Oolaboo x Orange Babies

A special meeting took place in a sunny but still chilly Amsterdam, a few years ago. At the head office of Orange Babies we are acquainted with the founder Baba Sylla. A friendly and open man, a man with a mission.

"Many people have heard about Orange Babies but do not know exactly what we are doing," starts Baba.

The foundation celebrated its 15 year anniversary in 2014, now on its way into its 18th year. It all started in 1998 when Baba visited his family in Senegal. The Senegalese left his country at an early age and had no contact with his family for years.
At that time, he lived in a large house with many relatives in the village of Kolda, the then 12-year-old Baba decided to leave his birthplace and went to the north of Senegal, to Saint Louis, to go to study.
"My mother died when I was three years old. I grew up in a house with at least 50 family members, of which 4 women of my father and his 21 children. I could not tolerate the hustle and bustle in the house anymore and decided to leave ", Baba says.
Eight years later, he left his homeland to merge with his sister who lived in Paris. He studied there and had to deal with heavy years, he is telling emotionally.  Eventually, love brought him to the Netherlands years later, where he started working in the world of makeup and fashion.

Baba says: "I went to visit my father, he was 91 years old, and I wanted to see him again after all these years. He still lived in the same house and, in addition to his family members, offered people a roof above the head for those who needed it… Those who needed it could end up with my father. A pregnant woman was knocking at my father’s door in the period I was there. She asked him to be allowed to take birth and to die later, she told them that she had AIDS. I convinced my father to send her away after I had explained to him what AIDS was. Once at home I could not let go of the thought of what I had done. I felt so guilty, I had to make it right. "

On 25 January 1999, together with top make-up artist Johan Kattenberg and interior designer and model Stef Bakker, he founded Orange Babies, a foundation to help the most weakest people on the continent: the HIV-infected mothers and children in Africa. "We actually wanted to organize something one time only at first, but it turned out to be such a success that we didn't want to stop anymore.

I remember that I came across a hospital where all the HIV-infected pregnant women were.  You have to imagine that these women had to be lying in a room, with just by a piece of plastic separated from people with TB. In addition, after childbirth, the bed on which they had to give birth was cleaned by a cotton before the next one came out. The doctor told me that with the right medicines he could inhibit the AIDS virus and prevent contamination for the unborn and the just born babies. When I came back with the medicine, he walked through the hall, pointing out the women who were only able to qualify for the drug. It was heartbreaking to see the reactions of the women who did not get a medicine” Baba told emotionally. "Women who are infected with HIV are often disposed of by their families and must take care of themselves. By giving information to spouses and other family members, we are trying to make the situation for women better. "

Hiv will never disappear, you cannot cure it. It is important to take the medicines well and eat them well. If you do not do this, the drugs will not work.
By swallowing the HIV inhibitors, the infected mother does not transfer it to her child, even through breastfeeding. Orange Babies accompanied mother and child up to an age of 8 months, only then the virus can no longer be transferred ".

Baba says: "The HIV/AIDS problem in Africa is huge, far too big for a small organization like Orange Babies, but we have saved thousands of lives in the recent years and helped hundreds of people, all mothers and babies in our shelters are the living proof. Fortunately, in Africa, public organisations are looking for concrete solutions and they offer help. HIV testing is promoted and information is given. It is fighting against stigma and denial. According to figures from UNAIDS, the number of HIV infections is decreasing continuously, our prevention programs are working and hopefully they will learn from our experiences elsewhere. The current HIV inhibitors are so effective that the number of infections is drastically decreasing, and even would almost stop if everyone would get a treatment. Reason enough to keep hope and above all to continue with which we are now working, provide help to mothers and babies, because they need the help most. "

Orange Babies has two objectives: to reduce the transfer of HIV transmission of HIV-positive pregnant women to their children and to prevent young HIV-negative mothers from becoming infected with HIV: keep the negatives Negative!
In addition, Orange babies provides medical care, nutrition, education and daily support for HIV-infected babies and children affected by HIV.

Dear Baba, Thank you so much for the conversation and your openness! It was an honor  to meet you!

Read more about the projects of Orange Babies and visit their website for more information: www.orangebabies.nl

ellen def4 e1465312685206

About the author: Ellen Wilmink

Communication manager at Oolaboo.

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