Tribal girl like a daughter to founder, Judy Cook

Yindee’s story
“I love all the children at Hope Home but you do develop a special bond with some children that’s more like a mother love than general caring.”


When Yindee was two and three quarters, Judy was asked to take her from the Yellow leaf village where she was born, to somewhere she would be properly cared for.

It is tradition in tribes for the grandmother to look after the mother’s eldest child once another is born. “As soon as Yindee’s brother came along, she had been in the care of her grandmother. But both her mother and grandmother always carried her everywhere.”

An American couple, Gene and Mary Long, who were helping the tribe contacted Judy and made arrangements for Yindee to move to Hope Home.

Judy recalls agreeing to take the child in: “She had cerebral palsy, was always getting sick, always ended up in hospital with chest infections.

She was malnourished, never really growing and they wanted to find somewhere that would look after her.”  When she arrived at Hope Home she weighed less than a 5kg bag of rice. At the time, Hope Home already had a child with a similar name, and so Judy gave her a nickname after seeing her jubilant smile.

Yindee is not up for adoption but she will stay at Hope Home until she is strong enough to return. Judy gave Yindee her nickname because “she has always been a happy, giggly little girl.” Since living at Hope Home four years ago, Yindee has almost tripled in length and now weighs 12kg.

“Before, she was never even in her village, just in a hospital bed all the time.”  Now she averages just two hospital visits a year and is a much healthier  six year old.

When she first took Yindee to the physiotherapists, they told Judy she would not be able to develop much. “She really isn’t that strong, they kept telling me. So we go at Yindee’s pace.”

“We go up to her village, all of us, all of Hope Home and Yindee spends that time with her mum.” When she was first taken back, Yindee wasn’t quite as happy to see her family as they were to see her.  “She would scream, very loud screaming-you could hear it coming up the hill.”

Gradually, she began to recognise her mother again and now she sits and is fed by her. “Now, Yindee will get jealous if her little brothers try and take the attention away from her.”

Photograph taken by Gene Long, Joy being fed by her mother on a visit to the Yellow Leaf tribe
Photograph taken by Gene Long, Yindee being fed by her mum on a visit to the Yellow Leaf tribe

When Hope Home visit, they sleep in Gene and Mary’s house at the top of the hill, and the tribe live at the bottom.

Photograph taken by Gene Long, Hope Home's visit to Yellow Leaf tribe
Photograph taken by Gene Long, Hope Home’s visit to Yellow Leaf tribe

Judy explains how 30 members of the tribe come to Hope Home twice a year to see Yindee. There, the tribe are deloused, fed nutritious food, cleaned and given fresh new clothes to wear.

“They all just enjoy being in the city.”

Judy describes her relationship with Yindee as being similar to her relationship with Sasikan. It was about a month after Sasikan was adopted that Joy arrived at Hope Home.

“She wasn’t ever a follow on from Sasikan, that wasn’t why we did it, but it’s a similar sort of motherly feeling really.”

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