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Baby Christopher

A referral from another agency… sounded easy enough. Family needing milk and possibly some rice. I didn’t give it much thought.

I was, however, unprepared for the condition of the child and the situation of the family. The mother was 14… the father of the child in jail for robbery… the grandfather taking care of the child… they were so very poor. The baby’s skin was flaming red and irritated. Open sores and scabies covered his legs and tummy. The skin on his back was covered in bumps… red, itchy bumps that looked so very painful… His little bum was burnt from being in a dirty diaper… oh, this poor little one… Three months old and already so scarred and marred from sickness and disease… the grandfather told a horrible tale of having nothing, of barely surviving… of being so poor and lowly… could we please help, he cried.

Picture 14

Immediately, we bathed the baby and medicated the wounds. A plan was made for the next day so the grandfather would bring the daughter so we could make a long term plan of action. We gave food and money… the place they were staying was far away…

The grandfather left the baby with us so we could assess him and he left to go on his long journey. As I climbed the stairs I was thanking God for the opportunity to love… to give, especially at this time of year. Suddenly, I began to feel uneasy. Something wasn’t right. What was it? My spirit was troubled but I didn’t know why. I suddenly knew I wasn’t to give the child back yet. That I was to wait…

All evening my mind was replaying the entire conversation. Something wasn’t fitting. I tried to let it go… I hardly slept… praying, thinking, praying, asking God for guidance.

The next day, the grandfather and his daughter arrived expecting to get their baby. Alma, our social worker spent several hours with them. Confused and unable to get their story straight, she asked them to come back. After debriefing with me, she said she felt they were hiding something but she couldn’t figure it out…

They came again today demanding the child back. I refused. My staff downstairs was uncomfortable and agitated because they wouldn’t leave. They were making a scene. We phoned the local mayor and they sent some oficials over. After listening to the grandfather, they too demanded I bring the baby down to them.

Little did anyone know, but since early morning, we had been out questioning and interviewing people and trying to piece together some information to confront this family with. They were from very close by… our own community of Escopa. We had discovered that the child has been kept sick- well, looking sick, in order for the grandfather to use him to beg. He would go from organization to organization, from priest to priest, showing the wounds and the disease and receiving money, food, and milk for the baby. His story always the same… just as he told me…

I marched down the stairs to find four huge Filipinos with their arms on their hips looking very cross. The mother of the baby was collapsed on the floor in a heap sobbing and groaning. My staff was standing around, tears in their eyes and the onlookers were gathering at the gate. It was such a commotion!

I squared my shoulders and shouted, praying my Tagalog would be correct.  “I will not be manipulated by tears and words. You come and see this baby for yourself. You tell me you can sleep after you give this child back to these people. Come. Now!”

Shocked, they followed me up the 3 flights of stairs and I thrust the baby at them. “Look”, I said. “Look at his skin. Look.”

It took not even a moment and they were ranting themselves. This is neglect… abuse, they said. They have neglected this child and are using this child for personal gain. It is obvious. This is illegal. We will have them charged. We will take them to the local police… and away they went talking amongst themselves, surprisingly upset. I was thankful for their reaction and support.

It took hours to get the situation calmed down and to get the family off our property. The crowd of onlookers concerned and my staff confused. So often Filipinos wish to avoid the “scenes” and so to “keep peace” will not bother to fight for right. I wasn’t raised like that… and I am here to fight for the children…

So, Baby Christopher sleeps. The bloody wounds on his ankles are already healed over after 72 hours. Despite the itchiness and the discomfort he must feel, he still smiles. He has a tremendous appetite. The diarrhea is gone. He loves to bathe. Such a sweet little boy. I cannot believe there are people in this world who would treat a child like this…

The Department of Social Welfare is conducting an investigation and charges are pending against this family… For now Christopher is safe… and is in gentle hands.

For love of the poor,

Charity

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