Gayle first met Elvin at a crisis nursery center while visiting a friend in northern Malawi.
“He was a warm and cuddly kid who was very easy to form a connection with,” she said.
It wasn’t until she spoke with her friend, the director of the crisis nursery, that Gayle discovered the tragic story that brought Elvin to the nursery in the first place.
Just a couple weeks after Elvin was born, his mother passed away. His father left Elvin and his two siblings with their elderly maternal grandmother. He said he was going to look for work and would return. He never came back.
“In Malawi, child neglect and baby dumping is a huge challenge because unemployment is so high,” said Kenneth Sakala, village director for SOS Children’s Village Mzuzu. “Many parents run away to find opportunities as far as South Africa and leave their young ones behind.”
A child protection worker found Elvin a few weeks later with his grandmother; he had nothing to eat and was crying uncontrollably. Elvin, who was just 5 weeks old at the time, was referred to the crisis nursey center in Mzuzu, Malawi, where he would stay for about a year.
Elvin at the Crisis Nursery Center in Mzuzu, Malawi, when Gayle first met him.
Gayle returned home to California and learned from her friend that Elvin and two other children at the nursey were about to find new homes at an SOS Children’s Villages nearby. Gayle contacted the SOS Village immediately to sponsor Elvin.
“It was a chance for me to keep a connection to him and to keep a role in his life,” said Gayle, who has a special folder where she keeps all of the letters and pictures of Elvin that she receives from the SOS Village.
Today Elvin is a happy and playful 7-year-old boy. He is a big soccer fan and always organizes games with his friends after school. When off the field, he even collects newspaper clippings of his favorite soccer players and puts them on his wall beside his bed.
Elvin, 7, in front of his home at the SOS Village in Mzuzu, Malawi.
“He knows all the players by name and aspires to be like them one day,” said Amina, Elvin’s SOS Mother.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting vulnerable children in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, since 1986. Today there are four SOS Villages in the country, where more than 400 children—many with stories similar to Elvin’s—are growing up in a loving, family environment with a dedicated SOS Mother to care for them.
Special thanks to Sandra Jensson for contributing to this story.