Of the 3 million babies the world loses every year in their first month of life, 99 percent are in the developing world, meaning this is simply an issue of poverty and lack of resources. The weeks following birth are an incredibly vulnerable time, but astoundingly 2 million newborns could be saved with a few low-cost measures.
When we think of what a child needs, we think of food, water, shelter and of course, love. Access to education, health care, safety and freedom are also crucial. However, after meeting countless children around the world when I travel, I've come to realize there is one thing a child needs the most: hope.
I've been the small boy feeling he must face the world on his own, and the teenager in a war-torn country fearing for his life and the lives of his family members. For as long as these situations persist in the world, I speak from experience and believe there will always be love and families that can help these children overcome trauma and reach their full potential.
I don't know if I saved that child from anything. I don't know if he carried my support with him as he grew or if my words slowly faded away with time and age. I don't know if my whispers were audible enough to carry him through whatever obstacles he might have faced once he left residential treatment. But I do know that he taught me a very valuable lesson: Meet the children where they are and always love them anyway.
I meandered through room after room with children in cribs or lying on mats and saw a kind of a holocaust. The children in that orphanage, as in most institutions, were "ruined" by the lack of attention and malnutrition. Caretakers were not trained to be connected to the children. In fact, they were told not to love the children because there would be nothing to be gained.