By Beatriz Tellez
The story of care worker – who rescued dozens of children accused of witchcraft from various Nigerian villages and became an adoptive mother to a little boy after finding him starving in the street – has been shared thousands of times on Facebook.
Anja Ringgren Loven has captured the imagination of the world on what it is to sacrifice everything to help the most vulnerable.
The Danish woman’s interest in Africa and helping others began as a child when her mother would constantly remind her of those in need.
“My mom always told me that if I did not finish my food, I should be thinking of children who did not get any food in Africa,” she told the BBC.
Her first visit to Africa came soon after she watched the documentary Witch Children of Africa.
“I thought I knew everything about African cultures, but witch children? I never heard about it. That documentary, it was in my brain. That children should be scapegoats of this old belief was horrific to me.”
In many African villages, children might be branded as witches following a tragedy, such as a family death or a crop failure.
Children are then abandoned, outcast and in many cases tortured and killed. Rescuing them is made extremely difficult, as villagers are hesitant to help due to fear of being associated or branded as witches too.
“This dream of Africa, it’s now or never I am not getting any younger I decided to quit my job, give up my apartment and sell my possessions,” Anja said.
Soon after Anja arrived in Nigeria she began to go on rescue missions where a team of Nigerian care workers would respond to calls and locate abandoned children.
These missions were not always successful and many times children were impossible to locate or the team would get there too late.
As the only white person in the group Anja would stand out, making the mission even more dangerous. She recalls being told to wait in the car for her own safety several times.
However, despite the hostility and dangers attached to helping ‘witch children’ Anja never gave up. On one particular rescue mission Anja and her team found a malnourished and fragile little boy whom she named Hope, in hope that he would survive the journey to the clinic.
Hope, whom they believe is now three-years-old, is healthy and happy living at an orphanage that Anja and her husband founded two-and-half years ago. This home now hosts 37 children who have been rescued after being accused of witchcraft. These are 37 children that Anja believes would be dead otherwise.
To find out more about Anja’s work and how to help, go to her website