Take out your cell phone and hold it in your hands.
It weighs about 500 grams – the same as a premature or malnourished infant at the Baby Watoto care facility in Uganda, Africa.
It’s a visual that local resident Amanda Rauh often uses when speaking about Watoto, a holistic care program that assists orphaned children and vulnerable women.
Today, Rauh is leading a team of seven other women to the Baby Watoto care facility on a two-week trip.
There, the women will be assisting with the daily care of the children, including feeding, bathing, changing, doing laundry, rocking the babies to sleep and cuddling.
“The only skill required is to be able to snuggle,” says Rauh, a co-ordinator and team leader with Watoto.
“I believe the team will empathize towards the babies at first, but realize how lucky these babies are to be in the care of Watoto.”
This will be Rauh’s second visit to the location, but her first as an employee.
Following last year’s experience, she jumped at the chance to work for the company.
This time, the group will be bringing more than 20 suitcases full of supplies, and eight high chairs.
The team will be working alongside Ugandan nationals and other international volunteers, caring for over 200 babies. Baby Watoto houses more than 2,000 children.
A significant number of the babies have either been abused, abandoned or born premature.
Many of them have been discarded, discovered with their hands and feet tied behind their back.
They’ve been found in toilets, dumpsters or abandoned on doorsteps.
“When you hear these stories, it makes you want to hug your own children and keep them that much closer,” says Rauh, a mother of three.
The children – who often arrive malnourished and in serious medical condition – are brought to Watoto by hospitals, police, child protection units, and good Samaritans.
Care is provided to the babies up to the age of two.
When they are older and physically able, they either graduate to a Watoto children’s village or are reunited with existing relatives.
The care centre at Watoto is constructed like a village, says Rauh, with eight orphaned children and one widowed mother living in each home.
The villages, which consist of nine houses, have access to hospitals and schools.
Many of the Ugandan women living at Watoto are HIV positive and go to the centre for counselling, and job and skills training.
They are encouraged by volunteers through ministry and prayer.
While Rauh was expecting to “go goo-goo over the babies,” she was inspired by the ability of the women to carry on with everything they’ve experienced.
She is looking forward to reconnecting with everyone to see how they’ve grown, and doing her part in changing the lives of those she hasn’t yet met.
For more information on the program, check out www.watoto.com.