Meet Tefo, a 33 month old boy. This is his second time in the safe home, which is pretty unusual. His first stay with us was when he was about 2 weeks old. He and his twin had an usual entrance into this world. You see, one was a home birth. After the first one was born, the mother and father caught a taxi and did the 4-6 hour ride into town to get to the hospital. The second baby was born in the hospital. I know what you are thinking, “WHAT? Is that even safe or possible?” Well, it is not ideal, and after traveling the dirt road many times out to this families village in a private truck, I could not imagine driving in a packed taxi in labor! Seriously, this mom is tough! Unfortunately the mom required some extra care in the hospital so both twins came to us for about 6 months. Both twins went home and we heard through the grapevine that the father moved them all to South Africa.
January 2017 we found out that both twins where back in the hospital. One was gaining weight and doing well, but the other wasn’t. Both were discharged before we could go talk to the caregivers and see how we could help. Outreach went out in the beginning of February to go check on both boys and the family. We discovered that Tefo was very malnourished and behind in his milestones. With the caregivers permission, and the chiefs, we brought him back into the safe home that day.
It didn’t take long for us to realize how behind Tefo was. It is normal for children to be extremely shy the first week of being in the safe home. You know, withdrawn and trying to get used to a new environment. It is especially harder for toddlers. At the two week mark of being in the safe home though, we started to see some signs that made us aware of how behind he was. He was not smiling, no sounds came from him, he could kind of crawl, but he was not able to stand or bear any weight on his legs, even with assistance. We thought that at this point we just needed to get his weight up so he could be strong enough. Around the three month mark we decided to kick it up in gear. We spoke to a local doctor about our concerns and he agreed that Tefo needed to see a specialist. We start to up our specialized work with him to encourage standing, smiling, and working on verbal communication.
It was working. We started to see improvement. Tefo was smiling and could bear weight on his legs with assistance. Earlier this month he pulled himself up to standing and walking with a push toy! We all were elated. A huge celebration happened and you could see how proud Tefo was in that moment.
This past month we have continued to work hard with Tefo, pushing him to meet some of these milestones. Because, if not, it would mean more specialists which would be harder on his family and him. However, this morning at our monthly staff meeting he blew us all away! In the middle of discussing the next months plans and items we needed to cover, Tefo stood up and took his very first steps unassisted. The best part was we all were there! Staff got quiet and all eyes were on him. Everyone started to encourage him and I turned the camera on. I had to capture this moment! And I did! He was so proud of himself, we all were! This is huge!
Tefo still has a long way to go, but it is days like today that remind us why we work so hard to accomplish our mission; saving lives, one child at a time!
Nastassia is a current Peace Corps Volunteer with TTL. She has experience working in various aspects of International Public Health with a strong focus on Maternal and Children’s health. She works mostly with the various TTL outreach programs and just loves spending afternoons in the safe home with the best babies in the world.