Juselin is the smart, bright, and entrepreneurial young man we met on our first day in DRC. He wants to create a garden at PAID and in his youthfulness, he says he can, with great confidence. He is a PAID-GBA “success story” – a young man, placed in a good foster home, enterprising, carrying on his foster grandmother’s legacy, growing beautiful greens next to the river to sell. He says he wants to make a garden at PAID to “give back” – because of what PAID gave him as an orphan. It’s another manifestation of hope and faith. I am captivated by this young man’s ingenuity and self confidence.
But here he is, having gotten a little 15 year old girl pregnant – what chance does this enterprising young man actually have? What will keep him from not having more children condemning him further in a cycle of poverty? He can’t make much money on his little garden plots. He needs Koko Katie to put some sense into him but Koko Katie is gone and he is on his own – though he still spends a lot of time at the orphanage playing with the kids and talking with the staff – hours and hours, esp at night, in the peacefulness of the night when we sit around telling stories…
How can you possibly articulate the horror of a 15 yr. old mother and an 18yr. old father bringing their little child to me, so malnourished and suffering from malaria that her tiny little limbs are limp, so limp they simply flop when held up and allowed to fall? The child was blistering hot, I tried to give her water. She did drink but according to her parents, she had not eaten for 2 weeks. Why had they not sought help?? I asked. "We did not have the money…"
So we walked to St Angel, a Catholic health clinic about 1.5 kms away. Because of my white skin and, I suppose, the utter absurdity of seeing a mondele actually “living” in Mpasa made enough of an impression on the staff at St. Angel’s that despite the fact that the clinic was closed, they opened their doors to this little one and examined her. The diagnosis: malaria, malnutrition, and extreme anemia. You have to take her to the hospital closer to town – about 15 km away. We cannot help her here!
So, Juselin and the 15 yr old mother, set out to walk to the main road to find a taxi to go to the hospital where they spent the night, outside, while their little girl received a blood transfusion. It turns out that to get blood, you have to give it, so not only did Juselin and his “wife” have to carry their little one to the hospital so far away, they also had to give their own blood. Blood that will likely not be screened for the many illnesses present (malaria, AIDS, TB). With the money I gave them, they were able to pay the hospital but what would they have done if I had not been there. This little one would almost surely have died – like the, what – 58% of Congolese children under the age of 5 who die from malaria every year? This little girl was not statistic to me. She was beautiful, though almost lifeless, she still struggled to live.