini (hope in swahili).

Now 2 1/2 years later, thanks to so many of you, we are still bringing formula, and we are paying the salaries of extra women to hold and feed the babies, and we are bringing fortified milk to the children over the age of 13 months.

And the babies keep coming.  Last week I got a text that twin baby girls had just arrived who are two weeks old, their mother had died giving birth to them.   (Writing that sentence and looking at it again is hard.  So much lost and it is one sentence, losing your mother, and fighting for life.)

It costs approximately $70-80/month to feed each baby formula.  It costs $150/month to give all the older children milk.  And the salaries altogether cost $600/month.

(An average salary in that area is $40/month.  As you can see, formula is an impossible cost for the average congolese.)

When we first started Tumaini, there were not too many babies in the orphanage needing formula, so we set our sponsorship rates at $50/month/child (no matter if the child was under one or over one).  And it worked fine.  Now we have an disproportionate amount of babies at the orphanage (21 under the age of 13 months).   So, if you do the math, you will realize that even at full sponsorship we are not fully able to buy enough formula.  We are $450/month under budget even if we were fully sponsored.  (Yes, we need to be making changes!)  And now there are two new babies.

Our current needs are---

1.  Six sponsors at $25/month for the current children at the orphanage who do not have sponsors.  Please see this post.

2.  Four sponsors at $25/month (or if you want to completely sponsors one baby it is $50/month) for the newborn twin girls that just arrived.

3.  "Feed the babies" sponsors!  Are you interested in helping us with your monthly formula needs that go above and beyond our current monthly budget?  Would you consider a once a month donation or a one time donation to help us bring formula to the babies?  Good quality formula is easily bought in eastern DRC (similar to the quality in the U.S.).  It is much much more cost effective to raise the funds for the formula and then buy it in the DRC.  (Plus it is mixed entirely different than in DRC, so there could be lots of watered down formula or too concentrated formula is we accepted donations from the US and sent formula to DRC).

For all of you who support us, who share our needs, who advocate for the children--your support is invaluable and you are helping to keep these babies alive so that they can be reunited with their families.  We just had two children go home recently, a one year old and a three year old.  My sincere hope is that once we get fully funded we can fund raise for a social worker so we can help more children go home earlier.

Interested in joining us?  Follow this donation link.  Then email me (it is at the top right of the blog) to let me know if you want to sponsor a child, so I can make note of it.  Thank you again.

Sweet Noella, she lived at the Save the Children orphanage for one year after her mother died giving birth to her, then her dad came and got her and took her home.  Thanks to all your support, she was held and fed full strength formula.  Would you consider helping us continue our care for babies like Noella by joining us at Tumaini?

(And I don't want to forget something else we do at Tumaini; we pay for the school fees for the 82 children who have graduated out of the orphanage and now live with their families who can't afford their school fees!  And amazingly, due to generous folks who love the little children at the orphanage we have almost entirely raised the school fees every trimester!  This is about $1500 three times a year. A post will come soon just about this.)

If you have emailed me recently, I will get back to you!  We just moved to our new house and life have been crazy.  Right now I am typing outside next to a field of sheep!  Pretty crazy.