Originally published in Mission Network News
In South Africa, it’s not uncommon to find dead babies in plastic bags at the local dump. It usually happens about twice a month, according to Operation Mobilization.
“The babies that are found are usually in buckets, old tires, or containers,” Patience Maselela told OM last February. Maselela has been working at the Mamelodi City Dump for the past 20 years. Each year, city dump workers discover the discarded bodies of over 100 newborns.
Through the help of a local church and a generous donation, OM South Africa’s AIDSHope team opened a “baby safe” last summer, giving women a safe alternative to abandonment or abortion.
Now OM is stepping back so the community can take more ownership of this initiative.
“To me, the best part is that we took the initiative from God to help the process so that the community can take ownership,” says AIDSHope leader Alma Leonard. “This is what makes it sustainable. God has transferred this passion for hope and life from us to the community!”
According to Operation World, nearly 40 million people in South Africa, or 75% of the total population, claim to be Christians. However, “the post-Christian worldview has center stage in the media,” and moral evils abound.
Some 5.7 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and half of South Africa’s population lives below the poverty line. A large percentage of middle school students–adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14 years old–are sexually active.
This is the demographic OM’s AIDSHope team is targeting with an awareness campaign sponsored by The Ford Motor Company. Ford supplied posters and flyers as well as staff to help the OM workers talk to women and girls at abortion clinics and schools.
“We have the unique opportunity to talk about making good life choices to pupils in grade seven at four local schools,” said an AIDSHope worker. “So far, our main focus has been on HIV prevention, but we realise that our focus must be wider.
“We have to talk about what to do if an unwanted pregnancy occurs, and we have to offer alternatives to aborting or abandoning a baby.”
An abandonment alternative
A designated room at the Bophelong Community Centre functions as the “baby safe.” Desperate mothers are encouraged to take their infant inside the centre instead of just dropping their child off and leaving. This creative approach to the “baby safe” concept allows mothers to receive biblical counseling and support, and the child’s important medical information can be collected.
Babies are then taken from the community center to ABBA House, a baby shelter in Pretoria that seeks to find a loving family for each child. In some cases, workers can connect distressed mothers or parents with vital resources.
For example, one set of parents desperately wanted to keep their child but felt they had no way to care for her. They thought the best option was putting their daughter up for adoption, so they brought her to the baby safe.
But after speaking with counsellors, these parents were connected with a social worker, ultimately enabling them to keep their child. So far, eight newborns have been saved through OM’s campaign and the baby safe.