New moms wait eagerly for the arrival of their first baby. They spend countless hours shopping for adorable, tiny outfits. Setting up the nursery with a crib and toys and diapers. Toiling over the perfect name for the newest addition to their family.
But for mothers living in extreme poverty, these are often foreign concepts. There are no gender reveal parties or baby name-guessing games. In fact, many parents who live in areas that have a high infant mortality rate don’t even name their babies until they reach 1 month old.
Why? They want to make sure their babies will survive. They want to make sure their babies will live. Because the truth is, many don’t.
Each day, more than 7,200 babies die from preventable causes — from premature birth and delivery complications to dehydration, diarrhea and disease. But we know it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, we refuse to let it.
Compassion’s Survival Program works to save these babies and give them the best possible start in life. We want to make sure that every momma gets to say that first “Hello.” And that every baby gets to keep hearing it.
Today, we want to introduce you to three brave, beautiful mommas from Uganda — and the little miracles who make them smile. You’ll read their stories and get to follow them on a journey from first finding out they were pregnant to the first hello and beyond.
And here on the blog, we’ll be checking in to share how they are growing and learning together throughout their first year. We’ll even invite you to celebrate their first birthday! (If you don’t want to miss a single adorable moment, be sure to subscribe to the blog.)
So, say hello.
Say Hello to Baby Christine
When Juliet found out she was pregnant, she became very sick. She and her husband, Edward, couldn’t afford to see a doctor — and they were told they would lose the baby.
Their situation seemed hopeless. But then, Juliet was invited to join our Survival Program.
“I remember feeling like my heart could rejoice and that hope was restored.” — Juliet
From that day on, Juliet’s every need was met. When she got sick, she could go to the hospital. When she was afraid, she had a strong community. “Aunties” came to her home and taught her how to take care of herself and her baby. They also provided essentials Juliet dreamed they could afford, like a mattress, a birthing kit, and free monthly medical checkups.
Like every mother, Juliet was scared about giving birth. But she decided to leave the delivery in God’s hands. She and Edward planned to travel to the hospital on a boda boda (motorcycle), but knew that if there was an emergency, a staff member from the Survival Program would personally take them in a car.
Today, Juliet and Edward have a beautiful, healthy baby girl. The Survival Program covered all of their hospital expenses and they look forward to what God has planned for baby Christine — named after her grandmother.
“She is a happy baby. You can tell that by her cheeks.” — Edward
Aunties from the Compassion center still come to visit Juliet and Christine every month. Juliet also enjoys participating in special group activities just for moms like her, where she’s made lifelong friends with mothers with babies just Christine’s age.
“I feel amazingly blessed. It’s not easy to believe it because I had so many worries. But God is amazing, He has made it possible.” — Edward
Say Hello to Baby Pamela
Being a teenage mother is hard. And brave. Kate married young, left school, and had her first child at 17.
“Sometimes I would meet schoolmates out and about and they would have made something out of their lives and I would wish I had also gone to school. I had a lot I wanted to do with my life.” — Kate
Kate’s husband left her and she was forced to raise her children alone. Motherhood brought her a lot of joy, but also a lot of hardship.
Kate knew about the Survival Program. But one day, a friend from church arranged a personal visit to talk about how they could help.
“When they told me that I was registered I felt so happy. It gave me hope for my baby.” — Kate
Because she was enrolled in the program, Kate was able to have regular health screenings, scans and medication to ensure that she and her baby would have a happy, healthy start.
Kate gave birth to a perfectly healthy little girl. She named her Pamela Grace, after one of the Survival staff members who had stood by her side throughout her most challenging times.
“The best thing about being a mother is watching my children grow up and knowing I gave birth to them and they are doing well.” — Kate
As a single mother, Kate continues to appreciate the constant support from the Compassion center at her local church. She is not only receiving regular checkups and health care for herself and her baby, she is learning income-generating skills like hairdressing, jewelery-making and cooking. Soon, she hopes to start a business selling tea and porridge to support her family.
“I love this baby, I have so much love for her. I feel very, very proud to show her to my friends.” — Kate
Say Hello to Baby Faith
Rahuma married young. When she found out she was pregnant, she worried about what her family would think. She wondered how she would provide for her baby. She thought about having an abortion but decided to give her child a chance.
“I want my child to grow into a good life, to go to school and to be able to finish and not end like I did. But now I want to be a good mother, one who takes care of her children and raises them responsibly.” — Rahuma
One day, women from Rahuma’s local church came to talk to her about Compassion’s Survival Program. She was welcomed into the program, even though she had different religious beliefs. The excited young mother was given prenatal care, parenting guidance, financial assistance, classes on job skills, and support from a very special mentor named Aunt Lydia — a woman who became a close friend and confidant.
But even with this help, Rahuma and her husband were worried about giving birth at her local government hospital.
“When we found out she was pregnant I was living in fear thinking, ‘How will I take care of her?’ I was also worried that if she did go to the government hospital, how would I manage if things failed? I thank God so much that she was able to join the center.” — Rahuma
One evening, Rahuma started bleeding. She immediately called Aunt Lydia. The center arranged for transportation to a safe, clean hospital — a privilege Rahuma and her husband never imagined. But after hours and hours of painful labor, Aunt Lydia had a feeling that something wasn’t right.
She had never seen a labor go on for this long. She had never seen a girl in this much pain. So she asked the doctors about the possibility of an emergency cesarian. The doctors took notice and decided to perform the operation, saving the mom and baby’s lives.
“We named her Faith as we hope she has a faith in God. We also named her Faith as I had to have great faith that she would survive and then I delivered this child.” — Rahuma
Rahuma still visits the Compassion center. She learns new ways to keep her child healthy and new job skills, like bookmaking. She has medical care, support from a loving community, and most of all, hope for her precious baby Faith.
Our Survival Program helps moms and babies like Christine, Pamela and Faith stay healthy, happy and strong. Follow along on the blog as Christine, Pamela and Faith grow. You won’t want to miss what’s coming next. Or the chance for more hellos.
Give the gift of a First Hello to a new mom today!
Photos and stories collected by photojournalist Helen Manson.