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Saturday, August 17, 2019

I saw trauma on this 1-year-old’s face

In the past seven days we have received five babies – it’s been a busy week.  Three of them have been newborns, one left in the bushes shortly after birth and two born to young women who had no way to care for their babies and no father who would claim paternity.  In fact, late yesterday afternoon we were called for an emergency pick up of a baby who was born only four hours earlier!  Then there was the 18-month-old who was starving to death and was admitted to the hospital for care.  When he was ready for discharge, the family asked that he be placed somewhere there is food and love.  He came to us.

Today I want to tell you about a little guy we are calling Roderick. While his social history “common” here, the trauma that I saw in his young face was very new to me.  I am not a child psychologist or specialist, but I saw what I saw, and I am going to try to explain it to you.

This little boy was abandoned by his mother, often left with strangers for days at a time. The police tell us that she is a known drunkard and a problem in the community. Last week she left her baby boy with someone for more than a week before that “someone” took the child to the police. The police took the child to the hospital and the social workers at the hospital called us.  When I went to pick him up he had no health card, no name, no birthdate, nothing. 

Our nurse Hannah did a full physical and developmental assessment and said he was physically the size of a 5 to 7-month-old baby, but we knew that he was severely malnourished, so taking that in to consideration, along with the developmental assessment, we gave him a birthdate of August 19, 2018, meaning that he is almost 1-year-old.

Roderick (left) is estimated to be a month older than Boaz (right)
We gave him the name of Roderick, and the surname of Dlamini (which is the King’s name and we give all abandoned babies that surname). He is the happiest little guy, smiling at everyone, jabbering in baby talk and eating everything that is in front of him. 

A couple of days after his arrival I was called to say that the police had found his mother and she was in jail. We didn’t get his date of birth, but we did get his name. For today’s blog I will call him Thando.  I went down to the baby home to see if he would know his name if I called it, and what happened shocked me. 

I stood on the side of the table where he was getting an extra mid-day snack (we do that for our underweight children). I didn’t want to speak directly to him as he was always quick to respond to a smiling face.  I was a few feet away and said his name out loud, “Thando”, and that little baby boy burst in to tears – the first tears we had seen since he had arrived to his new home.  The Auntie feeding him soothed him and gave him another bite.  I waited a minute and then said his name again, and again he burst in to tears.  The Supervisors all stopped in their tracks and now all eyes were on this little guy.  Again, the Auntie calmed him, he smiled at her, at me and enjoyed another spoonful of food.  I said his name a third time, and he instantly burst in to tears again.

What had to happen in this little baby boy’s life that would make him cry at the sound of his own name? What words had to be spoken over him and at what audio level that would cause such a guttural reaction?  I can’t even begin to imagine.

I looked at Welile (our Sr. Supervisor) and while she stood with her mouth and eyes wide open at what she had just observed, she said, “we will not be calling him Thando, he will only be Roderick”.

“A United Nations (UN) report suggests that about 71% of Eswatini children under the age of 17 are orphaned and vulnerable due to the impact of HIV and AIDS.” That was the headline of an article sent to me earlier this week – you can read the whole article here:

That statistic seems quite shocking at first, yet reasonable to us based on what we see out in the communities.  The children are starving and the young girls are forced to do whatever they need to do to eat and feed their younger siblings.  The result is unwanted pregnancy and too many abandoned babies.

Last night our newest arrival, baby Armour born at noon yesterday, slept on a change table in Kuthula Place because we had no bed for him.  We had been planning a big “move” on Monday where children move up to their next home, but instead we decided to do it today. 

Baby Armour is a tiny little guy.
Elvis and Ella moved from Kuthula to the El Roi Baby home leaving 11 babies under 6-months living at Kuthula.

Laura, Lisa, Wilson, Thomas and Kelvin moved from El Roi to the toddler home leaving 38 6 to 18- month-old babies there.

Cynthia, Martin, Nella, Philip, Prudence, Nokwanda, William and Ariel moved from the toddler home up to Emseni 1 leaving 40 2-year-olds living at the toddler home.

Jonathan, Shadrach, Justin, Amos, Micah and Jackson all moved from E1 to E2, leaving us with 1 space at E1, 2 spaces in E2 and 3 spaces in E4.  We hope to open E5 in November.

All in all this is a busy place with 244 children who call Project Canaan home. Some days it is overwhelming, but most of the time it is just a joy to serve a mighty God who has called so many people to join our village and raise the next generation of Swazi children.

You know what we need today?  We need you to sponsor a child for whatever amount you are comfortable giving.  Will you consider sponsoring one of these new children who arrived this past week?  THEY need you and we need you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Live from Eswatini … my heart is very full today.


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