MAKING MEMORIES: Driving my Dad’s car. Aged 4.
My earliest memory as a child was when I drove my Dad’s car across my village recreation ground. I still remember the thrill of ‘driving’ his car - sat on my Dad’s lap, my tiny hands clutching the enormous steering wheel beneath his. Afterwards, we went to the corner shop to buy 10 pence of sweets and I proudly declared to Mr Pitts, the shopkeeper, ‘I have driven Daddy’s car’.
Looking back, I don’t know whether my Dad was more worried that he had let a 4 year-old drive a car or about the trouble he was going to get in with our village sports club for ruining the rec.
Thirty years later in Uganda, one of the eldest boys, Ismail, is obsessed with my car. Every time I see him he asks me, ‘Lucy, where is your car?’
I have just returned from a hectic two-week visit to Uganda. It went by like a whirlwind – a blur of non-stop meetings with the Government, District level officials, funders, staff and the Management Team. It was a very productive trip but with so much to fit in, I hardly spent any time with the kids. This is probably a good thing, as I make a point of not spending too much time with them since they already have secure attachments with their carers. And after being abandoned, the last thing they need is to be spoilt and loved (temporarily) by me and then experience that feeling of abandonment all over again.
But I wanted Ismail to have his first memory, something he would remember forever. Not that his mother abandoned him with his sister and brother, not that he has been in our care for three years because we are struggling to find him and his two siblings a family who will foster them all together. Not that he has spent the first 3 years of his precious life in an institution without a family of his own. I wanted to give him a memory like the one I have and still cherish.
So I took him out to my car and sat him on my lap. I turned on the engine and Ismail, eyes wide with anticipation and excitement, drove my car. We went up the drive then we reversed down the drive. We went up the drive again and… we went down the drive. Ismail ferociously turned the steering wheel back and forth but due to being a three year-old, did not manage to turn the wheels. After going for our drive, we sauntered back into the centre where he proudly announced to all staff and children ‘I drove Lucy’s car’. No one believed him until I corroborated his story. The next day, sitting at my desk in cold England, a photo pops up on our community site of Ismail proudly washing his car. I smiled and hoped that for Ismail, the memory of driving a car for the first time will stay with him and that the other, more painful memories, will pale into insignificance. Our number one priority is to find Ismail, along with his little brother and sister, a family to call their own.
It is harder finding a family who will take three children and the easiest option would be to separate them, but we are desperate to keep them together. Yet we can’t, and won’t, keep them forever. So we have created this video to encourage Ugandan families to foster children who are in desperate need of foster care. Although it is common for Ugandans to informally foster children in their family or local community, formal fostering is a new concept. But with a country full of generous, kind-spirited and family-orientated people – we feel confident that fostering will soon catch on. And that for Ismail and his siblings, they will find a loving family to make new memories with.
As an accountant, it is not surprising that sometimes I view things in terms of numbers. For example, it costs just over £10 a night to support a child in our baby’s home.
Our finance volunteer Adam Dennis puts the work we do in Uganda into numbers:
"After three months at Childs i Foundation, I am convinced how important the work done here is."
"I didn’t choose to come here, I came by accident. My wife was offered a job in Kampala, and I needed something to do. So Lucy [Buck] asked if I’d like to help in the Finance Department.
I was impressed by what I found. There are many safeguards in place that ensure the funds raised in the UK are spent effectively in Uganda.
I hope I have improved reporting to the board, and helped improve the knowledge in the team. We’ve put in place a finance manual, and now have a three year business plan. So you can be sure that every pound raised is put to best use.
As an accountant, it is not surprising that sometimes I view things in terms of numbers. For example, it costs just over £10 a night to support a child in our babies home. Uganda is landlocked country, so anything imported is expensive. This year formula milk became very expensive with the global shortages. Items like nappies are probably cheaper back home.
But some things cost very little indeed.
Child’s i Foundation believes in keeping children with families. The best way to do this is to keep them there, by preventing the child from being abandoned in the first place. This can be as simple as giving the mother enough food to last the week.
Trust me, that can be cheap. If you buy from the right places you can buy a few days worth of fruit and vegetables for only a couple of pounds.
Once the baby is here, we try to return them to their family. An advert including a photo is placed in the newspaper (that costs £10 for the week). A social worker visits the area where the baby was abandoned, trying to trace the family (typically that would be £5 on public transport).
Often the baby is resettled with extended family. Sometimes the families didn’t even know the child existed. It is lovely to see the happiness on the faces of families when the baby returns.
Of course this is not always possible to locate the family. In this case, the baby is then hopefully adopted or fostered into a Ugandan family.
One of my favourite pictures is seeing Simon with his new family. There were 13 smiling faces in that photo. That’s priceless.
There are other benefits too. Child’s i Foundation employs around 50 people in a country with massive unemployment. It trains all staff, in all departments, leaving them with valuable skills. It spends money locally, benefiting the local economy. It shares knowledge with other organisations, and encourages them to consider family care.
This truly is a charity that makes a difference. To children, families, staff and to the the local community. And, through TV appearances and Facebook campaigns, to the whole of Uganda.”
Even “I” now have a Mummy
I just heard about a little boy who we’ve had since he was 1 day old. He has been in our care for over 3 years and every week he has said goodbye to his friends who have all been placed into families.
This week, this little lad had his first visit with his permanent new foster family that we found for him. When he came back to our centre he proudly told us “Even I now have a Mummy”.
Apparently when he met his new Mummy she told him “I am going to be your Mummy”. Instead of running up to hug her he broke down in tears.
Our aim is to provide short-term care to abandoned babies and place them into a family - the right family - within six months. For this little boy, things didn’t go to plan. We weren’t able to do what we so desperately wanted to do for him. But now he has found his mummy and this is the best Christmas present any of us could wish for.
Thank you so much, we have been able to do this because of all of you.
Happy Christmas. Love Lucy x
Lucky to be alive
Last month we told you about Ivan who arrived at our emergency care centre seriously malnourished. He’s been in our care since October and, after being given specialist nutritional care by our nurses and carers, Ivan has been steadily gaining weight.
Emma, our social worker, assessing Ivan’s condition before bringing him to our care centre
Ivan has gained a lot of weight thanks to our team’s excellent care
The children who arrive at our centre are often in desperate circumstances. Fortunately, Ivan was abandoned in hospital and we were able to act quickly but some children aren’t that lucky.
Our team in Uganda save lives every day. Thank you for helping us to make sure we can always be there.
After being abandoned in a taxi park at just four weeks old Child’s i Foundation found him two devoted adoptive parents, saving him from a life in an institution without a family to call his own. But Joey had a potentially fatal heart condition which meant he could have suffered heart failure at any time. Thanks to a huge number of generous supporters, we were able to save his life.
"The world came together to save Joey’s life"
Joey was given a second chance and is now preparing for his fourth Christmas with his family. We visited Joey and his family as they prepare for Christmas together.
Desire, Joey’s adoptive mum, says "Family is a place of belonging, where there is safety, love. My dream is 10 years, 20 years from now, there won’t be any child who will be lost without family."
"If we hadn’t had Joey, our lives wouldn’t have been complete."
Thank you for saving Joey’s life and so many other children like Joey.
At the beginning of October, Ivan joined us at our emergency care centre. We collected him from hospital where he was abandoned on a bench outside before spending three weeks there as he was suffering from malnutrition and malaria. When he came to Malaika he was still severely malnourished, at just over half the normal weight for a child his age.
The children who arrive at Malaika often have serious health problems which we can’t predict. Our nurses gave Ivan round the clock specialist care to bring him back to strength. He’s much healthier and has put on so much weight he’s almost unrecognisable from the little boy who first arrived.
Emmanuel collecting Ivan from Hospital
Our team provide life-saving care every day. Another little boy recently needed surgery after his carers noticed he was struggling to breath properly. It cost £125 for his treatment – a relatively small amount - but it was a quarter of our monthly medical budget. We need your help so that when emergencies like this happen we can act fast.
X-factor for babies
You might not know, but when I first went out to Uganda I was volunteering at a baby orphanage. There were 50 babies in care and every child wanted love and affection from me as well as from every other stranger who walked through the doors. I thought I was doing good giving these kids my love and attention.
Volunteering at an orphanage in Uganda in 2005
It was only when I went back home with a video of me being rugby tackled to the ground by children and I showed it to a friend Louise Hawley, a Social Worker who specialises in early childhood development that I questioned this. I was expecting the standard response of “well done, don’t you do a fantastic job” but instead, she cried. When a baby is born, and loved by someone like their Mum or Dad, there is a part of their brain that connects together to form a healthy attachment. It’s fused together and this is the foundation which enables them as a human being to form healthy relationships with others. Louise told me: “These children are the most damaged children in the world as they have no attachments and they are begging strangers to love them.” I had a bit of an epiphany thanks to Louise.
I realised that when I walked down the street in my village of Rotherfield no child runs up to me wanting a hug because they have a parent or someone who loves them. They have secure attachments. Children in orphanages have no one. It’s like being in a warped version of X Factor whereby they have to perform to get love and attention. ‘Pick me, choose me, love me…’ If a baby does not receive love from someone constant then that part of their brain never fuses together and they can have difficulty loving and being loved. In an orphanage setting it can be very rewarding for volunteers as you feel you are doing a ‘good thing’ with babies and children crawling over you making you feel good inside but it is the worst thing in the world for children.
Children need continuity, stability and the knowledge that someone in their world has got their back and loves them. Once this is established, the bond can be very gently handed over to someone else in the hope they will grow up being able to love and be loved.
At Malaika Babies Home in Kampala we try to keep children in our care for as short a time as possible as years and years of research has shown that any longer than six months in institutional care can cause long term damage. We operate a key worker system which means every child is assigned a carer, so they have this stability.
Here is a video of Martha, one of our carers:
We do not let people come to our centre as tourists. We are not a sweet shop. When visitors come to our centre they are escorted around and never left unattended with children. Would you allow strangers to come into your living room and pick up your baby? When the Panel approves adoptive parents we have a bonding period to enable the bond the child has with the carer to be passed to the new parents. Very gently and very slowly.
New mum, Agnes, spending time bonding with baby Daniella
I am very proud of our team as they provide such great care to the children. No child begs visitors for love - they simply don’t need to. None of our children are in a talent contest.
There are many good volunteering roles out there. If you would like further information about volunteering and want to research the subject please visit the REPLACE campaign: http://www.replace-campaign.org/
For further information here are some very useful sites:
To enable us to continue to make families, not orphans, please consider giving £3 per month. We really appreciate the support.
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This story will never get old! I love it, I love the faces of both mum, daddy and baby! Tells me there is hope for my country. My dream will come to pass! Love it!