On May 31st, 2012 the Maxwell family boarded a plane and moved to Swaziland to live at Project Canaan. I hope to update my blog on Saturday mornings and share, as honestly as I can, the highs and lows of our life in Africa. We are living on a farm in a remote part of this tiny Kingdom and are serving the community as well as the orphans and vulnerable children of the nation. The 365 day count down started on June 1st, 2011, but the real journey begins now. Thanks for joining us.
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Saturday, November 1, 2014
I really don't like when people lie to me.
If you haven’t read last week’s blog please go do so now,
otherwise this one won’t make any sense.
Last Friday afternoon I was called to the Women’s Prison to
pick up a 6-week old baby who had been thrown in a pit latrine at birth by her
mother, and then 7 hours later the mother went back to that toilet and heaped
fire on top of the baby to make sure she was dead.An uncle heard the cries of the baby, shoveled dirt on top
and saved the baby’s life.Mother,
baby and sister were all taken to a local government hospital for care and
6-weeks later they were all discharged into the prison system while the mother
was charged with attempted murder.That is when we were called to enter the story, and asked to pick up the
6-week old, whom we call Shirley.
Late last Friday afternoon I was called to meet at the
Prison (with four men from the Egg Farmer of Canada Association who happened to
be with me) to see how we could help.The El Roi Baby Home has two main guidelines when accepting children;
first the baby should be under the age of 12-months, and second do not accept,
nor are we set up for mentally/physically disabled children.I can say 58% of all our children have
come to us under the age of 6-months and 31% between 6-12 months.We have made exceptions to that rule
for 11% of our children, based on special circumstances and special
requests.I can also say that 10%
of our children have some type of chronic condition (mostly Cerebral Palsy related)
that requires some special care and regular Physio Therapy.An additional 7% are HIV positive, but
we care for them and love them all the same.
When we were asked to take Baby Shirley (the 6-month old) we
were also asked if we would take Baby Rebecca (16-months old). I told the Social
Welfare Officer that we only take children under the age of 12-months so we
could help with one, but not likely the other. We would discuss in person.
It wasn’t until we got to the Commandant’s office at the
prison that I saw that Shirley had been lit on fire and was severely burned on
her face, arms and legs. In fact her big toe had burned off in the fire.I knew that if we said “yes” to this
baby that we would have a long and bumpy (and expensive road ahead), but we had
to say yes.After assessing
Shirley I moved on to Rebecca and asked about her condition.
The young mother told me that she was born perfectly healthy
and that at 6-months she had had a seizure, which left her with some paralysis,
but that she was getting much better after her time in the hospital and had
regained a lot of movement. Otherwise she was a perfectly normal baby.After pleas from the Social Workers to
keep the girls together, combined with the poor men sitting in the room trying
to hold it together, I agreed to take both babies.
Let’s fast forward to Tuesday morning when Dr. Moira Lemmer
came out to assess the new babies, check out sick babies etc. Moira’s
assessment of Shirley was that she would need surgery within the next 6-weeks
to fix the nasal passage that had melted in to her face. The baby is dehydrated
because she has trouble eating and breathing at the same time.If she got a cold or chest infection of
any kind she would likely not live because she would not be able to breath.In addition she has an index finger
than needs amputation and we don’t know what damage was done internally.
Then she examined Rebecca and after a time we learned that
Rebecca was born severely mentally disabled and physically disabled, and the
reason for her severe malnutrition was because she can’t eat or drink anything
without vomiting.This is likely
due to Cerebral Palsy, which doesn’t allow the swallowing mechanism to work
properly, causing the child to starve to death.She is unable to sit or lie on her tummy, and Dr. Moira
doubts that she ever did. It was explained that this child would need 24/7 care
and really it was a full time job for one person.
This really bothered me. The mother lied to me, to the
Prison Commandant and to Social Welfare Officer who was trying to help, with
the hope that I would take both babies away and “off her chest”. The mother is
in a very good/clean prison that provides medical care, food, counseling etc
and she has all day long to care for her own child.Rebecca is a
sweet little girl who smiles, is loving and she brings me and others around her
joy.But here is the problem.We don’t have the specialization, the
space or the funding to have one-to-one care for this child.If we had one Auntie caring just for her,
then there are three other babies that we would have to say “no” to because our
4 babies to 1 Auntie ratio would need adjusting.To be honest, my greater fear was that because she was
dehydrated and not able to keep food down, that she would die at El Roi, and I
don’t think my heart could take another baby death at this time, not to mention
the effect that would have on ALL the Aunties, staff and other children.The impact of the death of a child is
I didn’t sleep well that night because I know that what
Rebecca needs is love, pure one on one love and care.She needs her mother.I was at the airport starting my 32- hour journey to Taiwan and China
and called the Social Worker to discuss the situation.At that point she mentioned that she
had found out that the mother of the children has TWO parents who might be
willing to take the older child.THAT would be great.
Fast forward again to Friday, October 30th.The Social Worker picked up the mother
from the prison and brought her out to pick up Baby Rebecca from Project Canaan.Yes, she is going back to the prison
with the mother for now, but the prison will provide safety, food and
care.Ian gathered a box of Feed
My Starving Children Manna Pack with the hope that this child could get some
high protein food that would stay in her tummy.
While they were all at the El Roi Baby Home, Baby Shirley
went in to distress and was unable to breathe through her melted nose and so
Helen had to rush her to the private hospital in town, right in front of the
mother and the Social Welfare Officer.At the same time, we got a call from another Social
Welfare Officer saying that there was a 9-month old baby in great danger
because her mother was dying in front of her and we had to send someone to
Mbabane to pick up that baby, who is now, again, #81.Her name is Bella (given to her by her mother).
I know that my decision to have Rebecca’s mother care for
her wasn’t popular with some, but sometimes people in leadership have to make
hard decisions.Ian and I both
believe with our whole hearts that Baby Rebecca is in the very best place for
her right now.If there was no one
to care for her and she was to be left alone on a mud floor to die, we would
absolutely have kept her, but she has a mother, and Grandparents, who, with
some help from us, can provide for this sweet little girl, and we will follow
up on her progress.
In the meantime, please pray for babies Robert and Simon who
SHOULD be discharged on Monday after three weeks in hospital, for Baby Thuli
who is in ICU with what Robert and Simon had and for Baby Shirley who needs
Proud of my lead Actress Chloe!
Live from Taiwan … I am LOVING my time with Chloe and am a