Friday, April 5, 2013

In honour of Baby Daniel with Mogra Children's Rescue Centre

I know my visits to this space are few and far between. The truth is that I have somewhat submersed myself into Kenya, it's culture and trying to get to the bottom of the orphan crisis here. I am dedicated to learn as much as I possibly can during our time here. We have made several Kenyan friends, frequently having them over for Nyoma Choma (BBQ) and enjoy our time getting to them and their culture. We talk to every driver, security guard, tradesman etc. that we meet. We ask many questions, trying to understand 'Kenya' inside and out.

Outside of the everyday Kenya... I am also trying to understand the inside of the orphan crisis. The abandonment issue here in Kenya is unique compared to other African countries. Mothers are not only simply 'abandoning' their children, they are killing them, leaving them for dead, throwing them in pit latrines, out car windows, in trash heaps, tied up in plastic bags, beating them... the horrifying list goes on and on, and it is not just a few isolated incidents.

Poverty and cultural issues are what drives Mothers to abandon their children. They can't afford to feed them, the father belongs to a different tribe, the mother is unwed and will not be accepted by another man if she has children, the baby is a product of rape or incest, and some children are actual tribal offerings to Gods/witchcraft... etc. These issues are similar in all African countries. But what drives a Mother to wish her baby harm? What can be done to change this? (More on this later...)

I started my journey by visiting orphanages... and taking trips to the off beaten trail. Visiting slums, villages, and simply just walking every trail within a 5 km radius from us.

In January, we started to volunteer at a wonderful orphanage just up the road from us, Mogra Children's Rescue Centre.

The girls play 'Cats Cradle' with a large elastic by jumping!
 Mogra is a home to over 117 children 0-19.

But Mogra is more than just a home. Hannah, who is the director of Mogra, also runs an inner slum school for over 900 children. In addition to this, she also is a self appointed guardian of the children of Mathare slum. If there is a family in need, or a child in need... she is there to help.

Hannah with baby Daniel

Hannah has taken me under wing and has embraced my willingness to learn and help. She is dedicated to revealing the heart of the orphan crisis to me from the inside out. It's one thing to go and volunteer at these orphanages, hold and feed babies. But it's a whole new ball game looking back and uncovering how it is that these children came to this place.

Hannah has taken me on 3 children rescues so far, and I have witnessed the admission of many others. I would like to write about these experiences in more depth later, but I will give you a taste of a few cases.

Our first rescue was the case of 3 children, ages 4, 2 and 10 months. The situation was reported to the area chief by concerned neighbours. The Mother left the family one month prior - for another man. The Father was unable to care for the children for whatever reasons (perhaps poverty, lack of knowledge or ambition), and the 4 year old was left to care for her younger siblings. This was their living situation, and where they slept.

Father slept on the foamy, while the children slept on the plastic sheet, with one small blanket for all 3 of them.

The youngest had lost all muscle tone and the skin literally hung from her bones, where her healthy baby fat used to occupy.

The smell of these children was absolutely horrendous. The youngest 2 were not in any diapers, so they wreaked of urine and fecal matter. Their clothes and little bodies were so filthy. Frightened and crying, we took them to the children's department to pick up the necessary paperwork and witnessed their father's last goodbyes as he was then taken into police custody. The entire scene was absolutely heartbreaking.

One of the first admissions I happen to witness, was a 18 month old girl. Turned in by a local emergency aid organization. They had told us that the child was brought to them, after being rescued from a terrible situation. The Mother had beaten the baby with a bucket until the baby fell unconscious. She stripped the baby of all clothing and doused the baby with cold water to try and revive her. She came to the home with no known name, so Hannah chose to name this precious baby after me. What an honour!

You can see the sadness in her eyes... something that every new admission comes in with. :(
The next rescue was a beautiful baby boy, abandoned at a few hours old by his Mother in a local hospital. This baby stole my heart from the second I held him. Throughout all these rescues, admissions and experiences, I had kept my emotions under lock and key. There is simply too much poverty, abuse and abandonment cases, that if you do not maintain a heart of steel, and distance yourself - you will break down and be of no service to anyone. Perhaps it was his situation that felt so close to home for me with Z's abandonment story, or perhaps his irresistible cute face, but this little man opened the iron gate guarding my heart and threw away the key. Our hearts connected, I fell in love and admittedly allowed myself to dream of being able to take him home, giving Z a Kenyan brother. I called him 'my Baby' in the home, asking them to please take care of 'My Baby' at the end of each visit. They called him Daniel - named after my husband. Baby Daniel was the picture of health and happiness, such a good baby. My Baby Daniel.

Love at first sight.

During this time, my Mother and friend came to visit us and I left town for a few days as they treated me to girls Safari trip. I really don't have the heart to rehash what happened next, so I am copying and pasting a FB status.

VERY SAD NEWS. I have just been informed that Baby Daniel (named after Daniel Thompson) has left this world for a better place. I am at a loss for words. How could this happen to such a big, healthy boy?

 I am overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. I assisted in the rescue of this beautiful boy, visited daily, and then got busy.
During my last visit, I noticed he was jaundice. As best I could, I tried to explain this to the staff and asked them to have the Doctor look in on him. I then took Daniel outside for a sunbathe. As I sat, cuddling him in my arms, stroking his eyebrows... I secretly wished there was a way that I could take him home. Knowing the impossibility of my hearts desire - I wished this little man a future of a loving family to call his own. I later walked out that door, asking the ladies to please take good care of my baby. 

 I don't know the details yet, but I am told he died of AIDS. Is this even possible? I was told he spent 7 days in the hospital and died on Tuesday morning.

 I cannot shake the feeling that my continued presence could have made a difference, and yet I am overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness. This home lovingly accepts all children, none are turned away, yet they are in dire need. They are raising 28 children under the age of 6 in a 2 bdrm suite. They need formula, diapers, medicine, more caregivers and most importantly, they need money to complete their expansion renovations.

 Good Lord, help this country and the innocent who are left to suffer.
I received the news in the evening and spent the remainder of the night bawling my eyes out. What if I had been there? Could I have helped him? Why didn't I call and check in? Did he have good medical attention... could I have provided him this? Is anyone else mourning his death? What will happen to his remains - mass, unmarked burial? etc... I was so full of questions and so full of guilt.

I went to the home the very next morning to find out what happened. As it turns out, Baby Daniel developed sores in his mouth and throat and became unable to suck a bottle. They took him to the hospital and he was diagnosed with an infection. They admitted him and treated him for the infection when it was discovered that he had HIV. Because this was unknown upon his admission to the home, he was not being treated for HIV. Because of this, his immune system was failing and he simply was unable to fight the infection. He spent 7 days in the hospital and was taken home where he passed away the next morning. He had been admitted to a great hospital, had great care and was looked after 24/7 by one of the carers from the home who also fell in love with Daniel. I was so relieved to know that there was nothing more that could have been done, and that in Daniel's last days, he was being loved, and now being mourned. The carers and I talked and cried, grieving and healing.

So, in a scattered nutshell, this is where my head has been, and this is what has been occupying my time outside of homeschooling and parenting :), in the last few months. And this is where my heart is now:

Daniel lost his Mother, and then his life in the few short weeks of his life, but I am determined for his death to not be in vain. Daniel touched my heart so deeply and I knew it must have been for a reason. These emotions now spilling out of me need an avenue of direction to make a positive impact in the lives of other babies. His life and loss has motivated me to try even harder to make a difference. In Daniel's memory, I am dedicated to making a better home for these little ones at the home and I need your help.

The current situation:

This living room, is the only living space for 28 kids. They play here, eat here and the older ones nap here.

Lunch time!
This small bathroom doubles as the shower room and laundry room for 32 people!

Babies sharing cribs.

There are 28 children ages 0-6, and 5 full time caregivers living in a 2 bedroom suite. There is one bedroom for the babies, with 5 cribs and a bed for 10 babies and 2 caregivers. The other room contains a double bed and a double decker (bunk beds) for the remaining 18 children children and caregivers. In the double bed, sleeps a carer with 7 children! The other singles sleep a carer and 3 children! 5 children sleep on a foamy mattress on the floor.

The lack of space and crowded quarters presents many problems.

1. The infants are forced to spend much of the day in their cribs, as the toddlers can easily harm them.
2. There is one small bathroom for everyone.
3. Colds and illnesses quickly spread.
4. Washing of laundry is done in the hallway.
5. The children lack stimulation toys (walkers, rockers, etc) because of lack of space.

The solution:

When the home was built, there was another unit that was planned for. The unit is roughed in with block walls, but they lacked the necessary funds to continue the project. The unit has one large open bedroom, large walk in closet, 2 bathrooms, a shower room, kitchen and large living room. They would like to move the infants to this new space. The cost of the remaining unit is as follows: $10,800 complete with furniture and appliances. We hope to be able to complete it for less, as Dan has offered to do much of the work himself - where possible.

This will be a large bedroom, large enough for many cribs!

This is the quote for completion
Dan has recently returned to Canada, and with him I sent 140 paper beaded necklaces and some hand made bags to fundraise for this expansion.

The problem:

1. I DIDNT SEND ENOUGH! Within 2 days, the bracelets were taken off my hands by friends and community members who were nice enough to help me sell them. The response back home was fantastic. Thank you all for helping!

2. I hope this little fundraiser can generate $2000 in profit. That's amazing!... but still not enough to see this project to the end.

I have had a few people ask me how they can donate. I would love to find a registered charity in Canada/US that can accept money on Mogra's behalf and issue tax receipts, but currently we cannot issue tax receipts. (If anyone knows of any such organizations, please let me know.)

How can you help?

1. Please let me pick your brains - if you have any fundraising ideas, please let me know. I would love nothing more than to get the full funding before we leave in a few months.

2. We have a Facebook fundraising event page... Please join the event and share it with your friends. Spread the word.... If we can get 1500 people to attend, we could complete this project with a small donation of $5 from each person! That's only a cup of coffee in the Western world!

I hope to try to get a paypal button up on my page where interested parties can donate. Mogra does not have a paypal account that they can actually draw from as it does not work with Kenyan bank accounts. If you are interested in donating or having your own fundraiser, please visit the FB page or contact mografundraiser (at) Every dollar helps!!

Thank you all for sharing my heart, I really am looking forward to bringing you more detailed accounts of my experiences in addition to introducing you to some of Mogra's cherished Angels!

RIP my sweet baby boy. Your short life has moved us to improve the only home you had, for the other babies that live there, in honour of your memory. Please know that you were loved.

PROJECT COMPLETE! Thank you all for your support!
Please see , where we are working hard to get more support for Mogra and other orphanages like it, throughout Africa.


Elizabeth Ashton said...

This must have been an exhausting but necessary task to write this entry.
You have inspired many people with your family wishes.

Most women wouldn't be able to handle the heart of steal needed to get through each day that you face.

You have found the joy and strength in this impoverished circumstance.

I am very pleased to hear all 140 necklaces are out and about in the community. I love my 'large bag' by the way - its perfect, I picked it up from your sister yesterday.
Every time I use it, it will remind me of Baby Daniel's soulful eyes.

I'll keep spreading the word here and encouraging your spirit.

Jess said...

I am so sorry the loss you feel by the death of the sweet little boy. I know that your journey there will forever change your life and I am grateful for that, because it's allowing you to be touched on such an intimate level. what you are doing with these kids and helping with abandonments and orphanages is changing so many lives. I know a lot of the things have caused you so much pain, but the joy that you are bringing is amazing as well. Thank you for your heart, and for your family and everything you are doing while you are there waiting to bring your daughter home. I know, in my heart, that there are people you have interacted with and it will change them forever.

Candice said...

This post has touched my heart in the most profound way. I will get creative and try to come up with a way to help you achieve your goal.

anot arnold said...

Poverty is the most common issues why there are street children's, abandoned, and some of them are encourage by their parents to do unusual things just to earn money like stealing, engaging into drugs and sex slave. Its good to know that there is this organization that helps these lost children and they're taken care of giving the food shelter and all the basic needs of a child. child rescue volunteers