August 17 2018

You Helped Nella Recover from Neglect

Because of your support, a once despondent child, traumatized from neglect, now has a loving family and a positive, happy childhood.

Nella was born to a mentally ill mother who was not physically or emotionally equipped to raise her. Her mother was gone a lot, sometimes for weeks at a time, and would leave Nella with an elderly caretaker.

When Nella’s mother gave birth to a second child, the elderly caretaker could no longer provide care or food for the expanding household. To survive, 4-year-old Nella, and her baby brother, Fabrice, needed alternative care.

In 2009, the two children moved into a new family in the SOS Children’s Village in Cibitoke, Burundi. In this nurturing environment, the children could receive the love and attention every child needs to blossom.
“Nella was in poor health when she came. Her hair was dirty; her cheeks, stomach and legs were swollen; and she was very weak,” says Ruth, her SOS Mother. “I started giving her nutritious food, and before long Nella was showing signs of good health and putting on weight.”

Though the physical transformation was visible, her emotional state did not change. Nella was an unhappy child. Lack of maternal connection since her birth had made her avoid interaction with other people and with the world around her.

“Nella found a few children in the house when she joined my family, but she never engaged them. She stayed quiet, never saying a word to anyone except her baby brother,” says Ruth. “She rarely spoke to me. She was not interested in making friends or even playing with other children. She just wanted to be alone.”

“In kindergarten, Nella would walk out of class in the middle of an activity to play by herself,” says Kathy, the village educator. “She would not respond whenever you spoke to her. And despite therapy and consistent parenting, coupled with great support from the teachers and the adults around her, Nella never improved. She remained this way for three years.”

Nella Crawls Out of Her Shell

When Nella began primary school in 2013, the teachers started giving her individualized lessons using games. Her fear of trusting and relating to others gradually faded away. Nella began to identify what she wanted and who she was. Her academic performance improved, and so did her interpersonal skills. Today, Nella is the top student in her class.

Nella playing with a friend at school.

“French is my favorite subject. I struggle with math because I make a lot of errors when trying to solve a problem,” says Nella. “When I am not studying I enjoy cleaning my room or watching dramas on television with my SOS brothers and sisters. I also like dancing to Kirundi traditional songs on Friday afternoon in the cultural club.”

Nella is now enjoying a happy and stable home life, and in the process she is building new positive childhood memories and dreaming about the future.

“I would like to be a teacher when I grow up. I want to pass the knowledge I have acquired to other children. I hope to have a good life and to become a productive person in society.”