Saturday, 30 March 2013

A new baby and siblings bring us to 72!

A tiny baby, weak and fragile as a newly-hatched bird, is now the youngest member of our family.
Three week old Athmani, weighing just 1.5kg, came to us, with his older sister Sudi and brother, Abu, because their grandmother, a refugee from violent clashes in the Tana Delta, was unable to provide for them.
To go on a rescue with Uncle Billy and Auntie Rose and to see, first hand,  how Mama Sue's Happy House offers a safety net to children in need was both emotional and enlightening, writes Elizabeth Gomm.
Uncle Billy had received a call from Naomi, a district nurse working in a clinic in Marakbuni, an area close to the Sabaki river, about 36 kilometres from Watamu.
She had told him of baby Athmani, one of twins, born prematurely three weeks earlier.
Athmani was delivered safely, but then his mother became gravely sick trying to give birth to the second twin, who was breach.
By the time she was taken to surgery it was too late for both her and her child and they died together.
with Naomi and Uncle Billy
Their grieving grandmother had for three weeks been trying to raise the baby, feeding him cow’s milk diluted with water.  He was unable to digest the milk  and he had dropped from 1.8kg to 1.5kg..
The children's father was present while we spoke. Because no dowry was paid to him by his wife's family on their  marriage, there was, in their culture, no obligation on him to provide for his children.
The fisherman had deferred all care  for the newborn and his older kids to the grandmum.
Clutching  the baby to her,  the woman tugged at my arm pulling me towards a clearing where , tears streaming down her face, she pointed to  the mound of earth  where her daughter and Athman’s twin are buried.
All I could do, which seemed so inadequate, was to put my arms around her, tears welling in my eyes. We had no common language, but I hope that I was able to give her just a little of the comfort she deserved.
Rose and I meet baby and grandmum
Abu, a little boy of about three, and Sudi, around four, were curious as Auntie Rose and I tried to make friends.  They looked fed, but were pitifully dressed in rags and both were infested with ringworm.
 An older sister, 13, who we learnt was in school looked better cared for and two other children were also being cared for and educated elsewhere.
Uncle Billy ,Naomi, and Paul, a local man who is pharmacist at the clinic, talked with the grandmum, explaining to her about the Happy House and what it is like and how we could help her grandchildren.  As she listened you could see some of the stress , that makes women like her old before their time, ease slightly.
A final resting place
All she wanted was the best for the little ones. She explained how she had come back to her father’s homestead when she was forced to flee the tribal violence in the Tana Delta and her own husband had deserted her.
Humble home
She had nothing, other than the meagre roof over her head.
Every now and again she would look towards me, at first with apprehension but then, after some time, with a smile.  She had realised that she was with people she could trust and to whom she could entrust her grandchildren’s care.
One of the local women changed Athmani  into the clothes we had taken, whilst Rose and
  I changed Sudi and Abu.

Ready for their new home
Abu smiled with delight when I pulled out a red t-shirt, with cartoon tractor on the front, for him to wear.
The papers signed, the grandmum unable to write making her mark with an inked thumbprint, we made our way back to the matatu to start our journey home to the Happy House. 
 As we walked the grandmum  repeatedly threw her arms around me and stroked my hair.  “She is so happy,” Naomi explained “she says she is going to write to you in Giriama!”
As we drove off they waved and smiled and promised, as soon as they have enough money, to visit the children at the Happy House.
Abu and Sud
Rose held Athmani and I sat in the back with Naomi, Sudi and Abu.
 After a drink of water and biscuits, Abu, fell asleep on my lap . Sudi, uncomplaining, looked out of the window.
“They are so good,” I said to Naomi “yet they must be wondering who we are and what is happening to them.”
“What is happening,” she said “is life”.
And in Kenya, where there are so many living in poverty,  this is true.
Acceptance is the hard reality of life.