Little Peter was brought to our door on a Thursday morning in October, 2009. He comes from a village called Lukwesa which is about a 30 minute drive south of our orphanage. His mom passed away during childbirth and though his family tried to care for him at first, because milk is so expensive here, they brought him to us. His grandmother had only been able to give him some formula from a sippy cup twice a day, and even that had become unaffordable. Their desperate situation meant that even the clothing they had wrapped the baby in was borrowed from a neighbor.
Sadly, at 13 days old he was in pretty bad shape, being severely malnourished and dehydrated with lung congestion, among other problems. We agreed to take Peter in for one month, and if he survived the first month he would then become a permanent part of the orphanage family.
One of our concerns when taking in these little ones is that we have no idea what effect months or years of malnourishment have had on them--not to mention the trauma their little spirits have suffered due to the loss or abandonment of one or both of their parents.
At 13 days old he weighed only 2.6 kg (5.75 lbs) and was 51 cm (20.4 in.) long. His skin was completely wrinkled from dehydration, with no apparent body fat. His skull had shrunken and the bones had overlapped due to his malnourished state.
Because of Peter's fragile condition we called in the local clinic officer and also phoned a doctor in Lusaka. Between the two of them, and thanks to a grant which enabled us to build a little clinic and stock it with basic medical supplies, Peter was examined and set up with an IV drip of dextrose (sugar water) and needed medication.
A short while later he had to be admitted at the local clinic for observation and treatment for several days, as his situation was not improving.
But little by little, with a lot of love and care, he was nursed back to full health.
Peter is such a smiley baby and a real dreamer too. His face does acrobatics when he sleeps with emotions changing from happy to sad to angry in a matter of seconds.
Peter is now a happy little boy who walks around the house like he owns the place. We know that the confidence he exhibits comes from being so loved and cared for as a baby. When we conduct a tour of our orphanage with visitors, we always share Peter's story with them and then show them a picture of him now, and they are always amazed.
This story contributed by Amy Morrow, project manager at African Educational Services