The Orange Babies NGO was originally conceived by Baba Sylla, who was born and raised in Senegal. In 1998 Sylla went to visit his family in Senegal for a few weeks. During his visit a pregnant woman appealed to his father, Bafode Sylla, for help.
Bafode was a well-known man in the area; he owned a large number of houses and was always willing to help people. The woman told him she had AIDS and asked if it be possible to give birth to her baby in his home and later on, die there as well. After Baba had explained to Bafode what AIDS was, he advised his father to say no, since he was already responsible for 47 people: four wives, 21 children who still lived at home, a number of adopted children and also some needy family members and friends. Furthermore, he was 91 years old. Back in the Netherlands Baba realised he had given his father the wrong advice.
“I had turned a sick, pregnant woman away from a place where she could have received help. I felt so guilty, I had to make amends for what I did.”
On 25 January 1999 he established the foundation together with top make-up artist John Kattenberg, whom he had met earlier in Paris, and Stef Bakker, a creative director. Working in the world of fashion and design, they felt a growing need to do something meaningful for the more vulnerable members of our society and especially for a group of the most vulnerable people on the continent where Sylla was born: HIV infected mothers and children in Africa. Sylla, Kattenberg and Bakker joined forces to raise money for projects offering real help and raise awareness of the global HIV/AIDS problem in their Western surroundings. In order to achieve this they put into action their extensive network of influential people from the world of fashion, music, art and sports.