Chloe is a tiny little girl who looks as if she might be about two or three years old. In reality though, her true age is probably closer to ten. No one knows for sure but, because Chloe has all her adult teeth, the staff at the orphanage where she lives think she must be far older than she looks.

Chloe was born with multiple disabilities which mean that she can’t sit without support or hold anything in her hands. She can’t speak but she can communicate using sounds and facial expressions. She has a special way of drumming her lips with her fingers to let you know when she is pleased. Chloe’s disabilities may have been aggravated by the abuse and neglect she suffered as a baby. Her father was an alcoholic and staff think he fed her with alcohol. Her limbs are deformed in ways that suggest that she was left lying in the same position for days at a time during the first crucial years of her life.

The orphanage where Chloe lives now is in a remote village in Rwanda. Most of the other children there also have complex special needs but there is only a handful of untrained staff to look after them. Chloe has spent most of her childhood lying on a bed or on a mattress in the yard with no one to comfort her, talk to her, play with her or sing to her. But it doesn’t have to be this way - for Chloe or the hundreds of thousands of other children who are growing up in silence in orphanages across Africa.

Our work in Rwanda and Uganda shows that all children, whatever their needs, can lead fulfilling lives if they have the love and protection of a family.


Giselle was born with multiple disabilities and spent the first five years of her life ignored and neglected in a crowded orphanage in Rwanda. Read more