IMG_20150715_083036

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.

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!

Richard and Enok

Eliciting Smiles: a Good Week All Round

When it comes to eliciting smiles, last week must have been one of the best in recent months. Not only did Margaret, our newest arrival, start smiling (and has continued doing so), but Elinipa also returned from hospital after 9 days there. She is now able to take part in games, enjoy her food and interact with the other kids, which she hadn’t been doing for some time.

Eliciting Smiles from Richard and Glory

Eliciting smiles from Richard

Eliciting smiles from Richard

Later in the week one of our very serious little crawlers, Richard, was also caught smiling. He has big, round eyes and it’s hard to get him to smile, so it was lovely to see. Then Glory’s mood changed, and she’s been much more cheerful than I’ve ever seen her. Eliciting smiles from her is challenging. She doesn’t usually play with the other kids, or even with the adults. But maybe she will cheer up even more once she learns to walk, which should be soon.

All 25 of the kids at Watoto Kicheko are at home. Even Careen and Rose, who have spent more of their lives in hospital than out, are doing well. Rose has been putting on weight, albeit slowly, which is wonderful to hear. She is spending more time awake and watching the comings and goings in the sitting room of the director, whose house she is staying in at the moment. The next task will be eliciting smiles from them, although they are still very small!

Eliciting Smiles all Week

Eliciting smiles from Margaret

Eliciting smiles from Margaret

So it’s worth celebrating these happy circumstances. There are three volunteers from the UK and they are teaching the kids songs, playing games with them, doing drawing and craft work and generally keeping them busy. The kids are happy, of course, but the most gratifying thing is seeing kids who normally find things difficult gradually adjusting to their surroundings.

Watoto Kicheko is a very happy place, as it should be. But sometimes kids may come here with illnesses, especially malnutrition, so it can take them a bit of time, and often a bit of medical care, too. Others may have been neglected, often because those caring for them have to work for a living and can not spend enough time with their children.

Finally, there are only 9 days left in our campaign to raise $2,000 to pay Rose and Careen’s hospital bills. This is just a fraction of the overall cost, and we have still only raised 40%, $600. So if you, or anyone you know, can donate something, please do sThe care and treatment have already been given and the girls are well, but we can not provide the neediest kids with lifesaving care without the kindness and generosity of our donors and sponsors.

Crowd of children

Sponsoring Children Vital for Education

Finding people who are interested in sponsoring children is a difficult task because there are not so many sponsors, compared to the number in need of sponsorship; and paying a significant amount of money regularly for a long time is a very big commitment. Some children even need sponsorship for the rest of their lives, which can be an even lengthier period.

Sponsoring Children at Watoto Kicheko

School Sponsorship - some have it, most don't

School Sponsorship – some have it, most don’t

Recently at Watoto Kicheko, we celebrated the news that our first two children will be sponsored to go to school, all the way up to the end of secondary school. Sending children to a good school here is very expensive. Sadly, state run schools are short of well trained teachers, supplies and anything else needed to give children a good education. This is why there is so much demand for people willing to consider sponsoring children.

Sponsoring Children and Social Media

In addition to our website and blog, Watoto Kicheko has a very active Facebook account, a Twitter account and a few other social media accounts. We could never have too many followers, supporters, people who share and even contribute to our posts and other social media content. We need as many ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and other tokens of support as we can get!

We love it when people tell their friends about our work and, more importantly, our needs. Sometimes we get donations and offers of support from people who have heard about Watoto Kicheko quite indirectly, through friends and acquaintances. This is great and it makes networking and other online work worthwhile.

There is a lot of goodwill around, and we are as thankful for the goodwill as we are for the donations and sponsorships. Sometimes goodwill even becomes more tangible, when someone decides to go a step further; they may start by praising our work, sending messages of support and commenting on pictures and posts online. But then they send money, gifts in kind, or they decide that sponsoring children is also something they could do.

We thank those who have contributed in any way, no matter how small. But most of all, we thank those who have enabled us to go further, to pay hospital bills that a child’s family would never have been able to afford, to fund an education that a child would never have received without help, to support a family so their child can be raised at home, in their community, or in any other way.

Poverty Gives Rise to Practical Needs

School Sponsorship - 2 of our 25 children have it

School Sponsorship – 2 of our 25 children have it

Poverty gives rise to very practical needs; everyone (almost) loves their children, but only some can afford to provide them with all that they require, particularly when they have special needs, chronic illness, disability or other problems. It is those needs that leads to organizations such as Watoto Kicheko looking for people who would consider sponsoring children.

Most of the schools (and many of the hospitals) here in Tanzania are ‘denominational’ or ‘faith-based’, they are Anglican, Catholic, Muslim, Pentecostal, or whatever (which is not to say that they all exclude followers of other religions, of course). But they may frequently have strong requirements relating to a child’s beliefs, and/or those of the child’s parents. However, none of them that I am aware of accept prayers as payment for fees! Donations and sponsorships save lives; it’s hard to think of anything more practical than that.

Margaret smiling edited

Margaret Smiling is like the Sun coming out

Margaret and Elinipa smiling

Margaret and Elinipa smiling

Margaret arrived at Watoto Kicheko only recently, and she didn’t look happy at all. Those who follow us on Facebook will have seen her sad face, so sad it would bring tears to your eyes. But that didn’t last.

Margaret smiling

Margaret smiling

Yesterday, Margaret started smiling and giggling after some laughter therapy from one of the other kids, some of whom are experts in the field.

 

Margaret Smiling Happily

Today I was greeted by a storm of excited kids, and I could see Margaret smiling happily, enjoying this new trick thoroughly. Seated beside her was Elinipa, just back from hospital; and Elinipa was smiling for the first time in ages.

Some of the kids here have chronic conditions, disabilities and various other problems. But there is a lot of happiness, too, and it’s most uplifting to see a child smiling and laughing who had previously looked sad.

Margaret and Elinipa smiling

Margaret and Elinipa smiling

We don’t really know what Margaret has gone through, except that her mother was unable to care for her to the extent that social services recommended that she be moved from home to Watoto Kicheko. She certainly needed good food and exercise, as she’s underdeveloped for her age (probably around two and a quarter).

But when I see a kid transformed like this in such a short time I know Watoto Kicheko really is doing a great job.

P1110509

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.

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!

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!

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!

Baby Careen

Medical Fund for Babies Careen and Rose

This medical fund has been set up because we urgently need to raise money to cover our recent extortionate medical bills. The fund is for two of our beautiful girls, Careen and Rose, and will cost us around $7,732.500 (15,000,000tzs/£5,103.99) in medical expenses (we won’t know the exact amount until both girls are discharged). This is a lot of money, but without having these girls in the hospital I am very sure they would both be dead, and you can’t put a price on a life.

The Medical Fund is for the Treatment the Girls have Already Received

Medical Fund for Baby Careen

Baby Careen

Please help us to raise some money towards this medical fund. It doesn’t matter how much because any amount helps. Please also share our appeal so it can reach far and wide to raise money and awareness for us.

You can follow Careen’s story on the YouCaring page for this medical fund.

 

The Medical Fund is also for Baby Rose

The other little girl is Rose, she has spent most her her short 5 months in the hospital, she seems to now be on the road to recovery which is fantastic.

Medical Fund for Baby Careen

Baby Careen

Thank-you for your kind donation and for sharing our appeal.

Watoto Kicheko orphanage is supported by The Laughter of a Child Foundation. But from time to time, a medical fund like this needs to be set up for children with substantial health needs. This is especially important when they have to spend a long time in hospital.

Medical Fund for Baby Rose

Baby Rose

Medical Fund so Girls can be Released From Hospital

It is common practice in hospitals in Tanzania to keep the patient until bills have been paid. This means that the bills continue to rise. In this instance, a large proportion of the bill was paid, but Watoto Kicheko must maintain its reputation with the medical facilities on which they depend so heavily.

If you would like to keep in touch with Watoto Kicheko, including medical funds, please do so! You can always follow us on our Facebook page, using the icon on the right hand side of this page. You can also sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, or on Pinterest, using the relevant links.