New Life for Abandoned Babies

By Donna Atola, Kenya Field Content Specialist

A rescue home in Kenya relies on the compassion, love, and generosity of the staff and volunteers to provide fresh hope for abandoned babies.

Janet Mutinda is national director for New Life Home Trust in Kenya.

“The greatest gift you can give a baby is the gift of touch, and as they get older the gift of time,” says Janet Mutinda, a Child Champion and the national director of New Life Home Trust, a rescue center for abandoned babies in Kenya. The Christian nonprofit OneChild helps New Life give these babies a second chance.

The home rescues babies, cares for them, and places them in foster care. And when possible, the home reunites the baby with his or her biological family.

New Life has been working in Kenya for 27 years, with homes in four counties. Of the four, one specifically cares for abandoned babies with disabilities.

The babies are rescued from a variety of places, including public places, churches, schools, market areas, and hospitals. Most are abandoned by mothers living in poverty.

“We have mums who go to deliver babies in hospitals and sneak out,” Janet says. “For us, those are usually good moms. Some swaddle up the babies in warm clothes before abandoning them, and this shows that the mum intended to keep the baby safe even though they are leaving them behind.”

Sadly, however, Janet says the intention of each mother is different. Some mothers intend to kill their babies, which saddens her.

“Sometimes we find babies with strings or ropes on their necks, or babies rescued from dogs in garbage bins, and at times, the babies have either a nose or ear eaten away by the dogs,” she says.

Poverty Overwhelms Many Moms

According to Janet, poverty plays a part in pushing mothers to abandon their babies. This happens when the mothers feel like they cannot care for their babies, or they are single parents living in poverty who have little to no income.

Traumatic experiences like rape that lead to pregnancies may also cause a mother to abandon the baby.

In some cases, “taboo babies,” or twins, are abandoned because some communities consider twins as bad luck. Also, in most communities in Kenya, a child conceived out of incest is forbidden, and such babies are abandoned because they are not wanted.

“Some time back we went to rescue a set of twins abandoned by a family, and the mother was not allowed to breastfeed them, yet she genuinely wanted to, but her family was against it,” Janet recalls.

Sometimes babies with special needs are abandoned. This happens when upon birth, the mother immediately notices an extreme case of special needs like albinism, severe deformity, or cerebral palsy.

Despite the mothers abandoning the babies, Janet says only a small percentage try to harm the babies before abandonment.

Relating to the story of baby Moses in the Bible, Janet says she never judges the moms no matter the state in which they abandon the babies.

“Just like Moses’ mother, there may be mothers out there who did not want to give up their children,” she says. “We never stand as judges because we have not walked in their shoes, and we have no idea what was going on in that mother’s heart.”

She continues, “I at times just stop to pray for these mothers. I can imagine the pain and grief they go through wondering where their child is. I believe that even in the falseness of man, there is still something that connects mums to the children.”

Love at the Heart of Healing

Most of the rescued babies who go through the home don’t remember they were abandoned when they get older. However, a few whose abandonment was traumatic, like being strangled, take time to heal.

To help the babies heal and feel loved, moms at the home speak to the babies as they rock them, something Janet says assures them of love and care.

“When they come into the home, it is not just the warm clothes – it is more of love. We are committed to loving the babies,” she says.

“Holding the baby, rocking them, and letting them know it will be OK helps them heal from their traumas. We know that some of these babies never got time to be held by their mothers and some had their mothers take off immediately they were born, so constant assurance that they are loved helps calm them.”

New Life also has a medical unit, and pediatricians from nearby hospitals volunteer there.

Janet says most of the items at the home, such as the play equipment, the two incubators in the NICU, the furniture, and the clothes and diapers, are donations from people who have visited the home.

“We cannot afford to pay the doctors who treat our babies,” Janet says. “Neither can we afford all the items at the home. But we have been blessed by really generous people who have made generous donations of most of the items at the home.”

Apart from the volunteers, the home has staff members who have also given themselves to wholeheartedly care for the babies. The staff includes home administrators, nurses who are in charge of the pediatric care of the babies, house mothers who ensure the babies are well fed, cleaned, and physically cared for, and other staff who ensure laundry is done and the home is cleaned and generally cared for.

A Passion to Care for Babies

In 2020, when there was a total lockdown in Kenya due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the staff at the home volunteered to leave their families and stay with the babies.

Janet says their sacrificial service to the babies without expecting extra pay is an indication that it is a calling.

With the home depending heavily on donations to care for the vulnerable babies, Janet motivates the staff by celebrating their birthdays.

“Beyond celebrating the babies’ birthdays, we also celebrate every staff’s birthday. It is important that our staff feel loved and cared for and it is the small acts of kindness that help motivate them to care for the babies,” she says.

At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, beyond the normal donations that OneChild sends to New Life, an extra gift for the staff was also sent.

“It was so overwhelming to receive the huge gift that went a long way in appreciating the staff. Each staff was able to have a huge food basket for four months. It spoke volumes!” Janet recalls.

Before becoming the director of New Life, Janet served as a pastor in the church where she met the founders of the home. As a pastor, she volunteered at the home then later became a board member before she was appointed to lead the home.

She says her passion to serve the babies is fueled by the call to give new lives to abandoned babies.

“Looking at these babies and seeing that I am their voice, their mum, and their champion drives me to come here daily. Watching kids come in, thrive, and get families blesses my heart,” Janet says.  

Please pray for rescuers of abandoned babies like New Life Home Trust, that they may successfully continue their mission of love and mercy in their communities in Kenya.

OneChild Magazine »

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