All of the children above have a story: some came to Malaika Milele (Forever Angels) because their mother died, perhaps from TB or pneumonia due to the HIV virus, and there was no one else to care for them; others were victims of neglect or abuse; some have families who thought the burden of a disabled child was too great and abandoned them; others have fathers who visit regularly, to bond and play with them and are waiting for them to be strong enough and old enough for a widowed working father to realistically take care of them.
The best outcome for the child is to be reunited with a family member and the baby home works hard to make that happen. However, the stigma of AIDS is still prevalent and if a child is found to be positive they will be shunned by both their family and community.
Adoption is a possibility but a lengthy process – muzungus such as myself would need to be resident in Tanzania for 3 years and married. However more and more Tanzanians are adopting, which I think can be seen as a reflection of an improvement in the economy that more local people can consider this as an option.
There are 61 children at the baby home at present and shifts are demanding, not least because I have discovered that when it comes to thinking of games and songs for the under-5s I am a creative void. It has been somewhat distressing to discover this lack of knowledge in a brain that’s always prided itself on being fairly well-seasoned. It’s hilarious how grateful I feel when someone steps in with a game of ‘Simon Says’ or ‘Parachutes’ or starts a rousing rendition of ‘How Many Ways Can You Hold a Bean Bag?’ (the tune is stuck in my head forever…).
But I love it – hugging children all day is the most fabulous medicine, for them and for me. The baby home is beautiful, all the walls are decorated, the children have their own beds and towels and toothbrushes and nice clothes to wear. When I work there I generally come home covered in snot, sick, poo, spit and food but for someone who always considered themselves fairly unmaternal is doesn’t seem to matter. It’s a strange feeling but I can’t decide if I’m glad that adoption isn’t an option or not…
Please check out the Forever Angels Website http://www.foreverangels.org/ and give them your support.