While she did her best, at over 70 years old, there was a limit to the care she could provide for four little children. After seeking the help of a Roman Catholic mission in a nearby village, the family was referred to SOS Children’s Villages.
Just in time...
For Stephen, the intervention of SOS Children could not have come soon enough – severely malnourished and dehydrated, he was desperately sick. Aline, his SOS mother, remembers the day Stephen arrived at SOS Children's Village Mbalmayo with tears in her eyes. “He was wearing a disgustingly dirty white shirt, had no colour and his skin was hanging off him,” she remembers. “His great-grandmother had tried her best, but it was hard for her. She loved those children so much though and when we left she cried ‘I am not rejecting you, it is because I do not have the means. I will come to visit you’, it was heart-breaking.”
Aline immediately took baby Stephen to the SOS Medical Centre where he was diagnosed with severe malnutrition and worms. He weighed just six kilograms. Armed with nutrient rich food, vitamins and treatment for the worms, Aline took Stephen home to his new SOS family.
Lovingly cared for, Stephen began to show signs of improvement within a week. A week after that he was strong enough to begin to get to know his SOS brothers and sisters, and within two months he had begun to walk. Just six months later, Stephen started going to the SOS nursery school in the Village.
A little boy with big dreamsNow a bright, bubbly little boy, Stephen is top of his class at the SOS primary school and has big dreams of becoming a teacher himself one day. “I admire my teacher a lot,” he says. “She writes on the blackboard and explains lessons to children.” He is already practicing on his brothers and sisters: “He helps them to study in the evenings,” says Aline proudly. “When they don’t understand a word or can’t read a sentence, he’s there to help.”
As the baby of the family, he is spoiled by his older brothers and sisters. “When he was a toddler, the girls used to fight over who was going to give him his bath,” laughs Aline. “They still spoil him today.”
Stephen’s biological brothers and sister live in the Village with him and this small family remains close. “We like to play together and I tell him stories about animals,” says his older brother Ernest. And, just as she promised, their great-grandmother comes to visit as much as she can.
While Cameroon has made much progress in recent years, it remains a very poor country with significant challenges. Life expectancy is only 55 and nearly 100 of every 1000 babies born aren’t expected to reach their fifth birthday.
We have been working in Cameroon for 17 years, giving loving homes to vulnerable children like Stephen. Find out more about what we do there.