Sometimes it is about the One… Or in this case two.
In January 2008 I had my heart broken.
I was spending a month in Zambia visiting my family. We visited the local children’s hospital where my eyes were drawn to a shocking and devastating sight. Three small boys were lying on a bed. One was fat, one was sickly, and one looked dead.
We immediately asked who’s child was the one who looked so awful. A young mother replied that it was hers. And the other two were also hers. The healthy looking one, who was twice the size of the other children was three months old, he was fat because he was still being breast fed, the most nutritious option for a baby. The other two were twin boys, both two years old.
It haunted me after I left. I kept asking my mum if she could go back and check on that child who was so sick. She went back to look for them, and gave the mother a card for Seeds of Hope Children Ministry, inviting her to come and receive some assistance from their Children’s Home in Zambia. Within a few days she had brought the sickest child and signed him over to Seeds of Hope.
I immediately bonded with him and for the first 24 hours someone was always holding him. I stayed up the whole night, with him lying next me as I watched movies. We can call him J.
J. was 2 years old and 5 Kg (approx. 11 pounds). To put it in prospective, new born baby diapers were too big for him.
He was starving. In the very real sense of the word. He was despondent. It seems that this 2 year old had lost the fight to live long before he had a been given a chance.
I was determined to love him back to life.
Everyone warned me not to get to attached because he may not make it. Children weighing more had not made it in the past.
I watched him sleep, every breathe laboured. Sometimes I would hear nothing, and feel a rising sense of panic. I would reach my hand over and touch his heart to see if it was still beating. I prayed and cried, and asked God to give this little one a hope and a future.
Recently I have become aware of the debate regarding international adoptions. It seems that UNICEF would have international adoptions all but stopped completely. Seeing them as a last resort. I have heard this argument often when working in underdeveloped nations. Many feel that the best thing you can do for a child is keep him/her in their own culture or community. I agree.
Unfortunately the reality is that poverty, HIV, substance abuse, violence and sexual abuse have often so eroded communities, that for many children whose parents have either passed away, or are unable/unwilling to care for their children, keeping them in their community is not a safe option. In a country like Zambia where unemployment can be as high as 50%, in-country adoption or foster care is simply not a viable option for their estimated 600,000+ orphans.
While UNICEF is busy putting pressure on underdeveloped countries to curb international adoption, millions of orphans around the world suffer in institutions or on the street, with no one to defend or protect them. Read more about Unicef’s war on international adoption here.
After the first 24 hours that we began holding and caring for J. a miracle occurred. At first he had been refusing to eat and we had to almost force him to take rehydration formula, but as we held him it was like he woke from a deep sleep. He realized that there were warm arms protecting him, and food nourishing him. This little boy began to lift his arms towards my face and look around in amazement, almost like he was rediscovering life.
Within a few days, J. began to smile. And eat.
It was over the next week or so that we saw a two year old boy come to life. He became a little demanding, and a bit naughty. He couldn’t walk or talk or but he started to gurgle noises like he was laughing at us.
It was hard when I had to leave him, I had fallen for this little guy, and after I returned to South Africa, would often wake up crying, my heart broken for the things I had seen, but I knew that at least J. was safe now at Seeds of Hope. My mum went home and found enough sponsors for them to actually go and bring his twin brother, B. to the home as well. When they went to collect B. an amazing thing happened in the community where the mother lived. Neighbors actually came out of their homes and applauded Seeds of Hope for taking B. away, knowing that their mother was not able to care for so many children at such a young age.
In Zambia, in order to adopt a child, you need the permission of the family. If there is no living family, then no adoption can take place. It is a long and arduous process, mentally and physically exhausting. International adoption is expensive, and when done right, it involves a series of checks by both the Canadian government and the Zambia government.
J. and B. were lucky that not a few weeks after I had left Zambia, a Canadian family arrived and fell in love with them. Both of B. and J.’s birth parents were living, and knew that they could not care for the twin boys because of their economic and emotional situations. They gave permission for this family to adopt B. and J. out of Zambia and into their loving Canadian home.
Yesterday I went to visit them here in British Columbia. These two boys were bundles of energy, smiles, and sentences. “This is my Christmas, this is my Christmas.” Was the first thing that we were told as they led us into the family room, proudly pointing out their first ever Christmas tree. Talks of Santa Claus, presents, and Baby Jesus proceeded from there. They were two children who knew that they were loved. When they first arrived in Canada, their new family took them on a trip to Hawaii, and now whenever they see an airplane they assume that is where it is going. Memories of crowded hospitals in the third world, deadened eyes staring off in the distance, and the daily fight for survival, are far away.
International Adoption is not the solution for many of the problems plaguing developing nations, and like many areas where we try to help those in need, the potential for exploitation is very high. But just because the potential is there, doesn’t mean that the whole system should be thrown out.
I would like to see long term sustainable solutions for poverty, HIV, and exploitation. I also realize that simply removing one child from a hospital bed does nothing to save thousands of others slowly dying from disease and malnutrition. But I will not deny the power in reaching out my hand to physically save the life of that one child presented me, and I would hope that organisation’s like UNICEF would not be so quick to deny children like J. and B. the opportunity for a new life in a safe and loving environment!
In January 2008, my heart was broken, yesterday it got some healing as I was reminded of the power of individuals to change the course of a human life for the better.
Seeds of Hope is an organisation helping children affected and infected with HIV/Aids. They run a children’s home and boarding school in Ndola, Zambia. Right now you can do something to support the life saving work of Seeds of Hope Children’s Ministry. Vote for Seeds of Hope through the Eximus Real Estate Group’s Facebook page, to vote, like the group and then like the picture for Seeds of Hope and you can help them win $7000 towards saving the lives of more children in Zambia.