Running an orphanage in a country still reeling from decades of war, each month brings highs and lows, small victories along with crushing disappointments. Little Isaac arrived earlier this year, barely a month old. Isaac’s mother had died while giving birth to him in their remote village 35 miles outside of Bunia, and his grandmother was too poor to feed him. She traveled all day over bad roads to deliver him to the orphanage, knowing it was his only chance at life. The sisters accepted him without question and began filling his tummy with formula, but they noticed something was wrong. Isaac’s head was swelling, the result of hydrocephalus, where fluid builds up in the ventricles of the brain.
Luckily, for Isaac and the children of St. Kizito, there is lifesaving care not far from the orphanage. Centre Medicale Evangelique (CME) is in the town of Nyankunde, about 30 miles west of Bunia, and supported by Samaritan’s Purse. In September 2002, during the tribal conflict that swept the Ituri region, rival militia armed with machetes and Kalashnikovs attacked the town and murdered nearly 3,000 people. One of their main targets was the hospital, where they went room to room killing patients too sick to flee. The hospital and town were then ransacked and destroyed. Nyankunde remained ghostly empty for several years.
These days, the town has returned to life and CME is back up and running. The hospital is now led by an American couple, Drs. Warren and Lindsey Cooper. Warren is a general surgeon and Lindsey is a pediatrician. Together they train local doctors and provide life-saving care for thousands living in this remote region. When baby Isaac arrived at CME, Dr. Warren placed a shunt in the swollen ventricle of his brain that allowed the fluid to drain into his abdomen, where it’s reabsorbed. The decrease in pressure will allow Isaac’s brain to develop and grow. Within two days, he was back at St. Kizito and doing well.
Sadly, not all children are that fortunate. In September, villagers brought an infant named Donatien to St. Kizito who’d been abandoned by his mother. He was suffering severe diarrhea and dehydration, and despite every effort to save him, he didn’t survive. That same month, a woman brought in a newborn boy barely clinging to life. His mother, for whatever reason, had tossed him into the bush after giving birth. Insects had eaten his fingers and infection had set in.
The sisters named him Caleb, after God’s faithful servant in Canaan, and commenced to nurse him back to health. They began rounds of antibiotics, which seemed to work. For two months, Caleb became part of the everyday routine of the orphanage, sharing mealtimes and baths with the other children, going to sleep each evening to the bedtime songs the sisters sang.
But the infection was too severe. Two weeks ago, Caleb’s fever spiked during the night and he died. The sisters buried him the next afternoon, understanding that they’d done all they could, that they had given the boy two months of life and a death more dignified than a lonely stretch of weeds.
These are the bitter realities of running an orphanage and trying to save the world in a place where it’s constantly spinning off course. Our arms are never big enough to hold it in place, to keep every child from slipping through.
That is why we need your help.