Evelyn’s Baskets of Love and Life is named after our first granddaughter, who was born in Chicago on September 1, 2007. She arrived with a severe cleft lip and palate. Evelyn and her parents were given much support from the midwife, doctors and nurses from the minute she was born. They recommended and located a specialty bottle, made for babies born with cleft lip/palate, so she would immediately be able to get the nourishment she needed to grow and thrive. They not only gave our family hope and encouragement, but also the education we needed to best support Evelyn.
March 27, 2008, Diego was born in Guatemala. He also arrived with a severe cleft lip and palate, but unlike Evelyn’s situation, Diego and his parents were sent home from the hospital with no hope or encouragement. There was no education or advice available in the remote village where Diego was born; no one to show his parents how to feed and take care of him.
Back in Chicago, a doctor on Evelyn’s medical team, originally from Guatemala, discovered that our family had traveled to Guatemala several times for mission work through our church in Winston Salem, NC. He told me that though some babies born in Guatemala with this condition did receive reconstructive surgery, many more die before surgery is possible, or are so severely malnourished that they are not strong enough for the surgery and are turned away. I began to wonder if there were ways to help these babies.
A friend here in Winston Salem knew of a missionary in Guatemala who could possibly help me. I contacted her, and we developed a plan to visit in Guatemala in early April. We would bring 24 baskets, full of items necessary for the care of babies born with cleft lip and palate, and would deliver them to different clinics and hospitals.
We arrived in Guatemala in late March, 2008, and met missionaries in Panajachel, who were going to help us deliver baskets. Estrella, a Guatemalan friend of theirs, told us that a baby had just been born with a cleft lip and palate and was sent home without additional care. After two days of searching, the baby and his family were located. We were able to visit them, and through a translator, told them about Evelyn and showed pictures of her before and after her first surgery. We gave them a filled basket, showing them the specialty bottles and breast pump and explained how to use them. Baby Diego took to the bottle right away! Holding hands, Diego’s mother and I wept together with joy and hope. There were fifteen of us in that tiny room that day – and though our language, country and cultures were different, we shared God’s love together.
We visited ten places in Guatemala during that visit, leaving a total of 24 Evelyn’s Baskets of Love and Life, and continue to hear success stories from grateful families.