October 1, 2020

Why Should I Care About Babies Across the World? Executive Director, Heidi Cortez, feeding therapeutic milk to a malnourished baby in Angola.

WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT BABIES ACROSS THE WORLD? 

By: Director of Operations, Heidi Cortez

In global humanitarian work, there is a question we are often asked- Why should I care about what happens to babies and toddlers I will never meet that live in a country I will never visit? Or why should I help babies and toddlers in other countries when there is a need here in the US? Here are some reasons why we do the work that we do: 

A Commitment to a Bigger Backyard  

One of my friends spent several months in South Sudan working in education. People would ask her why she didn’t work in the US or “in her own back yard.” Her response was, “I just have a bigger back yard than you.”  

Before we were a citizen of any country, we are a human. Our humanity is what connects us. It transcends all borders and divisions. While our experiences, culture, and language may differ, we have the same emotions, desires, and fears. Our humanity unites us. I have personally sat mother to mother with a lady in Cambodia who was suffering from Aids. We both cried because she expressed her desire to “just be a good mom,” an ache I share daily for my son.  

When we expand our backyard, we expand. We see the humanity in everyone and honor it. We expand our personal borders to caring about people we may never meet and countries we will never visit. We are better global citizens who have a deep care for others around the world. It fosters a love inside of us that is for everyone.  

A Commitment to Serving  

One argument for not helping those in other countries is that you do not know what that country needs unless you are from that country. You do not understand their culture, systems, language, and problems- so how can you help? For this, we wholeheartedly agree! We don’t know any of these things, so we work hand in hand with people on the ground who do. We tap into the local knowledge and perspectives of local people and utilize their knowledge to inform our programs. We have often adjusted our programs based on their insights. Our goal is to serve the local populations. We do not come with all the answers to save the day. No, we view ourselves as allies and helpers, not leaders and saviors.  

Why Should I Care About Babies Across the World? - Two children wearing masks and walking through trash near the railroad tracks.

A Commitment to Least Available  

While there are opportunities for change in the US, we are the wealthiest nation on the planet. We have the resources that many other countries do not. I am in no way saying our systems are perfect, and there is no need. But, we are much more equipped to help those in need. I have traveled to countries and have seen babies and toddlers living in extreme conditions. In Africa, I held babies and toddlers who were skin and bone, fighting for survival because of absolutely no nutrition. In Asia, I witnessed low to no services available for abused babies and toddlers stuck in the sex industry. These problems are widespread, affecting thousands upon thousands of babies and toddlers every year. Many of these foreign governments are either unwilling or unable to help, which is too heartbreaking to imagine.  

Why Should I Care About Babies Across the World? - NightCare Nannies

With all of these commitments, the main point is to do something, anything to help. For you, that may mean in your neighborhood, and that is okay. But for others, it may mean crossing country lines and helping a baby or toddler who needs it. If so, we would love to have you join us and save babies where help is most needed but least available.  

October 1, 2020

Why Should I Care About Babies Across the World?

In global humanitarian work, there is a question we are often asked- Why should I care about what happens to babies and toddlers I will never meet that live in a country I will never visit? Or why should I help babies and toddlers in other countries when there is a need here in the US?  Read More»

August 12, 2020

2019 - A Year to Remember - Founder Sarah and baby from our malnutrition clinic. 2019 Saving Moses Highlights

Written by: Communications and Logistics Coordinator, McKenzie Thompson

In 2019, we saved a total of 9,506 babies and toddlers! That means that together, we saved 4,764 MORE little ones last year compared to the previous year in 2018.

We could not have done that without YOU!


B I R T H A I D 

We cared for 3,816 babies and pregnant mothers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. We provided community-based education on safe birthing practices and infant care, skilled birth attendants to assist in safe births, pediatrician visits for babies and toddlers, pregnancy well-woman visits, and breastfeeding education.

These regions have been devastated by war for years, and hospitals and clinics are primary targets during conflicts. Because of this, access to healthcare is minimal. Many women and their children live too far from a healthcare facility where they can safely give birth or receive care and cannot afford to travel. That challenge, plus the lack of knowledge of safe birthing practices and infant care, lead to many preventable deaths. Thanks to our BirthAid program, nearly 4,000 women and their babies received the necessary and essential care that they needed.

This program:

  • helped 71 babies be born safely
  • provided doctor visits for 3,745 children under the age of 5
  • gave 1,126 pregnant women consultations in 2019 

M A L N U T R I T I O N 

5,207 babies and toddlers were cured of malnutrition in Africa last year! High food insecurity, caused by constant conflict, drought, and poverty, has made Severe Acute Malnutrition prevalent in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, 37.6% of children under 5 in Angola and 42.7% in the DRC, suffer from this disease. We provide those babies and toddlers with therapeutic milk specially formulated to give them all the nutrients they need. We now have an 89.5% success rate in our malnutrition clinics, which means that most babies who come, get better, and can return home. We are at our lowest withdrawal rate ever, at 6%, meaning most babies stay at the clinic until their treatment is complete, resulting in higher cure rates!

Saving Moses saved 488 MORE babies from malnutrition last year than we did in 2018!


N I G H T C A R E

We protected 483 babies and toddlers from the sex industry in 2019. They received a safe place to sleep, a warm bath, clean clothes, a nutritious meal, playtime, and therapeutic care from our nannies every night. Without NightCare, many of them grow up in brothels, sleep on the streets, or experience abuse and neglect. Your support allows these babies to be kids and live a happy, healthy life. We also opened two new NightCare centers in Bangladesh and India and were able to protect 167 MORE babies in 2019 than in 2018.

In 2019, we provided 32,894 NightCare visits to babies and toddlers.

Cambodia153 new babies attended NightCare, 285 babies total attended NightCare, and we provided 25,099 NightCare visits to babies growing up in the sex industry.

India: We opened our first center in this country, protected 10 babies from the sex industry, and provided 80 visits.

Bangladesh: We opened our second center in this country, 148 new babies attended NightCare, 188 babies total were cared for, and overall, we provided 7,715 visits in the NightCare center.


2019 - A Year to Remember - two little boys hugging. 2019 Saving Moses Highlights

We cannot wait to keep growing, changing lives, and saving babies with you. To read more details on 2019, check out our official Annual Report HERE

Thank you for all that you do to support this cause,

The Saving Moses Team

August 12, 2020

2019 – A Year to Remember

Written by: Communications and Logistics Coordinator, McKenzie Thompson In 2019, we saved a total of 9,506 babies and toddlers! That means that together, we saved 4,764 MORE little ones last year compared to the previous year in 2018. We could not have done that without YOU! B I R T H A I D  We... Read More»

July 1, 2020

From Bad to Worse

Written by Director of Operations, Heidi Cortez

Before the novel Coronavirus ravaged our world, Angola was already extremely food insecure. That means that most of the population lacks access to affordable, nutritional foods. A combination of drought, poor infrastructure, and vast inequality causes this food insecurity. Inequality is readily seen after visiting the prestigious coastlines that are lined with luxurious yachts and then visiting a malnutrition clinic where two babies share a bed, each fighting for its life. It is a country where 93,821 children under five died in 2019 of mostly preventable causes. That was before the pandemic.

Then, the country went into lockdown in March after the capital, Luanda, had two cases of the virus. These lockdowns, although effective at easing the spread of the virus, exploited the inequalities between the wealthy and the poor. While there are those in Angola who can comfortably quarantine, many in Benguela (where Saving Moses works) are food insecure. They depend on services like our clinics to provide for their vulnerable babies and toddlers. These babies and toddlers are susceptible to Severe Acute Malnutrition. This disease wreaks havoc on little bodies with symptoms of edema (fluid retention marked by protruding tummies and limbs), unconsciousness, lethargy, and low weight for height. Essentially, it is starvation. Left untreated, it is fatal.

Anyone who has witnessed a young child suffering from severe acute malnutrition will see the agony of watching a little life fight to survive. It is one of the hardest things to witness.

From Bad to Worse - A baby girl in Angola being fed therapeutic milk to treat her malnutrition.

Saving Moses provides therapeutic milk to combat Severe Acute Malnutrition. Mothers travel to our clinics (sometimes spanning long distances) to receive this vital milk. Saving Moses has provided this service since 2012 and has saved thousands of babies and toddlers.

When the lockdown hit, Angolans were not permitted to leave their residences. Clinics were mandated to discharge current babies and toddlers early. Amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, babies and toddlers suffered at home from Severe Acute Malnutrition with no remedies, unable to seek proper healthcare. Our staff on the ground sought government approval to travel and provide necessary milk during the lockdown.

As the country began to open in May, our clinics saw a spike in clinic admissions. Fortunately, our team secured two therapeutic milk shipments to ensure each admitted baby had enough formula to survive.

We are encouraged that babies and toddlers now have access to the clinics; however, there is potential for a second wave of Coronavirus. That could force another lockdown. To combat this risk, we provide additional rations to babies and toddlers to prepare them if this happens. We continue to watch our on the ground situations to ensure that each baby and toddler has a future.

From Bad to worse - a bad situation made worse by COVID-19

Learn more about our Malnutrition program HERE.

July 1, 2020

From Bad to Worse

From Bad to Worse Written by Director of Operations, Heidi Cortez Before the novel Coronavirus ravaged our world, Angola was already extremely food insecure. That means that most of the population lacks access to affordable, nutritional foods. A combination of drought, poor infrastructure, and vast inequality causes this food ... Read More»

June 23, 2020

Work with Children, End Poverty

Work with Children, End Poverty - baby boy playing in the dirt.

Written by Regional NightCare Director, Matt Nathaniel

Note: Reference to children includes babies and toddlers too. 

The world, in general, is not in the way it ought to be. Our greatest concern is poverty. The genuinely poor are those robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves – the choice for safe and clean water, the choice of education, the choice of protection from abuse, the choice of medical care, the choice of participation, the choice of development and more.

Children are Almost Half of the World’s Extreme Poor

1 in 7 people live in extreme poverty, or over 900 million people live in extreme poverty. Of these, a shockingly high number are children. Specifically, 47% of all people living in extreme poverty across the world are 18 years old or younger. These poor children will grow up to be poor adults. It indicates the need for child rights intervention.

Children are the Most Excluded Social Group

Research says children are the most oppressed and excluded social groups. The exclusion of children is not only subjected to children who suffer from various physical, mental, and social disadvantages, but it’s an issue common among most children. The problem is with our understanding of who children are and how we see and treat them.

The Most Powerless Members of Society are Children

We often see children being punished or ill-treated or abused just because they cannot retaliate due to their limitations. Harming a child is not an act of power. It conveys the fact that we are powerless. The bitter truth is, when the child experiences abuse, it grows in fear and misplaced trust. The babies Saving Moses works with are often subjected to mistreatment, abuse, and torture, either by their mother or the clients. They are always at risk. 

Work with Children, End Poverty - two children playing in trash.

Finding the Poor

A decade ago, I visited a government-run orphanage home in the south of India. On my very first visit, I noticed something strange. Throughout the two hours I spent with the babies in that center, the babies remained quiet. It simply did not add up. Being a father of a five-year-old, I know how much sound (crying in particular), part of a child’s communication mechanism is – whether to acknowledge or revolt or negotiate or attract the attention. Those babies probably cried at one time. They once tried to acknowledge, revolt, negotiate, or attract the attention of others. But help probably never came. And they probably decided to accept their reality and remain silent. We must go in search of the poor. It must be us who should take those first steps. We have to find those in need. We must become intentional in the way we defend the rights of children.

Seeing the Potential in Each Child

Each child deserves the right to protection, but they also deserve the opportunity to unleash their potential as they grow. Can you imagine the opportunity we as adults have for creating an impact in the lives of the little ones? When we invest our resources in them, we invest not only in their future but also in the future of society. Investing in children’s life is a gesture for the common good. Children have the potential to become agents of change. 

Work with Children, End Poverty - a little girl doing her school work.

Children Transform Us

As much as we must commit to impact the lives of the young ones, we can experience transformation through them. When we begin to see the world through the eyes of a child, we can only become pure in our hearts and minds. Children have the untainted inner faculties for creative imagination, conscience, connectedness, and intuition. Every time we spend time with children and babies, we experience change, change for better.

Conclusion

Working with children is urgent in terms of their vulnerability; at the same time, it is an excellent opportunity for change because they are the future. Below are three principles we all should remember.

a. Care for children because they are the most vulnerable.

b. Invest in children because they are the future, and we can break the cycle of poverty.

c. Spend time with children because they change us for the better.

Work with Children, End Poverty - Cambodia Team Trip Member playing and laughing with a little girl in NightCare center.

June 23, 2020

Work with Children, End Poverty

Work with Children, End Poverty Written by Regional NightCare Director, Matt Nathaniel Note: Reference to children includes babies and toddlers too.  The world, in general, is not in the way it ought to be. Our greatest concern is poverty. The genuinely poor are those robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves – the... Read More»

April 14, 2020

Severe Acute Malnutrition - More Than Being Hungry - a malnourished baby boy in our malnutrition clinic.

Severe Acute Malnutrition: More Than Being Hungry

Written by Saving Moses Communication’s Coordinator, McKenzie Thompson

We see the effects of this disease on babies and toddlers every single day at our malnutrition feeding clinics in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We see their hair get lighter and become brittle, their skin begin to peel, and oedema take over their bodies, causing their hands, feet, faces, and stomachs to swell. We see the toll it takes on them, their mothers, their fathers, or their caregivers. We see how it slowly strips not only their lives away, but their hope and joy as well. While it is a hard topic to talk about, we see that there is a significant need for help in these parts of the world and believe that talking about it is the first step to the cure. Sadly, this is all too real for these little ones. This is the harsh reality that they face every day.

Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of malnutrition in children. It can be defined as a very low weight for height (below -3z scores of the median WHO growth standards), by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema, according to the World Health Organization.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to severe acute malnutrition. It is more than just hunger.

It is the lack of nutrients needed to literally keep your body growing healthy, and it comes with terrible symptoms like I mentioned above. It’s not knowing when your next meal will be or if there will be one at all. Especially for babies and toddlers, getting the right amount of nutrients is vital for them to grow during the early stages of their lives. It is a life or death situation for them.

This is what drives Saving Moses. In our clinics, we know that we can save almost every baby from the tragic results of malnutrition and this motivates us more than anything!

Severe Acute Malnutrition - More Than Being Hungry - Founder Sarah Bowling holding a malnourished baby at our malnutrition clinic.

Did you know that malnutrition is a 100% preventable disease? Yes, you read that right. It is 100% preventable. Meaning, there is no reason any baby or toddler should ever have to endure it, yet it is the cause of 50% of childhood deaths in lower to middle income countries…

How could a disease that is so easily preventable, [be a disease that so easily] takes the lives of precious babies and toddlers?

The answer is simple: lack of resources. In countries like where we work, there are several factors that contribute to the high mortality rate caused by this disease.

In some of the babies we see at our clinics, their malnutrition is due to a lack of education or cultural beliefs. Some mothers do not understand the basic necessity of breast feeding their babies, especially in the early stages of their lives. Other mothers believe their baby’s disease is a curse that has been placed on them. Often, by the time they realize their baby should be taken to a clinic, he/she dies before they can finish treatment because it is too late. It breaks my heart when I think about it.

Severe Acute Malnutrition - More Than Being Hungry - Mother and her malnourished baby at our malnutrition clinic.

For many reasons, we are increasing our community outreach efforts. The more information we can spread about malnutrition, what causes it, and how we can help, the more mothers and fathers will trust us and bring their babies to our clinics while we still have a chance to save them.

So, how do we help once they arrive? Our malnutrition feeding clinics provide babies with therapeutic milk. This isn’t the standard formula available at the grocery store. Therapeutic milk is packed with nutrients that quickly restore baby’s bodies back to healthy. We also can send home a special type of formula for them to drink after they have completed treatment at our clinic, that helps them continue to grow. One of our favorite success stories from our malnutrition clinics is about our little friend named Belito. You can learn more about his story here.

The work we do at Saving Moses is important. It is essential. It is saving lives.

Will you join us on this mission to save the world’s most vulnerable population?

April 14, 2020

Severe Acute Malnutrition: More Than Being Hungry

Severe Acute Malnutrition: More Than Being Hungry Written by Saving Moses Communication’s Coordinator, McKenzie Thompson We see the effects of this disease on babies and toddlers every single day at our malnutrition feeding clinics in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We see their hair get lighter and become brittle, ... Read More»

February 12, 2020

Hanging by a Thread: The Saving Moses Journey - Saving Moses Book - Get your copy now

Hanging by a Thread: The Saving Moses Journey

Written by: McKenzie Thompson – Saving Moses Communications & Logistics Coordinator

“Who abandons newborn babies? How did they arrive in some random field? Was anything with them, like blankets or bottles, when they were discovered? Were they wearing any clothing?” These were just some of the questions that ran through Sarah Bowling’s mind when she came across two babies abandoned in a field in Ethiopia in 2009. This exact experience of Sarah’s is what led to the birth of the one-of-a-kind humanitarian aid organization: Saving Moses.

Speaking of the birth of Saving Moses – we are so excited to finally announce that Sarah, its founder, has just released her newest book, Hanging By A Thread: The Saving Moses Journey, which was written about the organization’s journey all the way from 2009 in Ethiopia, to now! It details the hardships, roadblocks, and victories that have taken place throughout Saving Moses’ journey to save babies in some of the most dangerous and exploitative cities in the world. The reader will learn about what inspired Sarah to launch this organization, real and raw stories of the people she met along the way, and what has contributed to the continuous growth of Saving Moses today.

When Sarah discovered those baby girls in 2009, she was distraught and immediately wanted to help. She took them to a nearby orphanage, but they refused to take the girls in. How could an orphanage refuse to care for abandoned babies? Was that not its purpose? What Sarah realized from this, was that babies require so many more resources, attention, and care than children who are older. The needs of babies and toddlers are more specialized and expensive than older children, so sadly, many organizations and orphanages cannot afford to meet their needs. This planted the seed in Sarah that would one day become Saving Moses. Sarah, who was just like many of you reading this, was just one person with a heart and passion to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, who said yes to the challenge. Her hope is that this book will inspire you to take your own first steps toward fulfilling your purpose!

Hanging by a Thread: The Saving Moses Journey - Saving Moses Book - Founder Sarah holding a baby in Bangladesh
As many of you have read on our social media, website, or blog many times, Saving Moses’ mission is to save babies (5 & under) every day, by meeting the most urgent and intense survival needs, where help is least available. This book will give the reader several examples of what inspired that mission statement and why we take it into consideration with everything we do at Saving Moses. Just like the twin baby girls, abandoned in a field, with no place to go, no one to care of them, no food or water – we see babies in this exact situation every day and it is our goal to be their hope that they would otherwise not have.

This book is inspiring, encouraging, and motivating. It is for those of you who feel as if you have a calling to do something bigger than yourself, make a difference in the world, or just be encouraged. As Sarah writes in this book, “The life of each baby and toddler whom we serve is hanging by a thread, and it is our supreme honor and passion to step into their precarious existence, tie a knot in the thread and facilitate a more secure and certain future!”

Buy your copy today, get inspired, and help us tie the knot in the thread.

Get yours HERE.

February 12, 2020

Hanging by a Thread: The Saving Moses Journey

Hanging by a Thread: The Saving Moses Journey Written by: McKenzie Thompson – Saving Moses Communications & Logistics Coordinator “Who abandons newborn babies? How did they arrive in some random field? Was anything with them, like blankets or bottles, when they were discovered? Were they wearing any clothing?” These were ... Read More»

August 29, 2019

Saving Moses - Who Are We Again? - Title Page

After visiting our website or scrolling through our social media, you probably have a solid idea of who Saving Moses is, but many people send in questions as to what exactly we do. Those questions may include: Why do we only care for babies ages zero to five? What happens to the babies after they turn six? Do we help the mothers as well? All of these are great questions, so we want to address them here over the next few months. Starting with “Why do we care for babies only ages zero to five?”

From the Beginning

Our founder’s name is Sarah Bowling. She is an international speaker and author, the co-host of Today with Marilyn and Sarah, and Co-Lead Pastor of Encounter Church. After meeting orphaned babies who had been abandoned and could not find an orphanage home in 2009, Sarah learned that many child-focused organizations do not offer aid to the zero to five population because of their specialized needs. As a result, she created an organization that would exist specifically to address the needs of the world’s most vulnerable population – babies.

Saving Moses is a global humanitarian organization saving babies (5 & under) every day by meeting the most urgent and intense survival needs where help is least available.

Our name, Saving Moses, derives from the story of Moses who was abandoned in the Nile river when he was an infant, then rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. Without his rescue, Moses never would have grown up to become the leader he was. We believe these babies deserve the chance to grow up healthy and become someone great.

The Most Vulnerable, The Most Urgent

Let’s break it down. Why only babies five and under? As stated before, the zero to five population is the world’s most vulnerable. Why? Because they simply cannot provide for or protect themselves. Saving Moses - Who Are We Again? - Bangladeshi baby at NightCare.

While many wonderful organizations fight for children and adults in the developing world, often the zero to five age range is ignored due to a lack of knowledge and resources. Babies require so much more time, attention, food, diapers, etc. that many organizations actually cannot afford to care for them in addition to older children. When you really think about all of the people in the world in desperate need of help, it’s easy to picture the children and adults working tirelessly to find/provide food, clean water, education, healthcare, or jobs, but we try to picture the babies who literally cannot protect or provide for themselves and whose lives rely on the actions of others.

As a result, they are often the victims in wars, natural disasters and cycles of poverty or abuse and this is something we see a lot in our line of work. So, we fill the gap.

We do this by implementing our three programs, NightCare, Malnutrition Feeding, and Birth and Infant Aid, to the areas where help is most urgent but least available. These areas include Central Asia, South and South East Asia, The Middle East, and Africa.

NightCare

There are many organizations who exist to end the sex industry, but no one has addressed how to care for the thousands of babies and toddlers who are born as a result of it. Therefore, most of the babies who attend our NightCare clinics are the babies of sex workers. Some of these mothers choose this work, and some do not. However, we direct our focus to those babies born as a result of their work because babies out of NightCare are often tied to the beds their moms work in, locked in a dark closet alone, left with an abusive family member, or forced to work in a brothel, selling additional products to clients.Saving Moses - Who Are We Again? - One little boy and one little girl holding hands walking down abandoned railroad tracks.

At NightCare, we partner with the mothers and caregivers of the babies to change this reality and help provide a safe place for the babies to stay at night while their mothers work. The nannies working at the centers provide the little ones with a bath, clean clothes, and a warm, nutritious meal, every single night.

Malnutrition Feeding

Malnutrition contributes to 50% of childhood deaths in the developing world and it is a disease that is 100% preventable. It is an urgent need in an area where help doesn’t exist. That’s why you will see us continue to say “…by meeting the most urgent needs where help is least available.” Through this program, we administer life-saving therapeutic milk to babies suffering from severe acute malnutrition. These babies cannot work to provide food for themselves, they must rely on others. This is another reason why it is important for us to focus on this age group. However, there is an exception within this program, as we will also administer therapeutic milk to the mothers attending with their babies. We do this because after traveling several miles to bring their babies to our clinic and staying for their baby’s treatment, the mothers themselves were getting hungry because they had no food. This resulted in them pulling their babies from the program, so we began feeding them as well so their babies could continue getting the treatment they needed.

Saving Moses - Who Are We Again? - A malnourished baby in Angola being fed therapeutic milk by his mother.

BirthAid

Lastly, with our BirthAid program, we address the highest infant mortality rates in the world by teaching life-saving birth skills including training local community leaders to help their own community understand pregnancy, birth, and neonatal care. We also fund pregnancy and neonatal vaccinations, to protect vital populations from preventable diseases, as well as provide midwives for pregnant mothers. Many babies in the developing world die after birth because of a lack of knowledge and resources when it comes to neonatal care.


All our programs specifically target those who are marginalized by poverty, illness, and exploitation. There is a significant need for babies ages zero to five and we address that throughout our programs. We care about the mothers, we care about what happens to the babies after they’re past the age of five, but there are organizations already existing to tackle those issues.

Saving Moses addresses the need where the help is most urgent, but least available.


August 29, 2019

Saving Moses – Who Are We Again?

After visiting our website or scrolling through our social media, you probably have a solid idea of who Saving Moses is, but many people send in questions as to what exactly we do. Those questions may include: Why do we only care for babies ages zero to five? What happens to the babies after they... Read More»

July 9, 2018

One Photo I could not take - Title Page

By Lindy Hickman Copeland

People often ask me how I came to be a photographer. I didn’t go to school knowing that was my passion. I didn’t dream of it as a little kid. I simply took a camera on a year-long trip around the world and found that that little Sony was an extension of me—like finding a limb you didn’t know was lost. Since discovering this passion, there have been many images that stood out—those special instances where technology and reality collide to preserve a magical moment. And, of all the stories my camera has told, the one that truly unravels me is a photo I simply couldn’t take.

I traveled with Saving Moses to Angola in May. The mission was clear: Sarah (Saving Moses’ Founder) and I would visit malnutrition clinics and document the sweet babies receiving therapeutic milk, along with their mothers. What wasn’t clear, was how deeply this experience would challenge, move and shape me.

We spent the morning at our first clinic—holding, feeding and capturing images of those tiny little babies. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that these frail bodies held such mighty warriors. Their beautiful mothers—exhausted and overcome by worry—managed to greet us with such warmth and kindness. Some of them smiled and hugged us, even allowing us to coo at their babies and soak in the rare moments of giggles.

One photo I could not take - a mother holding her malnourished baby boy.

Sarah approached, worry etched on her face and weighing on her shoulders, “There’s a new baby who just arrived. It’s not good.”

I nodded, completely unaware of the weight of those words in this place. “Not good,” could mean so many things. As a person bent towards hoping against hope, I said a silent prayer for the best—sure that everything would work out in the end.

It didn’t, as sometimes it doesn’t—when there are no words to explain and no rhyme or reason to take refuge.

I remember seeing his hands first—a tiny fist wrapped in the loving palm of his mother. She laid across the bed with him, burying her face in the sheets and allowing her tears to soak into the white fabric. “Not good,” as it turns out, was altogether very bad.

I raised my camera to my eye, thinking that the scene would be different through that tiny window—that hope would live somewhere within that frame. My finger pressed gently against the shutter button to focus, but there was no click—no freezing time. This moment—where a fragile life hung in the balance and fought the final battles of a war it would lose—I simply couldn’t capture that. I’ve always thought that my job is to immortalize moments people don’t want to forget. So, what about the moments we all dread? What about the moments we live to forget?

One Photo I Could Not Take - a malnourished baby girl lying on the clinic bed.

After several seconds, I dropped the camera to my side. The only picture of this scene is one that resides in my mind. Perhaps some moments shouldn’t live forever.

I left the clinic that day heavy with the weight of defeat. Not only was this precious boy fighting his final battle, but I had failed to tell his story. I had failed him.

Before returning to the hotel, we made a quick stop to visit Belito, a young boy who received therapeutic milk from Saving Moses years earlier. “He’s grumpy,” Sarah told me. “He was even a grumpy baby. You’ll see.”

As we pulled up, a small, wiry boy appeared from inside the hut. He sat with Sarah, maintaining a stoic persona and, I suspect, concealing a wry smile, as we handed him a soccer ball and asked him how he’d been since their last visit. He was grumpy, but in a way that secretly sweet, old men are.

Sarah hugging Belito, who survived thanks to our malnutrition clinic.

It was there, on that dusty, dusk evening, that we sat in the afterglow of victory. Belito is alive. He is well. He is free to grow into the best (albeit grumpy) version of himself and it all began with some therapeutic milk 7 years ago. The realization struck me in a way that only hope can. And, my heart lifted just a little, knowing that for every story of a mother returning home with an empty blanket, there are dozens and hundreds more like Belito.

I sometimes imagine going back to Angola–years from now–lifting my camera to my eye and seeing a scene filled with the babies we met there. They aren’t sick. They aren’t fighting for life. They are just living. Like Belito, they are kicking up dust on a glowing Summer’s day, laughing with friends as they play soccer. I think about my finger hovering over that shutter button, focusing in and filling the frame with the precious moments of their lives that we’d rather not forget. Click.

A little malnourished boy smiling holding his cup of therapeutic milk.

Lindy Hickman Copeland is a photographer, videographer, and world traveler. You can learn more about her at www.lindyhickmanphoto.com

July 9, 2018

One Photo I Could Not Take

By Lindy Hickman Copeland People often ask me how I came to be a photographer. I didn’t go to school knowing that was my passion. I didn’t dream of it as a little kid. I simply took a camera on a year-long trip around the world and found that that little Sony was an extension... Read More»

recent posts