Four and a half years ago, in the border town of Mchinji, Malawi, a tiny little angel wound up in my care after her mother passed away from birth related complications. The experience of caring for baby Emma, and the subsequent learning curve I went through, particularly regarding conditions faced by mothers giving birth in rural Malawi, have stayed with me. Each new devastating statistic or newly orphaned babe tugging further at my heart strings. In this day and age, no Mummas and their babes should have to go through these types of experiences.
Somewhere along the way, the dream of creating a nurturing space for new Mummas or babies from high-risk situations formed, and the Hey Baby Project was born. The Hey Baby Project is the next step in an overall vision to empower and support the women of Malawi, so, that in the future, no baby grows up an orphan due to high maternal mortality rates caused by malnutrition, lack of health and medical services, and HIV/AIDS and related illnesses. The Hey Baby Project consists of four main parts:
- An accommodation facility purpose built for the care of babies (particularly orphaned babies from high-risk situations or who have endured trauma in the early stages of their life);
- Overnight or short-term accommodation for families who have travelled to Home Of Hope to seek support and join our outreach feeding program;
- An Outreach program, which supplies formula and nutritional supplements to families of newborns so that they may return to their village and their baby remain in their care; and
- Training and education for the young women in our care and women from the local community in areas of female health and wellbeing, pre/post natal care, nutrition, and all areas of baby care.
Late last year, a beautiful friend of mine, and past volunteer, approached me to help make the Hey Baby Project a reality. Construction on the new building began earlier this month and, weather permitting, by March/April the building work should be completed. Some time in the next four months I will be traveling over to Malawi to assist in setting up the new house. As well as funds for the building, my wonderful friend and her husband are supplying a years worth of formula, Nuby Australia have donated a heap of bottles and supplies, and the Australia Government, through the ongoing work of Blessing In Disguise, have provided funding for sanitation systems and other equipment to help get the house and training programs up and running.
So now, dear Dreamers, I call on you to help! We are trying to make this project as environmentally sustainable as possible, while still maintaining strict hygiene practices for the safety of the babies that will be cared for in the home. We are looking for donations of reusable cloth nappies to provide for the babies. Nappies must be in new or good preloved condition (Washed and with no mould, stains, tears, etc.). If your little dreamer has outgrown their cloth nappies and you’d like to pass them on to babies in need, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to be involved.
Why the Hey Baby Project?
Each week at Home of Hope, countless number of families arrive seeking support to care for their newborn babies. Many of these babies have lost their mother during childbirth. For some the mother cannot produce enough breast milk due to malnutrition. And for others, they arrive with a local Social Welfare officer, after being abandoned. The Hey Baby Project is Home of Hope’s vision to provide better support and education services to young women, so that they feel better prepared to face the challenges of motherhood and well-equipped to make decisions regarding their body to ensure they are surviving childbirth. The ultimate goal of the Hey Baby Project is to support the women of Malawi through education and lower the rate of orphaned children in Malawi in the future.
Meet a few of the babies who inspired the Hey Baby Project. Here are their stories.
*Names changed for confidentiality.
Emma arrived at Home of Hope at twelve days old. Her mother had given birth four weeks prematurely and bled to death the day after giving birth. Emma’s family, unable to afford formula, had tried to feed the baby milk from a neighbour’s cow, but baby Emma had struggled to drink. When she arrived at the orphanage Baby Emma weighed less than 1.5 kg. She eventually took to bottle-feeding, but for the next nine months suffered from reflux/colic, which was a result of drinking cow’s milk so early on. Initially, Emma required constant care and attention and would not settle to sleep day or nighttime, sleeping for no more than two hours at a time. Emma is now a healthy and happy four year old. Thanks to the constant care and love from her caregiver, she has grown into a well-adjusted and settled child and has been able to rebuild her relationship with her siblings.
*Chisomo was four months old when he arrived at Home of Hope. Chisomo’s great-grandparents had brought him to the orphanage after his mother had tried to put him in a pot of boiling water.
Chisomo’s mother suffered from epilepsy. As a child she’d had a seizure and fallen into the fire, resulting in severe scarring to her face, neck and arms. Chisomo’s mother lived with her grandparents, as her own parents had passed away when she was young. One day, while collecting firewood from the forest near her village, a man raped her. Baby Chisomo was born nine months later.
Moments after giving birth the nurses found baby Chisomo out in the rubbish pile, his mother had dumped him. The nurses took the baby back inside and gave him back to his family. In the following four months, Chisomo’s mother tried several more times to end his life. But, Chisomo was very lucky his great-grandparents were watching over him and protecting him. They knew though that they would not always be around to protect him. And after arriving home from the market to find baby Chisomo moments from a pot of boiling water they knew it was time to remove him from his mother’s care if they were to completely protect him.