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Vulnerable Children – Loss and Gain

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a blog. Sometimes it is the bad news that is hardest to write about. But little Lina, twin sister to Linda, was taken to hospital last week. She died shortly after. It was heartbreaking to see her not smiling, not thriving and getting weaker and weaker. Thankfully, Linda is well and happy, but they look very similar, and it is difficult not to think of Lina when looking at her sister.

We must concentrate on the 24 beautiful, happy and healthy children here at Watoto Kicheko. But it is impossible not to wish something had been different, that we had done something sooner, or that some outcome was more positive. For the people who work here, there will always be a child that stands apart from all the other children in their memory. Many of our most vulnerable children settle in quickly and thrive, but not all, and some take longer than others.

Happily, some of our more vulnerable children who were fragile a few months ago are now doing well. Careen and Madeline have been at home for some time, becoming more alert, even smiling and laughing. Junior has been looking less uncomfortable and Esther has been happier. There is only one child in hospital, Eligiva, and we hope she will be back home soon.

Several of the children will be going to school soon, others should return to their community. Our very first children, twins Salva and Davey, will celebrate their fourth birthday in a couple of weeks. There will be changes at Watoto Kicheko; we just don’t know exactly which changes, or precisely when yet!

Not long ago I blogged about Enock being on the verge of walking. This week, he took his first few independent steps. He is very energetic and has long been our chief escapee. Now that he is even more mobile he will be a bigger handful, harder to watch, and more likely to be found hiding under a hedge, chewing a mouthful of mud and stones. But his antics are hilarious, a much bigger, more mischievous boy in a smaller skin, whose body hasn’t quite caught up with his imagination.

As well as playing with the kids and helping them with their standing, walking, learning, etc, some of our volunteers have been working on other small projects. One volunteer started building a hen house for our two adult hens, one rooster and ten chicks, who are about five or six weeks old now. We hope to have a functioning hen house at the end of this week. But things have a habit of not quite working out how you expect, so I’m glad I’m not a hen.

Maggie edited

Walking Talking and Other Challenges

Walking Talking Maggie

Walking Talking Maggie

One of our little girls is well past the age where she should be able to walk, 2 and a quarter years. But she has been neglected, and her skinny legs are weak. She is not confident standing, yet she can stand. So I stood her up, sat ten meters from her, and waited for her to walk over to me.

It took several attempts as she wanted to sit down again, but she eventually walked, then enjoyed a good cuddle. That was Wednesday afternoon. She walked again on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Each time I had to stand her up and coax her from 10 meters away.

Walking with Confidence

Walking Talking Maggie

Walking Talking Maggie

Maggie is not very confident, not like many of the other children here. But she is good natured and smiles and laughs when you play with her. Hopefully she will stand up of her own accord and walk without coaxing very soon. I’ll be looking out for that!

All the other children continue to be well. The ones who were sick, sad or otherwise a cause for worry are all improving, some very quickly. It’s easy to forget sometimes that there are children with very serious health problems, and children who will need treatment for their entire lives.

Palpable Happiness

But the happiness here at Watoto Kicheko is palpable; it’s a lovely place to arrive in the morning and to spend the day. Sometimes I get impatient with the administrative work I have to do and want to march upstairs and find out who is crying and why, who is doing something they haven’t done before.

Maggie, Glory and Elinipa started babbling this week. The only noises they had been making for the past weeks and months were sobs and wails (especially Maggie, whose wail would bring tears to a statue’s eyes). But Maggie and Glory seem to be copying each other’s baa baa baa noises and Elinipa mimics some of the sounds she hears around her, such as people’s names.

UK Volunteers

Walking Talking Learning Materials

Walking Talking Learning Materials

Here at Watoto Kicheko, several volunteers from the UK have been creating a bit of artwork and some learning materials for the kids. They have also spent time trying to get the kids to creat some artwork of their own. The facepaints were a treat at first, but once the kids decided to paint their own faces, and the faces of others, some of them didn’t look quite so good!

It has been another good week, all considered. The fundraising drive for part of Careen and Rose’s hospital fees has now closed. Sadly, we only raised 40% of the $2,000 we hoped for. But we are grateful to those who contributed and thank you very much. The good news is that they both continue to do well and stay healthy, which is the important thing. We wish all our followers a lovely weekend.

Rose outside

Healthy Children – Little to Report!

The news today may sound boringly similar to the last blog post. But coming in to work and finding that all the children are well and happy is the best thing about this job. The baby who had a temperature yesterday is well now, and happy. There were no reports of sickness and none of the kids looked ill or listless. Healthy children!

Healthy Children - Rose looking a lot better

Healthy Children – Rose looking a lot better

But the nicest part of the morning was watching a girl who had taken no interest in what was going on around her for months, suddenly taking part in group activities, throwing herself around the place, grabbing at everything, and everyone, that was close to her. All the other healthy children were glad to have her company again.

Healthy Children and Happy Staff

The staff coming and going stopped to watch her play happily, smile, clap her hands to the song, interact with others and generally behave as a three year old should. Sometimes when a child looks down-in-the-dumps, there is no telling how long it will last. But there were plenty of people delighted to celebrate her recent recovery.

Perhaps the only bad news is that one of the eleven chicks born a few days ago has died. Let’s hope the other ten survive to produce eggs for the kids. Food is very expensive and it goes up in price during Ramadan, for some reason. Go figure. As if we suddenly get lots more donations because it’s Ramadan/Christmas/Easter, etc!

Healthy Children’s Hospital Bills Appeal

Healthy Children - Elinipa brightening up our day

Healthy Children – Elinipa brightening up our day

There are now only five days left to contribute to our appeal for funds for what is just a small proportion of our hospital bills. As some may remember, Rose and Careen spent several months in intensive care. They are both now healthy children too, and we hope that will last. But the bills are still outstanding and they need to be paid. Watoto Kicheko has to depend on the good will of the hospital; we must pay the bills soon, however we raise the money.

We have only raised 40% of the money we hoped for, $2,000. Since the appeal started we have paid far more than that sum for other children, and by this time next month we will probably have paid that sum again. To put it in perspective, monthly hospital and health costs are enough to keep 6 or 7 kids for a month. So please do contribute something, no matter how small! Meanwhile, Watoto Kicheko wishes you a lovely weekend!

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Child Carers and Other Baby Home Staff

Child carers at Watoto Kicheko

Child carers at Watoto Kicheko

Child carers at Watoto Kicheko are expected to perform numerous tasks, as any parent would understand. Each child  carer must look after several children at a time, while also looking out for other children that may ocasionally have strayed from the view of a colleague.

Child carer selection and training

But child carers at Watoto Kicheko are carefully selected, trained and mentored. And they certainly do a wonderful job. Naturally, they are adored by our children, to whom they are mothers, fathers, friends and teachers. Even when a child is in hospital, a carer must stay in the hospital with the child and make sure they are fed, changed and treated well.

Almost all our children are at home right now, here at Watoto Kicheko. Careen is still in hospital, but should be home soon. Junior is very sick, though. He has had some major medical treatment, to which he did not respond very well, so it is to be hoped that he will be back with us soon. We look forward to seeing him start to grow and develop as he should.

Child carers and tradition

Child carers at work

Child carers at work

While child carers are almost always female in Tanzania, it would be a mistake to think that the male staff here don’t do any child care work. All of them enjoy playing with our children, taking them out for walks and generally spending time with them. Indeed, the ‘tradition’ of children being almost exclusively the responsibility of women is beginning to change.

As I write, I can see six of the older kids playing. Amongst the laughter and shouting one of the twins is howling after falling over. Nothing serious, they always howl particularly loudly! But mainly the sounds are of the children running around joyfully, with the child carers giving occasional directions, administering sympathy and even playing happily themselves.

Children singing

Abandoned Children & Stigmatized Parents

Sometimes children are abandoned, either by a parent or by another relative or carer. If so, very little may be known about these abandoned children. Social services are often too stretched to investigate. And if a child is abandoned, those involved may do their best to make sure they are not easily discovered.

Abandoned children in orphanages and baby homes

Children singing at Watoto Kicheko

Children singing at Watoto Kicheko

So orphanages and baby homes that receive abandoned children can have very thin files about some in their care! Over time, it’s possible to build up details about the child, their health, education, development and other milestones. But their family, community and other origins may remain unknown.

Children themselves, sponsors, potential adoptive parents and others would like to know about children’s history. It is something the child is entitled to as they grow up, albeit away from their family and community. But at times we can only collect limited information, with some of it being highly questionable.

It is easy to raise questions about how parents, relatives and others can abondon a child. But it is worth bearing in mind that the mother may not have chosen to become pregnant, being too young, too poor, or just not ready. There are many other circumstances that may affect a mother’s ability to care for a child.

It’s also easy to blame fathers, but they and others who care for children are entitled to very little support, if any. There is no statutory paternal leave, and even that wouldn’t help a single father very much. But, again, there are all kinds of scenarios making it difficult or impossible to care for a child.

Lack of facilities available for children

People who care for children need to work, and few jobs include childcare facilities or time off for parental duties. It is rare to have a job that allows you to bring your child to work, and working environments are often not the most appropriate for children. In short, being a parent, especially a single parent, can be next to impossible.

While allowances are made for women under certain circumstances, this is rarely the case for men. They are generally expected to find someone to take care of his children, no matter how badly equipped or how inappropriate that person may be. Children can end up being looked after by the least experienced people of all, who can’t find any other job.

So abandoned children will remain a problem for those who care for them. There may well be opportunists who look for cheap childcare facilities, people who prioritize other concerns over their children, and some who abandon or neglect their children. But I suspect that the majority of children are in this precarious position because their parents or carers are themselves unable to cope.

Stigmatizing or blaming parents makes things worse

I’m not trying to make excuses for people who are not givingfailing to give to children, often their own children, the care to which they are entitled. But the finger-pointing mentality only increases the chances that those involved will try to keep their identity unknown. Placing the blame at the feet of parents and carers of children does not encourage them to seek help, to find a way to care for their children themselves, at home, or in their own community.

Child at Watoto Kicheko

Child at Watoto Kicheko

Of course, there are not many facilities, there is not much help to be found, Tanzania is a very poor country. But assuming that every abandoned child results from bad parenting does nothing to help the child; it does nothing to help find a way for that child to stay at home, with their parents, other relatives, or able carers.

It is far better if a child is brought to a facility, and the connection with their family and community retained, than for that child to be abandoned, without any idea of who their family or community is. For that to happen, parents and carers need to know that they will not be stigmatized just for seeking help, for trying to get the best care for their children, especially where they are unable to give them that care themselves, or unable to do so alone.

Jackline in boots

Special Needs, Health and Education

With Rose home, at last, we were hoping that we would have all our children here at Watoto Kicheko, for a change. But two of our children are now in hospital, Elinipa and Careen. Elinipa will have lifelong health needs, but she has been relatively healthy so far. Careen, however, has spent a good deal of time in hospital already, more than she has at home.

Children with Special Needs

Special needs at Watoto Kicheko

Special needs at Watoto Kicheko

Watoto Kicheko tends to receive children with special needs, particularly babies. Many are premature, some are abandoned, mothers die giving birth, there are disabilities, unexplained sicknesses and some who have identifiable sicknesses, but whose care is far too expensive for their family.

Tanzania is a poor country, with a high disease burden and patchy healthcare services. Only about half of women in Tanzania choose to give birth in health facilities. But that may be because they are aware that bad healthcare can be more risky than no healthcare. It is certainly more expensive than alternatives, such as community volunteers and others who have experience, but little scope for any difficulties during delivery.

There are few services for children with special needs. Basic equipment such as incubators are in short supply, as are equipment and supplies for intensive care facilities. But the biggest lack is the right training and education, even management and supervision, to care for especially needy babies and mothers. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow into the country for a handful of diseases. Take, for example, HIV; more than 99% of infants do not have HIV (and 95% of adults don’t).

Special Needs Sponsorship

Special needs at Watoto Kicheko

Special needs at Watoto Kicheko

Children with special needs who are lucky enough to get the care they need are often to be found in orphanages, baby homes and other facilities set up using donor funding, private sponsorship, foreign foundations and trusts. In fact, social services will often refer those with special needs to NGOs and other non-state funded institutions because they are the only places that can supply what is required.

Watoto Kicheko is run on funding from The Laughter of a Child Foundation, and that will allow a lot of children to grow up to be independent adults. But certain hospital and other costs for children with special needs have to be met through donations and other funds. School fees, also, are very high, and also need to be met through generous sponsors.

Tanzanian Baby Home for Special Needs

Watoto Kicheko is the only orphanage in the Arusha region that mainly caters for children with special needs, many of whose circumstances will require attention for the rest of their lives. So if you are able to provide sponsorship, partially sponsor a child, sponsor a member of staff, help pay for a project or for certain assets, or even make a once-off donation, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

Child sponsorship - Watoto Kicheko child

Child Sponsorship – Six Different Programs

Child sponsorship is one of the most difficult issues faced by Watoto Kicheko. It costs several hundred dollars a month to raise a child under normal circumstances. But some of our children have immediate and pressing health needs, and their hospital costs can be a lot higher.

Child sponsorship - Watoto Kicheko child

Child sponsorship – Watoto Kicheko child

Have a look at our sponsorship page for our six different sponsorship programs.

Many Watoto Kicheko children have long term needs that can only be met through sponsorship. These can include medication and medical care administered here at Watoto Kicheko. Child sponsorship can cover this, or help to do so.

Child Sponsorship for Education

Some children are returned to their family or adopted, and that can reduce the costs we face. However, there are families and carers who are unable to meet all the costs involved, whether medical, educational or other. Child sponsorship can help families to raise a child at home, who might otherwise be forced to live in a less supportive environment.

Children who remain at Watoto Kicheko need to be sent to school. A good early-years, elementary or high school costs a lot, so we have child sponsorship programs to cover school fees for the children who stay at Watoto Kicheko until they become independent.

Partial Child Sponsorship

If you or someone you know would be interested in sponsoring a child, please get in touch. We would also be

Watoto Kicheko carers

Watoto Kicheko carers

delighted to hear from people who could partially cover costs. Child sponsorship helps Watoto Kicheko to keep going, to provide our children with everything needed to start them off in life.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with us, or use the feedback form on the contact page.

Some of the children who come to Watoto Kicheko are from families who are unable to meet costs in the first place, or to provide certain types of care. So child sponsorship for children at home, with their families, means that the child doesn’t even have to leave home.

Watoto Kicheko is a lovely environment, but the best care a child can receive is at home, with their own family and community!

Girl twin 1

Laughter Hugs Smiles: Welcome to Work

Laughter hugs smiles and a lot of shouting and roaring greeted me when I arrived at work this morning, accompanied by my son. I was hardly able to walk with so many kids attached to my legs. My son wasn’t even allowed to take his shoes off before being hauled off to play.

Three New Children in the Last Week!

New girl twin at Watoto Kicheko

Laughter, hugs and smiles at Watoto Kicheko

First, I had to see the new arrivals, four month old girl twins, Lena and Linda. No one here knows which one is which, although one is noticeably darker than the other (I was later told that the first one below is Linda and the second is Lena, but that may need to be verified!). They are both smilers, needing only a little encouragement. They can add to the mix of laughter hugs smiles and fun!

Baby Neema, who was sick at the end of last week, has made a quick recovery and is smiling already this morning. All the other kids are well and happy, which is all you can ask for. Colin, who arrived on Thursday, is doing very well, having taken no time whatsoever to settle in.

Even Rose, who has spent a lot of time in hospital, should be coming home in the next few days. Her friend Careen, who also spent time in hospital, is much better, and is getting mounds of attention from the many people around her.

Girl twin 2

Laughter, hugs and smiles from the second twin

Adding to the laughter hugs smiles and general mayhem, the carers are working hard to keep everyone healthy, happy and entertained. It’s quite a job. I can come and go, spending some of my time in the office (or under the mango tree, where I can sometimes get an internet connection), but even that can be exhausting.

Sending you Laughter Hugs Smiles and Kisses

There will be updates on Facebook and Twitter, as well as here on the blog, and photos will be posted when the connection permits. Meanwhile, the children and adults at Watoto Kicheko wish you all a great week, with plenty of laughter, hugs, smiles, kisses and other good things!

Colin

Happy Friday from everyone at Njiro

It’s Friday, happy Friday, but it feels somehow like a Monday. Almost all the children are at home right now, with only one, Rose, still in the hospital. There is a rumor that she will be back today, which will make the weekend even better. She has missed a few happy Fridays already!

Welcome to our latest arrival, Colin

Happy Friday from Colin

Happy Friday from Colin

A new baby, Colin, arrived on Thursday. He was different from many of our babies, chubby, smiley and giggly. He was made welcome with a feed, a sleep and long cuddles, a routine that will continue for some time.

It will be another busy day here at Watoto Kicheko. Perhaps that’s why it feels like a Monday. The toddlers have to do their usual morning things, washing, dressing, eating, etc. But then starts the serious playtime, with plenty of mischievousness thrown in.

The crawlers and tiny babies have to do their crawling, cooing, giggling and maybe the odd bit of crying for no reason at all, aside from the sheer pleasure of making noise. But mainly, it will be a happy Friday.

Weekend? Oh yes, the weekend!

Happy Friday from Veronica, Silvamus and Davis

Happy Friday from Veronica, Silvamus and Davis

There are workmen ‘fixing’ the electricals, which mysteriously never seem to be fully fixed. There is a volunteer coming in to create some colorful artwork, which the kids would love to redecorate for her, I’m sure. And I’m trying to catch up with some work before the kids discover where I am (under a mango tree) and drag me off to play.

The carers (Mamas or Dadas) are busy with their caring, playing, cleaning, cooking and generally getting through the day. But there is lots of happy chatter, plenty of smiles and a lot of laughter throughout the day, not just among the children, but also amongst the staff.

Happy Friday!

Wishing you all a happy Friday from the kids at Watoto Kicheko!

Rose and Leila

Hospital Appeal for Rose and Careen!

Please don’t forget about our hospital appeal for Rose and Careen! You can contribute at our YouCaring page.

Sadly, Rose is back in hospital. She has been there for nearly a week, first in intensive care, then in an ordinary ward. She has been receiving oxygen as her levels are low. But it is still not clear what is causing her poor health.

Hospital appeal for Baby Rose

Hospital appeal for Baby Rose

Careen has been at home for several weeks and she is gradually gaining weight and strength, but she needs constant attention.

Tanzanian hospital procedures

Even private hospitals in Tanzania can be stressful places for children. My own son, who is only eight weeks old, was at the same hospital recently, also to receive oxygen. While some of the doctors are very professional and kind, procedures are far from smooth.

You must pay a large sum of money before your child is admitted, no matter how urgent their care is. You must also pay the entire bill before the child will be released, or they will be kept at the hospital, with costs mounting up. Hence the need for our renewed hospital appeal.

Rose’s current bills will be paid when she is released, hopefully on Friday. But our hospital appeal is to raise several thousand dollars for the combined bills for Rose and Careen, accrued since the start of this year.

Our current hospital appeal

Hospital appeal for Careen

Hospital appeal for Careen

Our current campaign has only raised just over a quarter of the amount outstanding and we are still looking for people to contribute. Even a small sum would be appreciated.

Watoto Kicheko’s children tend to be the most needy and vulnerable in the Arusha region, with long term medical and other needs. Therefore, we must appeal to the generosity of our followers.

If you are unable to contribute to our hospital appeal, or if you have already done so, please pass on our details to others, via email, Twitter, Facebook or any other means.

Thank you to those who have already contributed and promoted Watoto Kicheko in any way; our entire community is grateful to you!