As a pediatrician in a place like Kenya, I have learned I should bring three things in my bag whenever I visit an orphanage:
The rationale for my choices is simple. Someone is always sick. I have not yet been in a situation with children in Kenya where stickers are not at least a little helpful. And, I always regret it if I do not have the chance to capture with my camera some small measure of the children’s great beauty.
This afternoon, after a full HIV clinic in the morning, me and my pediatrician bag headed to a local children’s home to do an evaluation of their care. This home is run by an American couple who live here with their two biological daughters and 23 Kenyan children under the age of 6 who they are essentially raising as their own. The couple does have several hired helpers during the day to help care for the children and run a preschool, but they handle the evening, overnight, and morning all on their own and live as a family with the orphaned children.
All but one of the children at this children’s home came from the Sally Test Paediatric Centre, the Child Life centre on the wards of the referral hospital where they offer activities and educational opportunities and help in dealing with hospitalization for the sick children on the wards and their families. This Centre also cares for all of the abandoned babies that are discovered in this area. Protocol has the abandoned babies brought to the hospital, where they are cared for in the Sally Test Centre until an adoptive family or a children’s home takes them in.
The couple running this children’s home have taken in all manner of abandoned babies from Sally Test – premature babies, abused babies, babies with significant deformities and medical problems. And it is a joy to see these children now, growing and thriving and quite bonded to their loving caregivers. We saw some children walking today who we never thought would walk. We saw a baby who was only 1kg (2.2 pounds) when he left the hospital two months ago and now looks like a normally sized baby with slightly chubby cheeks and a gummy smile. It always makes my heart very happy to visit places where children are clearly well cared for and thriving physically and emotionally. These are my heroes, these humble and loving souls who take in orphans and make a family for the most forgotten and forsaken ones.