THIS time last year, baby Baraka was preparing to spend his first Christmas in a children’s home in Uganda, after being abandoned by his mother at an African hospital.
Just one of thousands of children neglected in the east African country every year, Baraka was severely malnourished when discovered by hospital workers.
Care staff at Malaika Babies Home in the country’s capital Kampala, where he was taken in October 2010, worked around the clock to bring Baraka back to good health.
After seven months in their care they found him a loving family and life is on the up for little Baraka. Thanks to an adoption programme run by the charity Childs i Foundation, which was set up by UK woman Lucy Buck and relies on the support of tireless Australian staff members and volunteers, Baraka and other African babies like him now have hope.
This year Baraka will spend his first Christmas with his new parents, David and Joyce.
“It will be spent with grandparents, listening to stories by the fire with the rest of the family,” says David excitedly.
“We are looking forward to taking Baraka to our village. Africans usually like spending Christmas with extended family. It’s something we all look forward to.”
So far 53 babies taken to Malaika, the babies home run by Childs i Foundation, have been placed with new, loving families. In fact after a very successful year, during which the foundation has run a mass media campaign in co-ordination with the Ugandan government to promote local adoption and an adoption panel, the home now has empty beds.
This probably won’t be for too long. In Uganda so many mothers facing poverty and family rejection are forced to make the unimaginable decision every year to abandon their children.
Some children are found deserted at taxi stops, in latrines, or on the street.
One baby currently staying at Malaika, which has been in action for over a year and a half, is Isaac. He was brought to the centre just a few weeks ago. His mother was destitute and sleeping with him on a verandah, until police alerted one of Malaika’s social workers.
Tragically, a few days after Isaac was admitted to the home his mother died.
“Social workers have arranged a meeting with his great grandmother to assess her situation and see if she is willing to care for him,” says Barbra Aber, a family placement social worker at Childs i Foundation.
“If she is willing to have him and is suitable, Isaac will be resettled with her.”
The motto of Childs i Foundation, running a Christmas Baby Shower this year to help support babies like Baraka and Isaac, is “we make families not orphans”. While their social care team will always attempt to reunite neglected children with existing family members first, this is not always possible.
Baby Joey was abandoned in a public taxi park and taken to Malaika, before being adopted by Ugandan couple Desire and George.
“Joey now has a family to celebrate Christmas with. He will never be alone. He will be loved all his life and all the Christmas’s ahead of him,” says Desire.
During its adoption campaign — the first of its kind in Uganda — over 100 Ugandan families contacted Childs i Foundation and were assessed to see if they’d make suitable parents.
The campaign was run by Australian and British media volunteers who work in television in the UK but gave up months of their time to go to Kampala and work on it.
Their work is now making sure that many previously neglected African babies have something to cheer about this Christmas.
To support Childs i Foundation and the abandoned babies and their families, buy a gift in their ‘Baby Shower’ at ChildsiFoundation.org/give/buy-a-gift