"My passion is to help people understand the global need, difficulties and situations of babies and pregnant mothers living in poverty in developing countries."
In 2007 Emily Kagiri moved with her husband and children from Kenya to Colorado Springs to take on the role of Child Survival Ministry Director at Compassion International. She believes God began preparing her for this role when she was still a child herself. Read her amazing story and about her vision for the Child Survival Program (CSP), Compassion's ministry to infants, toddlers, pregnant mothers and caregivers.
1. How has God uniquely equipped you to work with the Child Survival Program?
When I was about 18 months old my grandmother was my caregiver. During this time I contracted tuberculosis. There was no treatment for TB during these years, and my family had to completely depend on God for my healing. In Africa we highly believe in divine healing. What else would we do if there was nowhere to get help? While I was recovering, the government of Kenya started providing nutritious foods for the malnourished children in the community. This was my very own Child Survival Program. I became healthy, strong and survived to face life in my world. For the rest of my life, I knew that helping babies like me was what God was calling me to do.
2. So, would you say that your childhood and healing gave you a passion for infants?
I have been there. My heart reaches out for these babies and mothers because I know if only we can have men and women giving to this program, many children will receive hope in life, many will survive the challenges of life, and women will learn who they are in God and will believe in their children.
3. You were instrumental in the success of the Child Survival Program in Kenya. What made you decide to leave Africa to work with CSP on a more global level?
While I was still in Kenya, God gave me an opportunity to speak up for the children in the Child Survival Program as Compassion Kenya's Child Survival Ministry Director. I knew that if given an opportunity to speak up and touch the lives of women and babies at a larger scope, I would do it. My passion is to help people understand the global need, difficulties and situations of babies and pregnant mothers living in poverty in developing countries, and to show them that if only people would respond to this need many children would see their future years in life and become what they dream to become. So God decided that coming to the States would be the way to use this gracefully given potential. I only followed the leading of God thank God He had prepared my family for this transition. The bottom line is that my being here has nothing to do with me but everything to do with God.
4. What makes the Child Survival Program unique among other organizations that work with infants and mothers?
The uniqueness of Compassion's Child Survival Program stands out in one phrase: spiritual development. The fact that Compassion's Child Survival Program touches the spiritual being of a mother, a child, a family and a community is unique and makes all the difference in the lives of that family, baby and mother. Compassion's Child Survival Program is a one-to-one home-based program in which staff members visit homes and educate mothers in the child's own environment. It is then that the actual needs of the baby, mother, family and community will be known, seen and met accordingly.
5. Why did Compassion choose a home-based model for the Child Survival Program?
The Child Survival Program is primarily home-based because this allows us to address the immediate needs of the baby and mother. When you get into a community and find that most children are malnourished, the best way to get to the root cause of this problem is to visit families in the community. During your visits, you will see and learn what children are fed and why. You also observe any cultural reasons for certain practices. Then you come up with an action plan from a knowledgeable perspective. In home visits, CSP workers teach mothers about parenting practices, including hygiene and nutrition, using their own locally available foods. Only during home visits can you assess whether what you have been teaching has been put into practice. Home visits create one-to-one relationships where mothers can confide in you and share their innermost fears and problems.
6. In addition to the countries where CSP is already in place (Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and Uganda), what are some countries you would like to see the program expand to?
Compassion International works in developing countries, most of which have high child mortality rates. As I look into the 2006 international statistics on infant mortality, the countries I would hope to see us in are Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Togo and Tanzania. However, it is very important for Compassion International to have reports on infant mortality in all the countries where we work. This will give us direction regarding which countries need priority in a Child Survival Program start-up.
7. Child mortality is a huge problem in developing countries. Do you think the Child Survival Program is having a real impact on this crisis?
Definitely. The CSP beneficiaries are mothers and babies, who are vulnerable in various ways as families live in varying difficult circumstances. If it were not for the Child Survival Program, many children who were malnourished would be either dead or still underdeveloped. Some would be dead from measles infection, but the Child Survival Program helped them receive the vaccine from the nearest medical facility. Some babies would be dead of AIDS, but the CSP supported their mothers by providing them with the right medicine so their children could be born without the virus. Some mothers and children would be dead from malaria, but CSP came in and gave them life by providing mosquito nets. When the Child Survival Program taught a mother the importance of hospital delivery and the mother practiced what she was taught, a healthy baby was delivered in a healthy and clean environment. CSP is making a difference.
8. Tell me your favorite success story from the Child Survival Program, a story that you truly feel CSP made possible.
CSP stories are so many, I do not know which one to choose. But I would like to mention one child who was recruited into the program at 3 months. His mother had just passed away, and he was left under the care of his weak father and a grandmother who was the sole provider in the family. When a Child Survival Program started in their church, the grandmother was notified, so she brought in the baby. As time went by, the child started getting sick. Soon we found the child to be HIV positive. Then and there, the Child Survival Program staff started taking special care of this baby. Through the program, the baby received nutritional supplements, antiretroviral treatment, vaccinations against preventable childhood illnesses, as well as an insecticide-treated mosquito net. The grandmother was taught how to provide the baby with proper nutrition, and slowly, the baby regained health, was up and about.
9. What is going on with this child and his family now?
The baby boy grew up to be a strong and admirable and gorgeous child. On the child's fourth birthday the boy had to leave the program thank God he then went to the Child Sponsorship Program. The boy now has a loving sponsor. Today he is a strong, healthy boy with a future and hope. He is well nourished, receiving education, getting medical care, and has hope for tomorrow.
If it were not for the Child Survival Program, who knows where this precious saint would be today? Maybe dead due to opportunistic infections, maybe malnourished, in and out of a hospital but CSP saved him. God bless the Child Survival Program.
10. Why should someone become a CSP partner? What is the benefit to the partner?
Everybody should become a partner with the Child Survival Program! Supporting the program means being a part of changing a generation. Supporting CSP is giving children life, hope, a bright future, a chance in life, and an opportunity to become all they would like to be when they grow up. The mothers or caregivers receive support and education, which raises their self-esteem and assures their families of an improved standard of living.
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