Patricia was eighteen years old. The township she was living in was strange and far from home, family, and friends. Neither she or her boyfriend were working, there was no money, and no knowing where the next meal would come from. But her own loneliness, fear, and discomfort were nothing compared to the concern she felt for her child. At six months her first baby wasn’t gaining weight, still barely at 8 lbs. What could she do? There was no one to help, to teach her, to advocate for her and the life of her child. There was nothing but the lies that she was forgotten, a failure, a bad mother. No hope.
At that time Patricia’s boyfriend, who saw one of our posters and was concerned for his babies’ condition, contacted Baby Safe. When I first met the family in a small hot room in Masi, the baby was in bad condition; weak, hairless, fragile. With the help of a translator I learned that the mom and dad were afraid to admit that the baby was so small because they were not able to buy the formula that she very much needed, given that Patricia was never able to breast feed. They lied and explained that the baby was born at premature at 6 months and this is why she was so small. However the information they were giving did not make since. I knew our local hospital where they claimed she was born does not have NICU were a premie would have been cared for, and their dates didn’t add up. They were essentially asking me to take the baby for adoption. Upon investigation and discussion I figured out what the real needs were and truly desired to keep this family together, seeing that they cared for their child very much. Being poor parents does not mean you are bad parents.
Free formula from the clinic was arranged as were weekly check ups, but yet this sweet baby girl was still not gaining weight. We were very concerned for this little one. Team member Allison began more intensive follow up with Patricia and accompanied her to the clinic we were intent on getting answers as well. If she had formula why wasn’t the baby gaining weight? How could the life of this child be saved, the heart of the mother restored? After some time and many questions, the answers came. Patricia had only been feeding her baby half the amount her age required. With this information the tide turned.
Alli showed her how to properly make the bottle, hold the baby, and feed her. Things we take for granted as simple, but with no one to show her, how would Patricia know? Now she was provided with a checklist for what days to go to the clinic to collect her monthly formula and baby cereal handouts, and a form on how many scoops of formula is needed to prepare the bottles, etc. In December our friends in Holland sent donations for a food parcel, providing Patricia and her boyfriend with rice, veggies, flour, washing powder, salt, sugar, and more! Upon its Christmas delivery, their smiles could not have been bigger.
Small things, things we take for granted, but enough to change the life of a mother and child. Enough to give hope and to give life! To tell a family they are not forgotten, to tell a mother she is not a failure, to give a child a chance to realize the destiny God has in store for her. Patricia’s baby is gaining weight! And now on these small foundations of hope, we pray they may begin to build their life on the foundation of the Father. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Through these small acts of love and support, may they see His love for them. May they sense the One who has not forgotten, who has not forsaken, who offers life abundant and not merely grace for daily survival.
Will you pray for both Patricia and Sibusiso to find work? We have helped them with resumes and are advocating for their employment in our community. We are trusting God for amazing jobs that will enable them to provide for themselves very soon.