'Angel Worker' Who Rescued Starving 'Witch Boy' Abandoned by Family Discusses Toddler's Miraculous Recovery

Oct 31, 2016 12:18 PM EDT

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40

The Danish aid worker who saved a starving Nigerian boy from certain death after his family disowned him for being a witch has opened up about the little boy's miraculous recovery.

As earlier reported, Anja Loven, founder of African Children's Aid Education and Development Foundation, first saw the toddler walking, naked and alone, through the dusty streets of Uyo in south-east Nigeria ten months ago.

Believing he was a witch, the child's parents had abandoned him eight months prior, leaving him weak, malnourished, and riddled with worms. Moved with compassion, Anja, who has a young son with her husband, David, took the child under her wing and gave him a powerful name: Hope.

"I was so sick to my bones to see a two-year-old boy in such a horrible condition," Anja told the Daily Mail. "When we first entered the village I looked over my shoulders and slowly turned around to see Hope sitting on the side of the road. I thought I was going to see a bigger boy but when I saw he was the size of a little baby, my whole body froze."

She added, "I became a mother myself 20 months ago and I was thinking of my own son when I saw Hope."

The child was taken to hospital the same day, where he was given medication to get rid of the worms in his stomach and daily blood transfusions to raise the number of red blood cells in his body.

"He got the best treatment we could give him, and everyday my team and I was hoping that he would survive... Very quickly we discovered that Hope was a very strong boy. A little fighter," she recalled. "A few days after we rescued him, my husband David and I brought our son along to the hospital. This was the first time we saw a smile on Hope's face."

Today, Hope lives at a home run by the Lovens dedicated to helping "witch children" and is healthy and thriving - and like any little boy, loves playing football. Anja frequently posts photos of Hope on her Facebook page, and a ten-month-old snapshot of her giving water to the then-emaciated little boy remains one of the most shared images of all time.

"Hope is like a son to me," Anja said. "Like the rest of our children I love him more than words can describe."

(Photo : Facebook/ Anja Loven)
Hope has been living at the children's foundation since his rescue

It is not yet clear what made the parents of the boy believe that he was a witch. However, Anja noted that this is a common occurrence in Nigeria and other African countries.

"Once a child has been accused of being a witch, there is no turning back," she said. "Villagers will call for the child to be exorcised nightly by a local priest to rid him his evil spirits. Or the parents will bring the child to a witch doctor, who also has 'magical powers' to exorcise the witch."

Hope's story has touched hearts around the world, and Anja revealed that her organization received $1 million in donations over the past few months.

"My team and I are so overwhelmed by all the love we are receiving from all over the world,' Anja said. "This is something we have never dared to dream about. We have been fighting this superstition for many years and finally the whole world is looking at the important work we are doing.'