At Ripples International, rescuing babies is the top priority

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Rescued girls at Ripples International

 

In the early 1990s, HIV and AIDS stigma was one of the major obstacles to fighting the pandemic. This stigma frequently led those infected to deny having the infection and thus avoid treatment out of fear of being shunned or abandoned by friends and family. As a result, many children with HIV positive or AIDS-infected parents were left without a caregiver once their parents died.

In 2003, Mrs. Mercy Chidi Baidoo conceived an idea to save these young ones. She opened Ripples International to provide a shelter for toddlers whose parents died from HIV/AIDS.

One of Chidi’s friends was infected with HIV in the 1990’s and died in 2002 leaving behind a child. Chidi took in the child. Later, another friend succumbed to cancer after her people stigmatized her saying that she was bewitched. She also left behind twin babies whom Chidi also added under her shelter.

“With now three children in my house, I thought it was ripe for us to start a shelter for the babies. So that’s how one of the programmes, the New Start Center was born,” she says.

Mercy Chidi Baidoo, Director at Ripples International

“New Start Center is basically a rescue home, where we rescue babies who are completely abandoned. In the beginning, we were rescuing children who had been abandoned because of their HIV status. But over the years, we’ve grown to rescue children not just those living with HIV but any baby that is abandoned out there.”

Some of the babies are abandoned in pit latrines, others in the hospitals while others are found by the roadside. Mrs. Chidi works closely with the police and hospitals in rescuing the babies.

To date, the New Start Center has rescued close to 300 children. The institution employs nurses, cooks, cleaners, counsellors, and teachers to make sure these children are enjoying themselves just like they would with their parents. The center begins the search for permanent homes for the children once they reach three-years-old.

“So our children we admit only below one year and stay with them up to a period of three years. Within that period, either we do contact tracing, or we find parents who are able to adopt the child,” Mrs. Chidi says.

The organization also tries to look for relatives of these children within the community.     “If we get their relatives, we work the process of re-integrating them back to the community.”

Ripples International

In addition to providing refuge for abandoned infants, Ripples International also serves as a haven for older girls who are trying to escape from forced marriages or are victims of female genital mutilation, sexual assault, rape and incest. Safe House takes in these girls, provides counselling and not only ensures that they receive medical attention but that their cases are reported to the police.

“The highest percentage of cases is incest. Mostly it is somebody they know, either an uncle, a father, a grandfather. Very few cases of brothers but mostly fathers and grandfathers,” Ann Muthoni, Shelter Manager at Ripples International says.

All in all, Ripples International is transforming the lives of both the abandoned babies and girls. Mrs. Chidi says some of the children have now been adopted by foreigners.

“We got a couple from the US that couldn’t have children for a very long time and they were willing to come to Kenya and pursue the adoption process. So, they did come and went through the adoption process in Kenya and adopted Moses and now he is a very intelligent boy, he is now in the US and he’s got two sisters after that.

To date, the New Start Center has rescued close to 300 children. The institution employs nurses, cooks, cleaners, counsellors, and teachers to make sure these children are enjoying themselves just like they would with their parents. The center begins the search for permanent homes for the children once they reach three-years-old.

 

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