Sunday, October 17, 2004

Friday's Baby Pictures. Macon's post with Aidan's pictures and his video greeted me mid-morning Friday. My heart filled up with joy and wonder. I have never seen Kellsey more beautiful than in the pictures with Aidan. Kellsey and Macon, the Sewells, the nurses, the families and friends all swaddled the little one with love and attention as surely as the little blanket swaddled him in the video.

Those pictures were in my mind when I saw another set of baby pictures that night. Carol and I attended a dinner for an organization called Project ChildHelp. A Christian lawyer in Miami, Frank Valladores, and his wife Lourdes, started the organization 5 years ago after they visited a special "orphanage" in the Dominican Republic. It was "special" because the babies and children that the Valladores visited there were disabled with one defect or another. Apparently in the DR culture a defective baby is considered a curse on the family, and the little ones are killed, cast out, or abandoned.

The "orphanage" that Frank and Lourdes visited kept the ones who were pushed out of their families. It was not a government run place, simply a house that someone owned who took money from the families for keeping the children.

The photos Frank showed at the dinner were, at first, photos he had taken five years ago. They showed little children in cages, little children tied up like animals, and little children lying naked and emaciated on the floor. Some sort of emotional gate had been opened that morning when I saw the pictures and video of Aidan. As a result I think, the pictures I saw that night especially upset me and they upset Carol.

But Frank's photos also showed the progress made by the mission that he and his wife organized and support after that first visit. The mission now supports a staff of about a dozen people who take care of the children, and there is even a full time physician. There are no more cages in this place. No one is tied up. The children are being fed and treated. Three or four times a year, Frank and Lourdes organize mission trips to the orphanage. Physicians from Miami Children's Hospital go with them. I met one of the physicians at the dinner, a pediatric gastro-enterologist, who has been working on the project with the Valladores almost from the beginning.

Last year, the DR government donated to Project ChildHelp a large tract of land overlooking the sea, where construction has begun on a home/hospital. Frank and Lourdes hope to move the operation out of the house where they first found the children caged and dreadfully neglected. (The house has no electricity nor running water.) I am just amazed to see what this lawyer and his wife, who have children of their own, have been able to do.

At the dinner, there was a table with little teddy bears assembled on it, each holding a photo of a child that lives at the orphanage. I looked at the photos of these children, some with misshapen heads or limbs, some with drooping eyelids. It was quite difficult to deal with these pictures and the pictures of Aidan, so beautiful, so perfect, that had already found a permanent place in my heart's photo album. So we decided to look at all of the pictures carefully and pick one of the children to support. We picked a little boy named Erickson or "Eric".

What a day!

If you want to learn more about Project ChildHelp, you can go here.

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