Child Champions Sacrifice for Vulnerable Babies

By Donna Atola, Kenya Field Communications Specialist   |  Photos by Jon Taylor Sweet and Tanner Wendell Stewart

As Kenyans shelter in their homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and staff at New Life Children’s Home shelter help provide safe, uninterrupted care to babies in need.

Around the world, communities continue to experience increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections. However, this crisis is building mercy, love and hope among the New Life Children’s Home community in Kenya.

New Life Children’s Home is a rescue center for babies that was founded 24 years ago. It began as a response to HIV, taking care of kids in poverty who were infected, and has over time grown to rescue any child needing help. So far, New Life Home has saved over 2,000 abandoned children in the country and has expanded to four locations. The main location is in Nairobi.

Apart from rescuing abandoned babies, New Life Home also helps place babies into foster care to be adopted by Kenyan families.

New Life Home - Mom with child

New Life also relies heavily on volunteers and walk-in visitors for donations. College institutions around Nairobi have been instrumental in providing volunteer workers since they allow their students to undertake their community service at the Home.

In addition to being a children’s home, New Life is also a licensed medical center that has staff nurses on board 24 hours a day to help aid vulnerable children.

To reduce costs, the home has a team of volunteer Kenyan pediatric doctors who conduct free medical rounds three times a week. Together with the on-staff nurses they donate their time to care for the medical needs of the babies at the home.

A month ago, when COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, the home closed doors to external visitors and volunteers to reduce the exposure of babies to the virus. In addition, a 7 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew was introduced nationally to restrict the movement of people.

Janet Mutinda International Director

Dr. Janet Mutinda

According to the home’s CEO, Dr. Janet Mutinda, workers and volunteers at the center have been stretched.

The curfew affected New Life staff’s working hours. They work in two shifts, the day shift which starts at 7 a.m. and the night shift which starts at 7 p.m.

To cushion the babies during these unprecedented times, the staff at the home chose to leave their families and “shelter in” at the home.

Dr. Janet says, “The move was humbling because they chose to stay with these young ones who are more vulnerable, and staff have left their families and kids who are a little older. We cannot send these kids away because they have no homes and they never signed up to be abandoned.”

She adds, “What more would I ask of humanity but be grateful for these awesome Child Champions who have chosen to care for the kids during this challenging time?”

Sheltering in place has also provided an extra measure of protection for the babies.

“The option to stay in with the kids had reduced the chance of the staff contracting the virus given that they commute daily using public transport,” explains Dr. Janet.

Babies at the home are young and vulnerable. This requires that they are provided with baby milk formula and diapers. Following the suspension of visitors at the Home, New Life is facing a shortage of diapers. The home relies on gifts and donations from visitors. This is because, in the African culture, most of the time visitors never visit empty-handed, and this has helped the home cut their diaper budget.

Workers at the home use cotton-cloth nappies for infants during the day and only use diapers on babies at night or during emergency cases of sick babies who need constant changing, and during rainy seasons.

The diapers come in handy during the wet and cold season as they substitute the nappies which are usually washed and dried outside. With rains, the workers can no longer dry them outside.

With the rainy season fast approaching, Dr. Janet is worried that they won’t have enough diapers.

Dr. Janet is also worried about their dwindling supply of baby formula since Kenyans are not able to donate as much now.

Despite the current challenges, the Child Champions at New Life Home continue to generously dedicate their time to taking care of the vulnerable babies.

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