Feature

Words of Hope

Once you were lost, but now you are found

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A young man was walking through the bush, headed for his home village, when something unusual caught his eye. There, partially hidden off the well-worn path, was a tiny baby, its placenta and umbilical cord still attached.

The youth tucked the precious, two-pound bundle in the crook of his arm and retraced his steps toward Forecariah, near Conakry, the capital city of Guinea. Although adoption and foster care are relatively new concepts in West Africa, a community radio station had broadcast several programs about an orphanage that had been established by a Christian official near the city. The youth knew he would find help there.

Speaking Out

In Guinea, there are usually two places where mothers abandon their newborns. Like the premature baby the young man found in the bush, it is possible that the mother will leave the child where it will be hidden and its death will go unnoticed. On the other hand, some mothers choose the garbage heap or another public place frequented daily by a large number of people. There, the child may be found and cared for by someone else, like Moses in the basket on the Nile.

Why does a mother leave her newborn in a garbage dump, under a tree in the bush or by the side of the road? This is not a new crisis in Guinea but an old one that has never been publicly addressed. In Guinean culture, what has not been spoken of in words does not have to be acknowledged. But with the help of Familia FM, the women’s community radio station, this crisis is now being given a voice.

Who is speaking? God has raised up in Guinea a group of women to be advocates for discarded newborns. Marie Kennet, a believing national who attends a C&MA church, holds a prominent government position and used her influence to found an orphanage, Foyer de l’Esperance—the Center of Hope. She partnered with Familia FM to establish a rescue center for newborns in the radio station’s building. The center began operating in February 2008 to receive newborns and coordinate placing them in homes where they will be cared for during the adoption process.

Vicious Circles

To give words to problems that have simmered beneath the surface for many generations, Familia FM has created a series of radio programs that deal with the situations that cause women to abandon their newborn children. What are the most common reasons?

In a land of multiple marriages (56 percent of Guinean men have more than one wife), a woman might abandon her baby if she is not the favored spouse and fears her husband will not contribute to feeding and caring for the child. In Conakry, it is estimated that 50 percent of the population is unemployed. In these cases, the husband cannot support any family members, even the children of the favored wife.

In other abandonment scenarios, the husband returns home from a few years of working in another location and impregnates his wife. He leaves again for work, and she knows it will be years before he returns. Left to fend for herself and her other children, she needs to work and cannot look after a newborn. Sometimes, if she feels no love for her husband, the wife may resent having to care for the children by herself.

In many cases, the mother of a discarded child is a child herself. In this culture girls are considered ready to produce children as soon as they enter puberty. There is no easy access to birth control, and most do not know of the methods available.

If a woman has a child out of wedlock, culturally she cannot marry the father even if they love each other. In Guinea, a woman’s husband is chosen for her by her family; she has no voice. But families that educate their daughters as well as their sons usually break with this tradition.

In every one of these circumstances, women have nowhere to turn. There are no widespread social structures in this third-world country to help women in crisis—no maternity clinics, no women’s shelters, no adoption agencies, no daycare centers, no government aid for single working mothers, no support groups, no counseling centers, nothing. If a woman’s family is not willing to help her, no one else will.

Hope Through Jesus

There are no easy solutions to these problems, but there is hope. Jesus said, “‘Let the little children come to me’” (Luke 18:16). These desperate mothers need to have somewhere other than the garbage heap to leave their unwanted children—an adoption agency that will find godly homes. The Familia FM rescue center and the Center of Hope orphanage are just the beginning of showing Christ’s compassion to the children of Guinea.

One day, a mother came to Familia FM with a two week-old girl. “I will leave the baby in the street if you don’t take her,” she said. Ann-Marie, a single woman who produces a kids’ call-in program, took the child home, named her Esther and legally became her parent. But our employees cannot adopt every child who is brought to us. In just one week, the rescue center received five babies for placement in foster care.

The mothers of the abandoned babies need Christ’s help. In Guinea, 26 percent of women and 49 percent of men are considered literate, but this means only that they can sign their name and write 50 words. People with this level of literacy do not adequately process written information, making the radio a vital source of education. With knowledge comes understanding, and with understanding, hope. Familia FM gives these three vital elements—knowledge, understanding and hope—for everyone to hear as we help the Guinean people find words for this tragedy.

Please pray with us that as the programs broadcast, God will give a divine appointment to those who need to hear. They may still choose to abandon their children, but through the efforts of the Center of Hope and Familia FM, these precious babies will fall into the arms of Christian families.

Listen Up!

Familia FM is a community radio station that began in December 2006 through the funding efforts of the C&MA in Canada and the United States. However, because it is illegal in Guinea for a religious organization to own a radio station, Familia FM is independently owned and operated.

Each 15-minute program costs US$50 to produce. Rent for the rescue center is US$120 per month. To contribute, please give to “Radio Ministry/Unreached Peoples Guinea,” approved special #43-42-09023. For more information, contact Colette Baudais at cbaudais@fastmail.fm or visit the station’s Web site at www.familiafm.com.

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