Children and babies of all ages come to live with SOS Children for a variety of reasons and in a diverse range of circumstances. However, the experience of Gerald*, a two-month old baby who came to live in SOS Children’s Village Lilongwe in Malawi, is particularly unusual.
Rosemary Masiye, the Village Director of SOS Children’s Village Lilongwe was watching television one evening after a long day at work. She happened to switch on a Malawian television programme Reach out and Touch, which documented the life of baby Gerald.
Following his mother’s death from post-natal anaemia, Gerald lived in a small mud hut under the care of his grandmother alongside his brothers and sisters aged three, four, five and eighteen. His grandmother, who at 60 years old was an exceptional age for an older person in Malawi, struggled to provide the children with an adequate standard of living, using gin to quieten Gerald when he cried to send him to sleep. SOS Children Social worker Hard Chatsika later described the family as living in “abject poverty”.
Rosemary contacted the TV station and in partnership with her contacts in the Malawian government, it was agreed that Gerald would come to live in the care of SOS Children’s Village Lilongwe. The grandmother readily acknowledged that she was unable to cope and accepted that moving to the SOS Village was in the child’s best interests to give him a better start in life.
Gerald moved into house number one in the SOS Children’s Village and into the loving care of his SOS mother Grace. His arrival means that there are now 11 children in Grace’s family. SOS Children are currently working with the local authorities to determine whether Gerald’s three young brothers and sisters should also come to live in the SOS Village. If they do, they will live in the same SOS family as Gerald, so that they can grow up together. Two of Grace’s children are approaching independence and will soon leave the family home for the SOS Youth Home in the Village, so the arrival of Gerald’s brothers and sisters would mean a family of 12. A slightly bigger family than normal, but Grace recognises the importance of keeping the children together and with the support of the SOS Village community, is sure that they will cope. Gerald will stay in the Village until he reaches independence. With the love and support of his SOS mother, along with the medical care, education and training SOS Children provide, baby Gerald will be able to enjoy his childhood and make the transition to a confident and independent adult.
At present, we have three SOS Children’s Villages in Malawi, providing a new home for over 400 children in need. We support over 50,000 more children and their families through three SOS Nursery Schools, three SOS Schools, one SOS Vocational Training Centre, three SOS Social Centres, and two SOS Medical Centres. You can find our more about our work in the Malawi on the Malawi country page.
Staff from SOS Children UK met Gerald during a visit to SOS Children’s Village Lilongwe, Malawi, for the 2011 ‘Our Africa’ project celebrating the 40th anniversary of SOS Children’s work in Africa. We are currently building a website for the project, which will depict children’s lives and experiences through their own eyes.
*Gerald’s name has been changed to protect his identity