Robyn & Gerry Richter: Founders of ABC Ministry
ABC Ministry, Abandoned Babies for Christ, is a Ministry because we minister into the whole of the child, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our vision is to take in abandoned and unwanted babies, who most times are close to death, nurse them back to health and care for them as their substitute parents. The babies who cannot be returned to family or adopted out, will be transferred to other children’s homes in Swaziland, for permanent care. We work very closely with the Swaziland Government Social Welfare Services and also the Royal Swazi Police Force. Our babies are only admitted through these organizations. We are officially recognized as a halfway home for abandoned babies. Our main vision is to rescue abandoned babies from being neglected and being left to die through lack of care and nurturing in the hospitals. We lay a foundation for Godly living within these babies’ lives by actually living with them in our own home.
History of ABC : In August 1992, an abandoned, 4 month old boy found his way into our home. He was extremely mal-nourished, neglected and deprived. He weighed only 3.4kgs! As I nursed him back to life, he found a very special place in our hearts and lives. When he was well and gaining weight and the threat of death had been removed from his life, we tried desperately to find a good family to take him in, as at this point we had 3 of our own children and a foster son, to care for. When we realized that there was nowhere else for him to go, we decided to adopt him as our own son. Then in November 1993, another abandoned little boy found his way into our home. This one was 12 months old and had been physically abused, also suffering from neglect and kwashiorkor (extreme lack of protein in the diet). After nursing him back to health, we realized that there was nowhere for him to go and so we adopted him as well. It was due to this lack, that we realized that very little help was being given to the abandoned or unwanted baby.
Back in 1992, there was no Children’s act to protect the children in Swaziland. At this time, there were no children’s homes to assist children in need and the Government relied mainly on the ‘extended family’ system to assist orphans and unwanted children. The problem increased as HIV/AIDS claimed more and more adults and orphaned children of dead relatives became a burden and a strain to the adults in whose care they were left.
It was out of this lack and this need, here in Swaziland, that ABC Ministry was born.
Our vision is to be able to receive these babies that are abandoned and in a desperate need, into our home as soon as possible. By doing this we allow them to bond to a single mother figure in the early stages of their lives and this, in turn, helps the babies to heal faster and develop better, in a more nurturing environment.
Part of the vision for the baby home is to equip Swazi woman to continue in the ABC vision and to train them to care for and raise these babies, in a Godly environment, laying the foundation of Godly and Biblical principles within each of these babies lives. By doing this we ensure that these babies are given a, better chance in a more normal home environment with good care and lots of love. As the Managers of the Baby Home, we ensure that each of our workers is dedicated to loving and caring for these babies and raising them in the best environment that we can possibly give them. Every one of our babies is always held to be bottle fed, ensuring personal contact and individual care.
Mothers of unwanted pregnancies are also being educated to the fact that adoption is available and it is an alternative to abortion or abandonment. Some of our babies are available for adoption and so forever families are found for them. We work very closely with the Swaziland Government Welfare and all families are well screened and chosen by the Social Welfare Officers. This is an amazing opportunity for our babies, for them to be given a wonderful chance at a new life within a family that loves them and wants them.
We take in babies from birth up to 6 months old. We take in babies regardless of their HIV status. If the mother’s status is unknown, we will test the baby for HIV. If the mother is a known HIV positive, or the baby tests HIV positive, then we do a DNA test on the baby at 6 weeks old, to determine if the baby is carrying the virus or not. If the DNA test is positive to HIV then we will continue to do further blood tests and put the baby onto ARV treatments if it is needed. This medication helps improve the baby’s life and enables them to live a more normal and enriched life for much longer. Most of our babies are testing negative to the HIV virus on their DNA tests.
Babies who are unable to be returned to their families or placed into adoptive families, will at the correct time for them, be transferred to a more permanent Care facility, where they can be raised to adulthood under the love and care of a Swazi house mother.
HIV/AIDS is all around us and is claiming many lives. Swaziland is now rated as one of the top countries in the world for HIV/AIDS. The statistics for Swaziland are frightening. We need to educate ourselves, and our children, to this disease. We are finding more and more babies abandoned because of their parents dying from AIDs, or because the baby itself has tested HIV posi
tive. All around us are child-headed homes because the parents and relatives have died, leaving the children alone to fend for themselves.
The Swazi’s have a saying:
IT TAKES A WHOLE VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD
In the past, the extended family was relied on to take care of the orphans and the unwanted children that were in the family. But due to the HIV/AIDS crisis, the Swazi family is now over extended,
villages are broken and the children in these situations, are treated as slaves and are abused and totally neglected. They become extremely vulnerable to all sorts and forms of abuse, often ending up as street children, criminal or pregnant. Children often are abandoned within the family structure, meaning that they are living within a family structure but are totally unwanted, rejected and just managing to exist.
ABC Ministry is focused on these unwanted and abandoned babies and we will do everything in our power, with the help from God, to help these children and to give them the best life we possibly can, allowing them a chance to grow up in a more normal home environment, ensuring that they will become healthy, strong men and women of integrity, assets to this beautiful country of Swaziland and ensuring that the Swazi nation will continue to survive.