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SOS child in bath in Malawi
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A fresh start for the twins

A fresh start for the twins

When SOS social worker Paul Nyirongo came across the Khune family he was shocked. 16 children were living together in one room, cared for by Thomas, a single father. All the children were significantly malnourished, but it was the baby twin girls, Celeste and Cassandra who were desperately ill. Paul’s first thought was that Celeste and Cassandra would not make it. Now, two years later, the little girls are healthy, happy and enjoying life at SOS Children's Village Mzuzu, Malawi.

A desperate situation

The twins were born in 2012. Less than a year later their mother died and the responsibility of looking after them fell to their older sisters, aged just 10 and 12. The girls were also responsible for collecting firewood, water and finding something to eat. There was no time for them to go to school or enjoy their own childhoods.

Then Paul Nyirongo came across the family and their fortunes changed. It was decided that Celeste, Cassandra and 6-year-old Emmanuel would join one of the families at SOS Children’s Village Mzuzu. The other children were found safe homes with families from the local village, supported by nuns from the local parish. The two eldest girls are now at school and enjoy every minute, although they miss their baby sisters a lot.

A new life

On a recent visit to the Village, we find Sophie, the twins' SOS mother, giving them their lunch of spaghetti and vegetables. They raced to change out of their nursey school uniforms as soon as they got home – trying on new outfits and playing dress-up is one of their favourite things to do! With the girls eating happily, Sophie reflects on the moment they arrived in her family.

“They were really malnourished and not in a good condition, especially Cassie. I was afraid they would die,” she remembers. For the first few weeks she fed the girls every two to three hours, preparing a protein-rich porridge specifically for them. Almost immediately they started to gain weight. Today the girls are bundles of joy, huge smiles lighting up their faces whenever they see their mum. The even started school this year, something Cassie enjoys much more than Celeste – “Celeste is very shy!” says Sophie.

Overcoming trauma

SOS mother with twins and their brother
SOS mother Sophie, with Emmanuel and twins Cassandra and Celeste
The house fills with noise as Emmanuel and the other children in the family arrive home from a busy day. Paul makes an effort to spend a lot of time with Emmanuel. Unlike the twins, he is old enough to remember his mother and the trauma of constant hunger has affected him.

“At first when I would visit Emmanuel in his new family and ask to see his mum, he would reply ‘she died a long time ago’ and immediately go quiet. Now we talk about his biological mother and play therapy really helps him to deal with his emotions and come to terms with her death. We look at family photographs together so that he will remember her,” explains Paul.

A bright future

The family was Paul’s first case with SOS Children’s Villages and the progress of the twins and Emmanuel means a lot to him. “The most significant change is the children’s physical health. The twins would not have lived much longer. Now I love hearing their language development, hearing them learn new words – it’s fantastic to see that no long term damage was done to their development.” 

You can help give children like Cassandra, Celeste and Emmanuel a brighter future by sponsoring a child in Malawi today