A Child’s Smile of Gratitude

A Child’s Smile of Gratitude

by Sr. Aileen Doggett MMM                                       Ireland                            14.03.2024


I want to tell you about a wonderful experience I had during my time in Nigeria. It happened one morning as my two Nigerian co-workers and I were passing through a village to go to the next one for a meeting with the Chief and his people who were all assembled in their village square. They were waiting for us to come and teach them how to make the sugar/salt/water mixture for the treatment of dehydration caused by diarrhoea which can be very prevalent among young children in the area where we were working. It is a known fact that 5000 children die from dehydration every 15 minutes! This simple sugar/salt/water mixture (called ORT – oral rehydration therapy) prevents dehydration and saves many lives.

As we were moving through the village in our little car, a woman carrying a child in her arms came running out to stop us. As I looked at the child, I was shocked at his condition. He was gasping and so limp in his mother’s arms. Even as we were talking to the mother, the child was violently sick. I prayed, “Lord, don’t let this child die. What should we do.” I put the mother and the child into the back of the car, complete with empty beer bottle, this being the correct measure of water for making ORT, and we drove to the next village.

The people were all sitting around with the Chief. I asked them to pray that God would bless our meeting and in my own heart I prayed that this child would not die. The people might blame me. Then I took the child from the mother and walked among the people asking them what they thought of this child. Most said he is dead or dying. Others said that his eyes had fallen into his head, his skin looks like paper it is so dry. I then asked them “Why?” They replied – because of diarrhoea. I said, “Why is he sick?”. They gave me all the causes and how to prevent it. I said alright this child is weak now because it is losing so much fluid. We have to replace it.

I asked Magdalen, one of my co-workers, to show the people how to make the ORT solution. As soon as she had some made, I took the child again from the mother and tried to spoon feed it. It took it slowly and reluctantly at first. As I whispered another prayer, and then, as soon as I saw the child sipping from the spoon, I poured some into the plastic cup which the people brought and behold, the child began to drink. I cannot tell you how relieved I was! I gave the mother the solution and she carried on feeding the child while we continued with the demonstration. First the adults, and then the children.

The children learned very well and they enjoyed making up the solution and went back to their places singing and clapping. Theis took about 60-90 minutes. During this time, I would take a quick look sideways at my little sick friend to see him drinking plenty now from the cup the mother was giving him. What a wonderful surprise I got when the children were singing and clapping. Then the people all said “Sister, he is alive!”. Then he turned to me with his two big eyes looking straight at me and gave a big smile! The people said, “Sister, do you see how this child is thanking you.” This child’s smile of thanks will always remain with me and is enough to make all my little efforts worthwhile.

The mother came and made some solution herself. She did it perfectly, poured it in to the empty beer bottle and went off trekking back to her village two kms. Away with her child tied to her back, her bottle of ORT and she was dancing and singing.


First published by MMM in 1988