Here, Yasmine, 32, tells the story in her own words.
I￼t was my first day as a volunteer when my life changed forever.
Walking into the children’s home, I bumped into the owner who was holding something.‘Morning,’ she said. ‘Can you hold her for a minute?’ Placing the ‘something’ on my lap, I saw it was a newborn baby. She’d been found under a bush wrapped in a plastic bag. It sounds crazy but I wasn’t that shocked. Moving to Kenya to volunteer at an orphanage, I knew this stuff happened. Babies were often abandoned due to extreme poverty, tribalism and general lack of support. As I tentatively held her, the bub suddenly opened her eyes. She looked up at me and I was completely taken aback. At age 25, and never having thought about wanting a baby, a wave of maternal instinct hit me. As I sat staring back at her, a beautiful relationship was beginning.
Over the next week, I was drawn to the baby, who was named Precious. I tried to tell myself not to get too close to the bub, but I couldn’t help myself. ‘I think I need to adopt her,’ I told my mum, Jennie, on the phone one night. Of course, she thought I was crazy! But she was also supportive, knowing I wasn’t the kind of person to decide something like this on a whim. ‘I can’t leave her. She’s so special,’ I said. But this was about to be tested to the max. A week after her arrival, Precious got very sick with vomiting and diarrhoea. The doctor told me she’d become septic after her umbilical cord hadn’t been cleaned properly. ‘Babies like this die within eight hours,’ he told me. ‘She’s an unclaimed baby and not worth treating.’ Looking at him in horror I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Furious, I said I’d pay to have her admitted. I didn’t have much, but I wasn’t about to give up on Precious.
At first, she seemed to be on the mend, but a week later she was rushed to ICU with severe dehydration. ‘What am I going to do?’ I sobbed to Mum, a GP, on the phone. ‘There’s no way she can survive,’ she told me gently. ‘Give her a good death. Hold her and tell her she’s loved.’ Picking Precious up to do just that, I realised I couldn’t. ‘I’m going to be your mum,’ I told her. ‘You fight and I promise I’ll be there.’ That night, I held one of her little socks and prayed. Hours later, something miraculous happened. ‘She’s wriggling around. I think she’s going to be okay,’ a doctor told me. I’d spent all of my savings keeping Precious alive. She’d kept her side of the bargain, now I had to keep mine. I needed to live in Kenya for three years to be able to adopt her, so that’s what I did.
Firstly, I helped at local children’s homes, but sick of witnessing abuse and neglect, I began to think I could do better myself. ‘They keep the kids in terrible conditions so they get more cash from tourists,’ I explained to Mum. Having done my research, I knew orphanages weren’t a good place for children to grow up. Ideally, they needed a loving family, but I had to do something. With funding from Mum and a friend, Helen, I opened my own home, Zaidi Ya Dreams, in June 2012, and within days the police had called with our first baby. By the end of the month we had three, then 20 by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Precious grew into a lively, happy little girl. One day, when she was six, I had to turn away a baby as we were full. ‘You have to take her, Mum,’ Precious said. I knew she was right. ‘One day she’ll be big and strong like me,’ Precious said. And she was right.
Baby Zahara is now two and lives with us and the other 17 children we haven’t been able to find homes for. I’ve been in Kenya seven years now. It’s incredibly challenging, and finding the money to keep the home running is a constant battle. Babies are abandoned in places like long drop toilets and many have suffered abuse. I have to show their lives are worth something. Precious is seven now and I’m still waiting to formally adopt her. In the meantime we’ve had a visitor visa granted so I’ve been able to bring her to Australia.‘The electricity is on all the time,’ she marvels. ‘But why do we stop at red traffic lights?’ She loves cricket, soccer, and most of all my mum!
It’s been an amazing trip but we’re looking forward to going home to our big family. When Precious looked into my eyes, my life changed. I will be forever grateful she was placed into my arms.
Donate to Yasmine's Go Fund Me page here.
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