She couldn’t have been more than three years old, curled up at the edge of the curb, near the drain opening of the gutter. My headlights caught a glimpse of her as I turned off of the bridge that separated the large city dump from the small town of Freeman that sits 3 miles from the Liberian border, just inside of Sierra Leone.
At first I thought it was a dead dog or a large cat, but I have never seen a dog or cat wear a dark blue dress before; it was a child, a helpless child in the cold, dark confines of a harsh, brutal life. I turned around and pulled up next to her; she was startled, stood up as I approached her, but did not run away.
“Are you by yourself?”
“Yes”, she said.
“Why are you out here by yourself?”
“They threw me out” she replied.
“Who threw you out and from where?”
“The dump, I have been living there since my momma died and the older kids told me there wasn’t enough food coming in so I couldn’t stay.”
“I run an orphanage four miles north, do you want to go there so we can feed you and have a nurse look at you?”
“Yes, I want to. Will anyone try to hurt me?”
“No, I run the home, you will be cared for.”
Without another word, she walked passed me and climbed into the front seat and curled up in a ball and went to sleep.
We arrived around midnight back at the orphanage. I passed through the main gate and drove straight to our caretaker’s house; she is also a part time nurse. I wait on the porch as our caretaker examined her. 15 minutes later, the caretaker, who wore a look of sadness and the little girl, we named Lilly, who was chewing on a piece of red licorice, both came out.
“Sir,” she said with a somber tone,
“This is a very sick little girl. She is six years old, her momma died a year ago and she has been living in the dump since then”.
“What’s wrong with her, why is she so sick?”
“She has a fever, her lungs have a big wheeze with every breath and her belly is full of parasites. Even if we get her to a hospital, she will probably not live very long. I am so sorry sir.”
“Could you give her a little food and some aspirin for her fever, I will get her some clean clothes and drive her to the hospital.”
“Very well sir.”
This helpless child, homeless and very sick is a very common occurrence in Sierra Leone and other West African countries. Civil wars, Ebola and famine are wiping out entire families; if a child does survive, their chance of a normal childhood is impossible. Helpless children like Lilly become just another statistic, if they are remembered at all. Living in and around city dumps sound unheard of given this is 2016, but it is all that these helpless children have to call a home.
Here at Ambassador Ministries we are working with the orphanage that took in Lilly and are supporting their efforts to rescue as many of these children as possible, before it’s too late. We were too late for Lilly, she died two weeks later. Her lung infection and parasite damage were too severe for a little six-year-old to handle.
We found her curled up in a gutter, but were able to give her some rest and love before she went to heaven. We are calling on you to provide financial help so the other Lillys out there can live and thrive.
Never forget, we are in this together. Supporting crucial causes worldwide.