The Evolution of Esther

July 19, 2012 5:08 pm Published by

 When she arrived on JBFC’s doorstep without warning, I honestly thought social welfare officials were bringing her to me to die. When I opened the car door and saw the tiny little girl slumped on the car seat, my heart plummeted. She weighed only 14 pounds… at four years old.

 It was the worst case of malnutrition that I had seen in nearly ten years of working in Africa.

I could encircle her thigh bone, with my thumb and forefinger. She was so malnourished her eyes could barely focus. She couldn’t walk or talk. She was covered in sores and scabs, oozing signs of infection. Despite all of my doubts about her survival, I took little Esther into our home in mid-January and the JBFC family enveloped her with love.
And this little girl ended up being tougher than she looked. We fed her a high-calorie peanut paste at first, but she was always reaching for real food. She started packing on the pounds and I remember being so happy to start to see little rolls of fat on her too-thin body. 

By the end of February, she had started to feed herself and had gained about five pounds. But she still looked like a baby, not the preschooler she was. She was swaddled and carried on the backs of mamas and girls alike and slowly the haunted look in her eyes was replaced by a sparkle.

Then she had a setback. Four months of nurturing couldn’t quite undo nearly four years of neglect. 

Esther’s little bones were still too weak and a fall, broke her femur and put her into a cast that covered most of her body.
But she continued to bounce back. And she was also fiercely independent, insisting one night that she could cut her meat herself. She wrestled with the knife and fork for a few minutes, but eventually she got it all on her own. That was the night she called me “daddy” for the first time. It brought tears to my eyes.

Six months after her arrival, Esther is laughing, talking, and growing. She’s a favorite among her new sisters.

And when they can bear to put her down, this is what happens.

The miracle that is Esther’s arrival and recovery is an important reminder of why I do what I do.  It shows that the JBFC model does indeed work wonders for abused and neglected little girls
But her story is one pierced with tragedy. You see Esther is the younger sister of a girl, who already lived at JBFC. Social welfare had seen fit to remove Esther’s sister, Neema, from their home nearly a year before rescuing Esther. I can’t help but think of all of the suffering that could have been avoided if Esther and her sister had arrived together, instead of 10 months apart.
But I am thankful that Esther found her way to us; grateful that we have the facilities and the means to help facilitate her recovery; and renewed in my purpose to make sure no child has to suffer that kind of extreme poverty and neglect. 

 Chris Gates is the Founder & Executive Director of JBFC.

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This post was written by Mainsprings