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Sharing Warmth A World Away

In a small hospital in Uganda a mother wraps her newborn baby boy in a blanket for the long journey home. The blanket is a special gift from someone on the other side of the world.

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In a small hospital in Uganda a mother wraps her newborn baby boy in a blanket for the long journey home. A creature comfort to most of us, the blanket is a luxury beyond the new mother’s imagining. It is a special gift from someone on the other side of the world named Valerie Hammel.

“It broke my heart to hear about these babies going home with absolutely nothing,” says Valerie, who learned of the situation from a (now retired) coworker who made annual trips to the country to provide care for critically ill newborns. “I couldn’t accept that.” Valerie works in the pediatric clinic at Kaiser Permanente’s Upland Medical Offices.

In this impoverished region of Africa, newborns often share beds and even equipment, and leave the hospital unswaddled and exposed. Valerie saw that the simple act of providing a blanket to these infants would do such good.

Inspired, she turned her home into a makeshift blanket factory, spending her weekends handsewing baby blankets until she has enough to send to the hospital in Uganda. She usually ships a large batch once a year, enough so that each newborn child goes home with at least this tiny bit of warmth. It will be their first – and perhaps only – blanket.

Valerie often receives thank you notes from the hospital, along with photos of the newborns, cozy inside their new blankets. “They’re so adorable!” she says with a grin.

“Valerie is a tireless worker for children’s healthcare, and this extends to the far reaches of Africa,” says co-worker Chris Malcor, RN. “These blankets are truly made with a lot of love.”