It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. On Friday morning, I received word from our team at Mtendere that one of our children, Winnie Kate, passed away from complications of HIV. She was three months old. This is not the update that I hoped to share.
From the time Winnie came in to our lives, just one week after her birth, we prayed that she would defeat the odds and be our miracle baby. Although she was only with us for three months, the footprint that Winnie has left on our hearts is deep. Today, I rest in the knowledge that He has a plan far beyond what I can imagine.
As with every story, Winnie’s began far before she drew her first breath. She was born to an alcoholic mother that did nothing to prevent the transmission of HIV during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. At first glance, it is very easy to invoke criticism; however, as we look closer, the picture that so quickly forms in our minds begins to blur.
Winnie’s mother is 16 years old. She is the daughter of a prostitute. She is the third “wife” of a man twice her age. She is HIV positive. She is an alcoholic. She is a reflection of what 100X is fighting to prevent – a young woman who stares into her future and sees only darkness. A child with no hope.
I do not believe it was a coincidence that Katie was volunteering at Lumbadzi Clinic on the day Winnie was brought in. It was quickly apparent during her wellness checkup that Winnie’s family was not equipped to care for her. Her mother, already in despair, had left her to return to the bar, her father was detached, and the aunt caring for her considered her a burden. When Katie mentioned Mtendere Village, there was no hesitation to allow us to care for her. After confirmation from the social welfare office, Winnie legally joined the Mtendere family.
Winnie was meant to know great love – and she received it at Mtendere Village. Her 147 new brothers and sisters celebrated her arrival, and our team quickly made room to welcome Winnie and create a plan to ensure she receive the best care available.
We were blessed by the medical team who took care of Winnie – Dr. Hans, the German pediatrician who oversaw her care, the team from Baylor that ensured she received her ARV medication and proper nutrition, and Dr. Bruce Smith who did more than I can possibly express here, all deserve recognition. Amayi Eunice became Winnie’s primary caregiver, and was so dedicated to her that she slept on the floor by her bedside each time she was admitted to the hospital. For three months, we had the great privilege of investing in Winnie’s life and we cherish every moment.
Looking at the circumstances surrounding Winnie’s birth, our team is reminded that there is so much that needs to be accomplished and we are pressing forward.
To honor Winnie, we have established the Winnie’s Footprint fund to provide pregnant and nursing women with proper nutrition and education on healthy pregnancy practices, as well as the resources necessary to prevent them from transmitting HIV/AIDS to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This will ensure that children like Winnie are given a fighting chance.
Despite the heartache that the 100X team and I feel in this moment, we are encouraged by the knowledge that He that has begun a good work will complete it. Although short, Winnie’s life was not without purpose—she has stirred our hearts and strengthened our resolve.
With great expectation,
If you would like to donate to Winnie’s Footprint, please visit our giving page and select “Winnie’s Footprint” from the designation menu. Thank you for your kind support in honor of Winnie!