In 2016, an image went viral around the world. The heartbreaking photo showed a volunteer giving food and water to a naked, emaciated child, who was abandoned and believed to be a “child witch.” Many have already seen these pictures, which shocked the whole world. But not everyone knows what happened to this little boy 7 years later. Watch the full video to find out.
Even though it’s a criminal offense in Akwa Ibom state, where the little boy was found, to label a child as a witch, the practice still persists in some communities. Belief in witchcraft affects people worldwide. Children accused of being witches are often ostracized and abandoned by their families and communities; they also get murdered in some cases. Without any support, these children are at extreme risk of death from malnutrition. They are also denied access to education, as schools will not admit children suspected of witchcraft.
Religious leaders in Nigeria often accuse young children of witchcraft, so that their parents will pay them for exorcism. Unfortunately, it often happens that the parents either don’t have the money to pay for the service, or they simply don’t want to. And so, they choose to just abandon their child in case they get cast as witches.
The parents of the boy in the photo were no exception. They simply left their son out on the street because he was accused of being a witch. Thus, the emaciated little boy who had no access to food or even water was on the verge of starvation. He had reportedly been living on his own for around 8 months, eating scraps of food from passers-by, and scavenging for food in the garbage. And yet, no one seemed to pay attention to the poor kid. People just walked past him.
And it isn’t hard to guess what would have happened to the little child if the Danish volunteer from the aid organization, named Anja Ringgren, hadn’t noticed the starving abandoned child on one of the dusty roads. Seeing this little boy on the street, the woman immediately stopped the car and carefully gave the child water. After which, she picked him up and took him to the nearest hospital where the boy was prescribed treatment. The boy had to get treatment for gastric parasites and needed blood transfusions to combat red blood cell deficiencies, and it was only a little part of what he needed treatment for.
Soon after the rescue, Anja shared a video of herself giving water to the little boy, to raise awareness about the tragic problem of child witches, and to raise money for his medical needs. The photos and video went viral, and the little boy’s story touched the hearts of millions. The boy’s story inspired people to donate over $1 million to the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Lovén that rescues Nigeria’s so-called “witch children.”
Soon after this, Anja decided to adopt him and named him « Hope », she said : « The day I carried this sweet little boy in my arms for the very first time, I was so sure he would not survive. Every breath he took was a struggle, and I did not want him to die without a name, without dignity, so I named him Hope »
Two months after starting treatment, Hope made a full recovery. Since then, he has undergone an incredible transformation. He has regained his former strength and smile and even plays with other children. Little Hope stayed in the family-type orphanage where Anja stepped in to perform the role of his mother. A year later, the boy had recovered completely and even started school. Judging by this footage, you can see that Hope is now completely healthy and doesn’t look anything like the poor child that was found on the road.
Since 2016, Hope has been living in the orphanage that Anja and her husband opened in Southeastern Nigeria for children who ended up on the street due to superstitions. It’s a good and kind place. They all live as one big family there, and every child is treated like their own, getting lots of love and affection, which is exactly what they need so much.
Looking at this photo where Hope is smiling sweetly, looking into his eyes, it’s hard to even believe that someone could have accused this sweet child of witchcraft, and left him to certain death. Just one year of love and care showed the child a completely different way of life. Now, no one can even recognize this smiling boy as the thin, malnourished, skeleton boy he once was.
It is also worth noting that Anja is married to a Nigerian man named David, and together they run a help center for abandoned babies. Children there get food, shelter, medical treatment, and education. But most importantly, they get a family that loves them and cares for them. Anja and David also have their own child, David Junior, who has been living with the orphan children since birth. Moreover, it so happened that David Jr. And Hope are about the same age. When Hope was brought to the center, David was the first person whom the frightened boy began to communicate with, and now they have become best friends.
In 2022, Hope reunited with his father. In a Facebook post, Anja shared photos of Hope with his father, and the boy looked happy to see him. « When we came back, Hope took my phone and was so excited to show the children the pictures of him and his father.
Exactly like all the other children do when they come back from a home visit « she said. And In September 2023, Lovén revealed that Hope had finally met his mother. According to the aid worker, Hope’s mother, who was a minor at the time, was impregnated by his father—a Village Head almost 50 years old—who had chosen her as a ‘wife.’ And she gave birth to Hope at the age only of 15. Hope’s mother has since stayed with him for a while and developed a close bond with him. It took some time for Hope to forgive her, but in his story, his mother is portrayed as innocent.
Today, Hope has grown so much stronger. He still lives at the orphanage and calls Anja his mother. He also helps other children, and does everything he can to support his foster parents in their important work. With money from Anja’s charitable foundation in Nigeria, a new orphanage is now being built, which is called the Land of Hope. A huge number of people from all over the world made donations to this woman with a big heart. People continue to make contributions as much as they can, and Anja uses this money to save more lives.
As for the reward for her hard work, Anja says that seeing these children smile is the best reward she could ever dream of. Hope’s smile is now a symbol of hope. He is proof that great things can be achieved when people come together in pursuit of the same goals. We mustn’t forget that although Hope’s story had a happy ending, there are still many children living in similar conditions.