When baby Miracle was found discarded in a drain in Uganda, local resident Gladys feared the worst. But thanks to the support of neighbours and a local Compassion-run project, a new family is learning to thrive
You wouldn’t know that baby Miracle had once been abandoned on the streets of Kampala. The once-gaunt face of a neglected newborn has been replaced with the full cheeks and chubby wrists of a well-fed and soon-to-be toddler. She lies content in Gladys’ arms, little tufts of hair curling into question marks.
This child – whose future was once uncertain – is now thriving and happy, having found a home with Gladys and her family, who live a modest life in the capital of Uganda. It’s hard to believe that this child – considered by Gladys to be a blessing from God – was once found among the discarded items her neighbours had thrown away.
It was Gladys’ son, Enoch, who first alerted her to the baby in the drain.
He had been walking past the ditch with a friend when a strange cry interrupted their banter. To begin with, they thought it was an animal – a cat, perhaps; there were plenty of strays around and it wasn’t unusual for a kitten to lose its way. But as the noise persisted, they went to investigate. At the edge of the street’s drainage system lay the last thing they were expecting to find: a tiny baby in a plastic bag, crying for its mother. There had been heavy rainfall the day before and the water levels were rising. So too was their sense of panic.
Enoch ran home to tell his mum what he’d seen, and his friend took off in the opposite direction in search of help. “We were frightened,” remembers Enoch. “When I saw the baby’s head popping out of the plastic bag, I knew we needed to get help at once. We didn’t stop to get the baby because we worried about what we might get accused of.”
Grabbing her son’s hand, Gladys rushed to the scene. Together they fished the bag out of the water, careful not to topple its precious cargo. “Fortunately, the sack had been pushed to the edge of the drainage by rubbish,” remembers Gladys, “which blocked it from flowing down the channel.” If it hadn’t been for this (perhaps miraculous) intervention, the baby’s fate might have looked very different.
Shaking but determined, Gladys untied the bag and took out the baby, whose nappy was drenched and soiled. “She cried uncontrollably and only paused to gasp for air,” says Gladys. “My heart grieved, but I needed to be strong in the moment.” Fighting back tears, she wrapped the tiny bundle in a jacket and rushed to the nearest police station.
When she arrived, Gladys was told she’d have to wait until morning to be seen by the unit that dealt with family matters. By this time it was getting late, so Gladys took the baby back home with her, still swaddled in her overcoat. “As a mother, I knew about body-to-body warmth, so I held the baby close to my chest and wrapped a blanket around us.” After a few hours of sitting like this, Miracle began to feel warm, and hope leapt in Glady’s heart. Perhaps she would make it through the night.
Miracle did survive the night and so, the next day, Gladys made her way back to the family unit, where she was told she would have to wait a week because the district officer was out of town. By the time she arrived home, nursing a growing sense of urgency, her neighbours were waiting; word about the unexpected arrival had travelled fast. “Neighbours came by to see the child we’d rescued. They brought old clothing, soap and some sheets,” recalls Gladys. No one could quite believe that a baby found in a ditch had not been swept away – and everyone agreed it must be a miracle.
My heart grieved, but I needed to be strong
When she returned to the police station a week later, Gladys was asked to consider fostering the child. Without hesitation, she agreed: “I wasn’t going to let her be abandoned a second time, “she says. Right there and then, she named the baby Miracle.
Glady’s husband and their four children welcomed little Miracle into their lives – they all thought it was the perfect name for the baby who’d been rescued from a ditch to be given hope and a future. “I feel the connection every [time her] little hand reachs out to me,” says Gladys. “She is my blessing from God; she has brought me much joy.”
Gladys and baby Miracle are receiving healthcare and nutritional support through a mother and baby project run by Compassion in Kampala.