Shock as new widow
‘strangles, dumps baby in toilet’
“A village in Githunguri, Kiambu County, was in shock
yesterday after a woman allegedly strangled and dumped her two-week old baby in
a pit latrine. When the body was
retrieved, residents of Kamburu Village suspected that the 40-year old woman
was embarrassed after giving birth to her eighth child less than a year after
her husband died…”
No, this news did not make the front page of a national
Kenyan newspaper, but was tucked away between pages of national politics and
sports. On the adjacent page, unrelated to the first story, was a short article
lamenting the lack of mental health services in Kenya. The article cited the
woeful unawareness of mental health illnesses by medical professions, resulting
in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatments. In other words, patients
presenting with mental health illnesses were often misdiagnosed as having a physical
maladies and were treated as such, when in fact they may been suffering from a
clinical depression, schizophrenia or some other mental illness. Stigma is still greatly attached to mental
health illnesses, so ignorance flows freely, even among health professionals.
As I read the first article, about the woman who strangled
dumped her two-week old baby in the pit latrine, I couldn’t help but wonder if
this woman suffered from undiagnosed post-partum depression, compounded by the
grief of her husband’s death several months before. Perhaps the desperation of
not being able to care for eight children as a widow led her to such drastic
measures. I’m not sure we will ever know the complete story.
Sadly, abandoned babies are not uncommon in Kenya. Infants,
hours to days old, are abandoned for a variety of reasons. Abandoned because a
young girl gets pregnant and she herself is abandoned by the father of the
baby, and perhaps her own family. Abandoned because the mother dies in
childbirth. Abandoned because the mother sees no way to care for an infant. Abandoned
due to shame and stigma. Abandoned
because the mother sees no way out.
The Sainted Mother Teresa once said, “The most terrible poverty is
loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
A newborn, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, comes into
this world in need of love and care. Just as the Christ child came into this
world—helpless and vulnerable. Left alone, an infant will die. Left alone,
abandoned, there is no chance of survival, unless that infant happens to come under
the care of Hope Home– Child Rescue
Center. Here is a story of mercy and hope. Here is a story that ought to
make the front page of all the newspapers across the world…
Driving red dirt roads leading to the rescue center, we pass
by banana trees, shambas (farms) of maize and sweet potatoes. Cows, goats and
school children amble along the dusty path. Private schools, small villages and
the occasional business dot this serene landscape. We come upon a concrete wall
announcing, Hope Home– Child Rescue
Center. As the metal gate is swung
open, young children, almost all under the age of five, flock to the car. Their
faces alight with smiles at the visitors who have come for the afternoon. Upon
embarking from the car, our legs are hugged, our wrists caressed with curiosity
and our hands held as children clamor to be around the visitors. They are well
behaved, clean and happy. The children gather around us on the veranda, some
sitting on chairs, some on our laps, the youngest being a few weeks old and
weighing about five pounds.
This center is unique in that only infants are accepted. All
the children (forty of them) came to the center as infants, except one who was
two years old and is now age seven. This is their home. This is their hope and
their life. And the woman who has made it all happen is Rennish–a woman of
noble beauty and deep compassion and humility. Her love for each one of “her”
children is evident as she caresses them, soothes a fussy baby, speaks kindly
to each child. “What they need most is love,” she says quietly.
Five years ago, after
a couple bouts of near-death illnesses, Rennish, a Christian, was looking for a
way to “serve” and give back. On a trip
from the rural area to Nairobi, she and a friend were discussing ways in which
she might be able to serve the poor and suffering ones. She decided she would open
a rescue center for abandoned babies. There were many orphanages available for
young children, but very few would take in infants due to the high level of
care required. While on this bus ride to
Nairobi to visit her brother, Rennish overheard a woman speaking about her
daughter who gave birth but didn’t want the baby. Rennish asked the woman if
she might take that baby and care for her. And thus the Hope Home Child Rescue center began. One woman. One infant. One
desire: To be love in the world and give the most vulnerable a chance at life.
Over the years, I have visited many orphanages in Kenya, but
never have I seen one such as Hope Home.
The grounds are lovely and well kept. There are two small buildings which are
home to the young children. The walls are bright and cheerfully painted. The
floors are swept clean. The windows let in sunshine and light. The play areas
have a variety of toys. Cribs and beds are covered with colorful blankets and
stuffed animals. Shoes are lined up on shelves.
Caregivers dispense hugs freely and speak kindly to the children.
Children play together and help each other.
Another house is home to the newborns. These are the ones
who come to the center perhaps a day or two old. Some are ill. Some very
underweight. All are vulnerable. Rennish’s
daughter, a nurse, also helps out at the center, providing medical care.
It is not often that I am rendered speechless, but on that
Thursday afternoon, my only words were tears. As I listened to Rennish’s story
and her obvious devotion to these children, I sensed that I had entered into
holy ground, a sacred space where love is born with each infant, and grows as
each child grows into a toddler, then into a young child.
Holding a feverish boy in her lap, Rennish continues her
story. A few weeks back, she was out of hope. The tractor she used for farming
had broken down and she could not afford to fix it. Farming provided the
children with food, and the additional produce was sold, thus providing the
center with a small income. With no money to fix the tractor, Rennish saw no
way to continue to operate the center. She was despairing at the thought of
having to abandon all these abandoned children. And then another miracle happened.
She met David Chuchu and shared her story with him. She told him she was going
to have to close the orphanage and asked him if he would take the children and
care for them. In his wise ways, he went to visit the Hope Home and was moved by what he saw there. He offered to fix the
tractor so she could resume farming. He gave her donated quilts, baby clothes
and food for the children. He offered to continue to partner with her as she
cares for the most-needy and vulnerable ones.
And thus, love is born once again.
And, by the way, thanks to a donation that arrived before I
left for Kenya, this little girl who suffers from a very, very large umbilical
hernia, will get a much needed surgery soon!
And, thanks to the generosity of the For One Another
Foundation, we were able to give the gift of clean water!
Want to help? Checks may be earmarked for Kenya and made payable to Holy Cross Lutheran Church 4701 Grove St. Rocklin, CA 95677.
via Always Mercy http://ift.tt/2dtf2w7