~From the desk of Auntie Bea
Since I first arrived in Uganda, I have been saying, “this country never ceases to amaze me.” Sometimes for the good. Sometimes—too many times—for the bad.
I have been living here for nearly eight years, and every day I take off my armor to go to bed, putting it back on when I get up. It is the only thing that one can do to endure the constant face of indifference toward the suffering of other human beings. I want to fight against it; it seems to me to be one of the worst diseases in the world.
At Malayaka House we welcome children who are orphans or have been abandoned, and we rarely meet the mothers, fathers, or relatives who have, in many cases, abandoned them. Maybe this is a good thing—I have always wondered what I would do to someone who is capable of doing to children what some have done.
Bobo was three years old and weighed less than nine pounds; Achen lost an eye when her mother threw her in a pit latrine at birth; the twins and triplets arrived with malaria and terrible malnutrition.
Several days ago, through the Catherine Project that we launched last year to help children with HIV, fate brought a new baby our way. But this time, with his mother, father, and siblings. At six months old, little Joshua weighed only eight pounds. Jackie, our social worker, was alerted by the services of TASO, an organization in Uganda that cares for people with HIV, of the desperate situation of a baby who lived only a five-minute walk from our house.
We immediately went to visit the family. When I said earlier that I have always wondered what I would do to someone who has nearly let a baby die—now I have the answer: nothing. Well, nothing more than to take the baby out of their hands, bring him to Malayaka House and put all our knowledge, enthusiasm, love and attention toward his recovery. Try to save his little life.
Joshua lived in his house with three older siblings, ages two, five, and eight, and his mother and father. The mother is an alcoholic. The father works from six in the morning to 10 at night, and does not know how to properly provide for his family. He also drinks, mistreating them when drunk. The situation for Joshua and the rest of his brothers is one of the worst I have seen since I arrived in Uganda.
When I met them, Joshua had been left lying on a rotting sofa, for days and days, in a mess of pee and poop. His belly was swollen, and his body was skin and bones. His big eyes looked sadly around the room. He didn’t even have the energy to cry, and the poor child could only suck his fingers to calm the hunger pains.The room was filthy from months without cleaning, covered in trash, with a foul smell and empty gin bottles everywhere.
The next day, we convinced the mother to take Joshua to the clinic where we take our children. I recently discovered an American “mzungu” pediatrician, Dr. Bruce, who is an absolute sweetheart, cares about children, treats them with affection, and is very knowledgeable.
On the way, we had to stop to buy pajamas because the mother could not find any baby clothes in the mess at home. We had found Joshua naked, with the same dirty sheet that he had been laying on the day before.
After meeting with the doctor, I spoke with the government social worker and he agreed—thanking us a thousand times—that we should take Joshua into our foster home. He has authorized us to care for Joshua until he improves, gains weight, and his family situation is better.
When we arrived home with Joshua, everyone welcomed him with a big party…we haven’t had new babies in a long time! It made my heart happy to see how those who were once just like Joshua welcomed him with such love, how they care for him, pamper him, and play with him. How they have stolen his heart and he has stolen theirs, from the first moment, without questions, without doubts, without resentments. With only love, a lot of love.
Joshua has gained nearly five pounds in the time he’s been with us. It’s the good nutrition, definitely, but more importantly, it’s the affection and love.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who support us day after day, month after month, year after year, in our efforts to continue helping children like Joshua. Thank you so much!!