In the shadow of a shuttered mining operation in western Uganda, one thousand newborn babies are going home “in style,” beginning their lives with dignity, thanks to the layette kits their mothers received from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA).

“It is pleasing to know that there are people out there who feel the plight of women; that it has touched their hearts to share God’s blessings with those in need,” said Musoki Hellen, who gave birth to her first child, a son, a week before Christmas at Kilembe Mines Hospital (KMH), where the kits were distributed.

For many new mothers at the hospital, which is located on the premises of Kilembe Mines, Ltd., a copper mine that ceased operations 30 years ago, the kits’ contents—onesies, sleeping outfits, blankets, diapers, and other necessities—are simply out of reach.

“Many impoverished women give birth at KMH, and often the babies leave with clothing that is not appropriate,” said Tanya Weaver, executive director of AFCA . “Sometimes the nurses have to give women old sheets to wrap the baby in to take him or her home.”

The kits, she said, make a big difference. “The mothers can leave the hospital with their babies dressed warmly and well no matter how poor they might be. It doesn’t matter if they live in a shack or under a tree, their babies are warm and wearing new outfits, with no tears or stains, and the women are proud,” she said. “Dignity is huge when you don’t have much else to hold onto.”

AFCA, which provides medical and relief supplies in support of children affected by HIV and AIDS, has partnered with UMCOR’s Relief-Supply Network on similar shipments over the past three years, relying particularly on the Mission Central and, in this case, Sager Brown depots for relief supplies.

The layette kits, like the UMCOR health kits, school kits, birthing kits, bedding kits, sewing kits, and cleaning buckets, are all donated and assembled by volunteers working in their United Methodist congregations and at any of the seven member depots of the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.

“In Uganda, mothers face a lot of challenges,” Musoki Hellen said as she considered the gift she’d received for her newborn. Those challenges, she said, include unemployment, child neglect by the father, and domestic violence, which “make it hard for mothers to meet their needs.”

Weaver added that the incidence of HIV and AIDS in the area is very high compared to the rest of the country. “Many cases are unreported, though, due to stigma and the knowledge that there aren’t many services available for HIV-positive people,” she said.

Hellen and the other new mothers at Kilembe Mines Hospital found their spirits lifted by the gift of the layette kits. “One thousand babies were provided with the beautiful kits and could go home in style,” Weaver said. “And, of course, the outfits will be used for future siblings as these children outgrow them.”

By Linda Unger

*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR.