Each vulnerable that finds themselves in the care of our organization, Orphan Care Ethiopia (OCE), has a story. Eyob is one of them.
Eyob, a boy of six years old, has both physical and mental disability. He is nearly completely paralyzed, confined to a crib for most hours of the day is a harsh reality for young Eyob. My husband Zee and I learned about his needs and the needs of many other children in an Ethiopian orphanage upon our 2017 visit.
When we heard about the startling medical needs and extreme mortality rate at the orphanage, Zee suggested we take a small medical team with us on our way there to pick up our twin boys, who were residing at the orphanage prior to our adopting them. Zee, a medical doctor, quickly organized the medical mission and gathered the necessary medication. Our team then traveled to Ethtiopia with luggages filled with medicine, clothing, toys, formula, bottles, scrubs, gloves and more.
When we arrived, Zee and his team set up a temporary clinic to treat the 203 children, ages zero to eight. I gathered 25 local volunteers, mostly women, bathed babies, apply scabies and lice medication. We prepared four different big soaking tubs, an assembly line of sorts, that allowed us to efficiently treat the children. We all had yellow scrubs and blue gloves on (group picture on).
The first child I picked up from his crib to bathe was named Eyob. I slowly laid him in the water washed him with a washcloth, then rinsed, applied both medications, wrapped him in the towel and held him close to my chest. I distinctly recall hearing his little heartbeat. To come face to face with a child of God who lacked the faculties to interact, let alone move, stirred my heart beyond words. As I held him to my chest, felt a deep sense of love for him. This child, from birth, was dealt in unfair deal in life. I would do everything I could to ensure his beginning didn’t determine his ending. I remember saying to myself, I only met him today and could love and care about him this much, I wondered how much more God must love him. It was the most amazing feeling ….. completely inexplicable. It was also the most liberating feeling ever. I felt the closets to God that I’ve ever felt in my life.
Eyob is the inspiration for the development of the OCE childcare program. This effort, mobilizing local volunteers to serve orphans at different orphanages to ensure that children like Eyob will receive love and, which also increase the caregiver to child ratio and bring quality of care.
The twenty-five women who served with me that day, continued serving by showing up at this same orphanage at mealtimes, three times a week, to assist the government staff/ caregivers. (These women have been faithfully volunteering for two years until the COVID pandemic forced the orphanage to close for volunteers. These women are the heroes who brought the needed change at that orphanage. Prior to their involvement, the caregiver to child ratio for babies, was one to 28, with numbers ofttimes exceeding 30. This number goes down even lower, whenever a kid is admitted to the hospital, which happens very frequently. It’s the hospital’s policy for a caregiver to be by bedside attending to the baby 24 hours for the entire hospital stay (this is to minimize the chance of people abandoning children at the hospital, which unfortunately is a pattern).
On one of my visits to this orphanage, I remember a staff- person sitting with a bowl of porridge, in front of about ten or so babies, feeding them lunch (with the same spoon). By the time, she is at the third baby, the first one is already screaming because next bite is delayed. The government staffs are doing their best to care for these children, with what’s available to them. It’s just impossible for them to provide the kind of care they want to provide with such limited resources, manpower. In this case, it wasn’t the availability or quality of food that was a problem, but availability of staff to feed the babies, which aligns with what the doctors and nurses at the nearby hospital have stated, who normally treat these babies when they are ill. That, the high mortality rate was as a result of malnutrition and by the time the babies make it to the hospital, it was too late for the doctors to do anything. With such short staffing, it’s obvious that some babies would fall through the cracks and don’t eat. All this changed and the mortality rate decreased by 100% due to the medical intervention of the OCE medical team (more on that on future blogs), but also by the involvement of these wonderful OCE volunteer caregivers. Them taking turns and showing up at each feeding time, guaranteed for each baby to be fed each time, which eliminated the malnutrition issue drastically, brought the mortality rate very very low. Would like to take this opportunity to thank and appreciation these wonderful ladies who tirelessly served and loved on these kids like their own.
Our vision is, again, to do this in a very big scale just like we do with all our OCE programs — recruit volunteers not only to serve at government orphanages, but also at private. If private orphanages can use volunteer care givers, they can reduce their operational cost, which would allow them to care for far more children. The high operation cost is another factor why many NGOs are limited to the number of kids they can reach, which made the intervention rate not to match with the child vulnerability rate. This is why partnerships with other local NGOs is one of the elements of the OCE national mentoring movement for the care of vulnerable children. We would like to supply volunteers to these organization, so they increase their intervention rate. Besides, if money alone could serve the orphan and vulnerable children challenge in Ethiopia, it would have been solved long ago. A heart is what would solve this problem. OCE’s goal is to grow five million hearts for the five million vulnerable children. True national impact will come if these hearts also to serve kids under the care of other NGOs (not just OCE). We are well set up to recruit, vet and train volunteers and supply them for free, to whoever needs them, for the care of vulnerable children. Its all about rising the tide
In phase two of this program, we plan to build a childcare center in different corners of the city in Addis Ababa so homeless moms who are begging on street corners can have a place where they can check in their kids during the day and make themselves available for a job.
Please join the OCE National Mentoring Movement for the care of vulnerable children. Together, we can eradicate this challenge. For more on our organization please visit us at www.orphancareethiopia.org
Naomi Haile, Founder and Executive Director Naomi.email@example.com