A Thousand Oaks host family this week welcomed Ugandan orphan Adolf Baguma, 11, who was burned by his aunt at the age of 7 as punishment for trying to grab some food. Famed Dr. Peter Grossman will perform multiple surgeries so that Adolf -- forced by his burns to crawl on all fours for years -- can stand tall.
Adolf, a happy child, arrived by British Airlines on Monday, the final leg of his saga. Echo Park business litigator and human rights activist Laine Waggenseller stumbled onto his plight in 2011. Carol Horvitz, executive director of Children's Burn Foundation, says "Laine went with friends to an orphanage in Uganda, and heard about Adolf. We got hold of the orphanage, got a lot of paperwork done -- a lot -- to get Adolf here."
Adolf will live with Laine Waggenseller's brother and sister-in-law. His current guardian, who traveled with him to L.A. and speaks English, will help the small boy communicate with his host family -- and, no doubt, to adapt to the staggering differences between his dusty Ugandan village and leafy Thousand Oaks.
According to the Children's Burn Foundation, Adolf's aunt threw flaming banana leaves -- which she used for fueling her cooking fires -- on the back of both of Adolf's legs. The boy's horribly damaged skin wasn't treated, causing the normally flexible area behind his knees to become fused.
His legs were gradually forced into a 90-degree angle. Adolf has been in a squatting position ever since, crawling on his hands and knees to get around. But he has remained a cheerful little boy.
Tanya Sorkin, a spokeswoman at the Children's Burn Foundation, says Adolf will undergo "multiple surgeries and physical therapy" provided by the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.
Attorney Waggenseller has been in the news in Los Angeles before, in a profile by The Eastsider LA blog site about the philanthropic Waggenseller's position as a rare Republican living in heavily Democratic Echo Park.
Waggenseller has made several trips abroad, including to Uganda and China, to help orphanages and impoverished children.
The Children's Burn Foundation aids about 250 children each year in Southern California to recover from terrible burns, including local children and children from as far away as Pakistan. "We provide help with their surgery, support groups, camps -- and anything we can do to help children recover psychologically and physically," Horvitz says.