In addition to the ten family houses and the village director's house, SOS Children's Village Bakoteh has a very special house. A house located a bit in retreat of all the other houses - separated by the sports field - but a house that visitors never miss visiting. The type of house that, once you enter, makes your heart melt. A house that you always find difficult to leave…at SOS Children's Village Bakoteh, we call it the 'Babies Transit Home'.
As Marie, a co-worker from the village says, 'the transit home is where you can find the cutest of all babies; even though other children are beautiful as well, the ones at the transit home are real little angels, especially if you find them in their slumbers'.
A baby boy is now able to sleep peacefully... (Photo: Claire Ladavicius)
Indeed, these little angels have now found peace, love and comfort. Being at the transit home* means they have either been abandoned (some dropped in front of the SOS Children's Village, some in front of a hospital, some in a street where chances they are found are high or some, less fortunate, in latrines…) or orphaned. Some arrive at just one day old; some are just a few weeks. But all arrive with the same expression of distress on their face, wondering, after the bad experience they have already been confronted with, what life has to offer them next.
Very soon, they realise the environment is safe. The ladies caring for them (nurse care takers working at the transit home) only want their good and do all their best to reassure them, giving them cuddles, gentle talks, songs and as much food (milk bottles) as they want. Smiles come back on their faces, and the babies at last feel free to express themselves, crying, shouting, giggling, singing, understanding they are now allowed to live and express their feelings.
SOS children and SOS mothers from the village also love to pay them a visit! SOS mother Véronique shares her feelings: 'I love visiting the transit home to see how the babies are growing and how they are being cared for, given the fact that when you take good care of babies and offer them a clean and healthy environment, they grow rapidly and healthily. It's great to see the smiles on their faces when you pay them a visit just after they had their meals! Visiting the transit home is also a way of reminding oneself how every human being started. Holding them in your arms is a sign of love, and babies feel very comfortable with it.'
Awa is one of the SOS youth girls that also loves to visit the transit home and help taking care of its little inhabitants. 'The babies at the transit home are very cute and innocent. Not even one of them is ugly! They are like my little brothers and sisters! We are bound by a similar experience in life. Going to the transit home and helping with caring for them is a way of showing my love'.
Kadija welcomes you at the door! (Photo: Claire Ladavicius)
* In 2004, the transit home for abandoned babies was opened at the village when baby-dumping was very rampant in The Gambia. It was established as a result of a request by the department of social welfare for temporal placement of babies in emergency situations. During this time, the department of social welfare and the police would investigate and try to reunite the baby with his/her family or a foster family. In case this was not possible, they would request an official registration of the baby at the SOS Children's Village. Before the transit home existed, the babies were kept at the country's main hospital where they received very minimal care.