Leo Forrest was born on January 21st with Down Syndrome in Armenia to an Armenian mother, Ruzan Badalyan, and a New Zealander,Samuel Forrest. When Samuel brought the baby into the mother’s room she refused to even look at or touch the newborn. She didn’t want anything to do with him. In Armenian society defects are not accepted and can “bring shame” on the family involved.
“I got the ultimatum right then,” Leo says, “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”
She divorced him 10 days later. Low on money and resources and without a home he desperately wanted to get young Leo out of Armenia and back to New Zealand where he’d be accepted and have a better quality of life.
In desperation he turned to crowdfunding site GoFundMe and the support starting pouring in. Within a week he’d surpassed his goal of $60,000. As of this morning he’d raised $185,183! If you go to the GoFundMe page for a minute you can actually see the love and support and kindness adding up.
Samuel posted this update on the page last night:
Thanks everyone – we are stunned beyond words at the incredible support & love you’ve shown for little Leo.
9 days after we started our campaign, Leo and I found out in the wee hours of morning that we had crossed our target! He is a lucky guy to have the support of thousands of friends like you around the world.
Some of the additional funds that we have raised will be used to secure better living conditions in Auckland, and to give Leo higher quality opportunities when it comes to education – a good home and school cost money, but Leo will have all that and more, thanks to you.
We will use some of the money you’ve given to fund facilities and programs here in Armenia that will support future parents to keep their kids despite all disabilities, and to help better care for the special ones who end up away from their Mom & Dad. We’d also like to share the surplus funds with the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down Syndrome babies as well as other organisations that can help these children – thanks to your support we can start to make a difference already
Thanks again for your care and generosity!
You can read more about Armenia and abandoned newborns in this Unicef Report.