Brief story of one family at ‘House of Hope’ Orphanage
Art & Mapuka Mehaffey – Republic of Congo
FOLUA would like to introduce you to a family of which three children now reside at the “House of Hope” orphanage. They are a family of Ekonda or Batwa or what the Europeans call “Pygmies.” Although they accept the term “pygmies” because they know that is what other people call them, they would prefer to be called Ekonda or Batwa or another of their own names. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the Batwa are the former slaves of some Bantu tribes and really are a mixture of Bantu and Pygmy people. As in other parts of Africa, “Pygmies” and Batwa are discriminated against as somewhat less than people.
About two years ago, the father of these three children, named Bokongo-Etabola, died from a long undiagnosed illness. He had some education, some work, and kept the family together. When he died, his wife was left five children, ages two months (girl), two years (girl), four years (boy), six years (girl), and eight years (boy). She is illiterate, unemployed, and had five children to try to house, feed, educate, and care for. With no family in Kinshasa to help her, she was not very successful in doing so. She was not able to get enough to feed the family regularly. Most of the time, the children would only eat once every two or three days. They lived wherever they could find room, usually in one room, sleeping on pieces of cardboard on the floor. As a result the children became sick frequently, usually with malaria, worms, and other illnesses. About a year ago, the youngest boy, who was weak with malaria and worms, came down with another illness (probably typhoid). The mother had no money to take him to the hospital, so he died.
This year when FOLUA found these children, they not only had malaria and worms, but they also had kwashiorkor, a protein-deficiency disease, that is really the beginning stage of starvation. The children simply were not getting enough to eat. At this time Bekesa, the oldest boy, is ten years old; Lamama, the oldest girl, is eight years old; Cheda, the middle girl, is four years old; and the baby, Fatu, is two years old. Bekese, Lamama, and Cheda are now living at the “House of Hope” orphanage. Although the baby is too young for the “House of Hope,” FOLUA has tried to help by giving the mother medicines, soya, milk, sugar, etc. in hopes that this will give the baby enough to eat to rid her of the diseases that she now has. FOLUA hopes that with only one child to now care for, the mother will be able to successfully do so.
The day that they arrived at the “House of Hope” orphanage, was a very happy day for the children and the mother. The mother knows that her three elder children have a nice place to sleep, enough to eat, a school to go to, and medical help when it is needed. She hopes that she can get the baby well and take care of her without having to worry about the other children. The children are happy, too, because they now have a nice place to live. They had not eaten well in so long that on the first day, Lamama and Bekesa asked for a third helping of food. A short time later, Lamama said that her stomach hurt because she had eaten so much. It was nearly time to go to bed, so she lay down holding her stomach and fell asleep that first night that way.
Cheda is the only child at the “House of Hope” orphanage that is too young to be in school, yet. She is only four years old and stays behind when the other children go to class. She is still weak and trying to overcome the diseases that she has. Less than two weeks after she came to the “House of Hope” orphanage, Cheda came down with a fever, but responded well to medicines for malaria and infection. She is really a pleasant little girl when she is well.
Bekesa is a typical ten-year-old and gets into a little mischief at times. He has had to return to the “House of Hope” orphanage from school several times because he is still weak and hurting. He said that he has a hernia and that it has been acting up and he has nausea. He is still weak from worms, malaria, and the effects of the medicine given to him and has spent some time in the hospital. Although all the children had been given physicals before they came to the “House of Hope,” somehow his hernia had escaped notice at that time. It will have to be taken care by an operation some time in the future.
While this is the story of three of the children now living at the “House of Hope, there are thirteen other also living at the orphanage. While the stories of the other might not be quite as dramatic, every child suffered from some disease when she or he entered the “House of Hope.” Most had malaria, although some had worms, amoebas, or other infections. All are now responding well to treatment. All except Cheda are now regularly attending school, which many of them had not been doing during the past few years. This is the first time for many of them to sleep in a bed with a mattress. They are now also eating regularly every day. This appears to be a good beginning for the “House of Hope” orphanage and FOLUA is working hard to see that it continues to function well.
In Christian service,
The Mehaffey family, Art, Madeleine, Marie, Michael, and Vanessa
Global Ministries missionaries
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Art & Mapuka Mehaffey are missionaries with the Disciples of Christ in the Congo. Art serves in Kinshasa, and provides theological, educational, health and logistical support services. Mapuka serves in Brazzaville, and provides community education for the Disciples of Christ in Brazzaville, Congo.