‘We found a three-month-old baby on the side of the road’

Three weeks after arriving in Texas, two Dubliners made a surprise discovery

Debs Walker with her husband Josh and children Isaiah, Jack, Elysia and Sophie in Houston, Texas.

Debs Walker with her husband Josh and children Isaiah, Jack, Elysia and Sophie in Houston, Texas.

 

Three weeks after moving with their three children from Dublin to Texas in 2005, Debs Walker and her husband Josh found a three-month-old baby on the side of the road near their new home in Houston. The surprise discovery changed their lives.

“He was starving,” Walker says. “We found his mom that night. She couldn’t take care of him, so she asked us to keep him until she got herself together. She had grown up in the state foster care system and didn’t want her son in it.”

The couple signed a legal document to “babysit” the baby until his mother was ready to take him back, and he became part of the family along with Jack (7), Sophie (5) and Elysia (3).  

“Our new neighbours and church community were so generous and helpful in quickly gathering the baby items we needed.”

Over the following weeks, they discovered the boy had been fed once a day for three months, and had Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a lung condition affecting in premature babies. He was severely malnourished and in a lot of pain.

After two months caring for him, the birth mother contacted the couple to ask if they would adopt him.

We miss the people the most. We also miss the atmosphere of pubs and restaurants, and Irish culture in general

“Helping her, him and going through his subsequent adoption threw us into the underworld of Houston’s homeless community,” Walker says.

“We saw the cycles of poverty that families are trapped in and how many of these homeless moms just can’t care for their babies, have no resources to help them, and the children are suffering so much.”

Story of 7more charity

As a result, the couple set up their own Christian charity, 7more, which is now a full-time job for both of them.

The charity focuses on helping families living in low income housing areas, doing community renewal and development, and also working with men and women who are being released from the prison system.

We realised that many of the homeless and low income community we were meeting were in and out of prison, with no resources to help them afterwards.

“In Houston, they are dropped in their prison clothes and shoes in the centre of the city. They carry everything they own in a red potato sack. They are extremely vulnerable to human trafficking and also being preyed upon by gangs and dealers.

“We give them new clothes, a new bag, the use of phones (to call parole or a family member) and a phone number to reach us so we can help them with getting jobs and follow up care. They are dropped every day, by the bus load.”

As the charity receives no state support, its work is funded by donations from individuals, grants, companies and churches. They have had other Irish people on staff over the years, and have taken interns from all over the world, including Ireland.

Debs Walker (third from left), working with her charity 7More, in Houston, Texas
Debs Walker (third from left), working with her charity 7More, in Houston, Texas

“Funding is always a challenge with any charity, and also having enough volunteers to serve the communities we work in and the ex-offenders. The lack of a social welfare system here is also challenging for those we work with who are living on low income or no income. The government doesn’t provide a children’s allowance and it can be extremely hard for some people to get their foot onto the earning ladder,” Walker explains.

“For us personally, paying for health care for our family here in the States has been a new challenge. To have to pay huge amounts per month just to be able to take our kids to the doctor has been a balancing act.”

The family now live in The Woodlands, a suburb about 40 minutes from downtown Houston.

The schools are great and it is a safe and relaxed place to live,” Walker says. Their son Jack, now 20, has just moved back to Dublin.

As for the future?

“We don’t know yet, until our kids finish school, but hopefully we will be back home in Ireland at some point,” she says.

“We miss the people the most. We also miss the atmosphere of pubs and restaurants, and Irish culture in general.”

For more about 7more, see 7more.net

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