I’ve been home for about 36 hours & I’m trying to work through some thoughts & feelings, which are rather jumbled around. Its complete bliss to get to be with my family – they are nothing less than spectacular & I’m thoroughly grateful for them!!!! At the same time, I’m also trying to process this last week. When I see a baby now, I have this instinctual reaction to ask how old & how much do they weigh. When the mom tells me the answers, it feels like I shatter into a million little pieces in my heart & thoughts as I think about the babies I’ve just seen, held, touched & am trying to help.
One such family is a single mom with 2 kids – Marcella. Her youngest son, Belito, is about 14months old & struggling with malnutrition. Marcella has had 6 kids & only 2 are surviving today – the 4 who died never made it to 6 months old. I met Belito & Marcella at a malnutrition clinic we visited & I was able to visit her everyday when we were in Angola. We got to visit her home, meet her oldest son who is 8yrs old, meet her mom & exchange greetings with her neighbors. Belito weighs about 13lbs & is 14months old. He is very weak & frail. His mom is trying super hard to help him to get better. As a single mom, she doesn’t really have a job & there’s no gov’t support or subsidies to help her, so her way of getting money to buy food is to slowly sell off whatever she has that’s valuable. She used to have a job selling bananas, but since Belito has been sick, she hasn’t been able to stay with the banana selling. She lives w her mom, who has a job washing clothes and this helps Marcella a little bit. When we asked how we could help her, she said that some rice, beans & oil would be super helpful.
I talked quite extensively with Marcella, seeking to understand how she arrived in the current situation. When I asked about her husband, she explained that he left her because he felt that she couldn’t take care of his kids because they kept dying. He doesn’t give her any support & she’s never learned to read or write. In our conversations, I asked her what would be some things that she’d like to achieve & she said that she would like to get back into the studying she had been doing before Belito got sick, so she could learn to read & write. We talked about various job possibilities & what she’d like to be doing in the future to earn a living. This was all a very powerful conversation for me that occurred over the course of 5 days.
I very much want to help Marcella – she’s a kind and intelligent woman who deeply loves her son. Before we left, we bought her the rice, beans & oil, but we also bought her some formula & porridge for when Belito gets discharged from the malnutrition clinic. I explained how to mix the formula – quantities of water (boiled please) along with scoops of formula & then how to mix these w the porridge. All in all, at this point, I’m not sure who has benefitted more from this friendship – Marcella or me.
Angola, while being being an extremely poor country, is very rich with the quality of her citizens. The picture attached isn’t of Marcella & Belito (they are the picture in my last blog), but is a VERY common scene.