TODAY |

Kiwi dad rescues down syndrome baby abandoned by Armenian mum


A down syndrome baby abandoned by his mother in Armenia is being rushed back to New Zealand by his Kiwi dad.

Baby Leo.

Leo Forrest was born on January 21 this year with down syndrome. His father was given an ultimatum by his mother - send him away or get a divorce.

In Armenia, which borders Iran and Turkey in eastern Europe, it is common for families to abandon children born with physical or intellectual disabilities.

Leo's Kiwi-born father, Samuel Forrest, is reportedly no longer welcome in his family home because he wants to keep his child.

"The mother refused to even look at or touch Leo for fear of getting attached in a society where defects are not accepted and often bring shame on the family involved", according to a GoFundMe page set up for Mr Forrest.

The fundraiser, to help the pair get back to New Zealand, has received astonishing support since Mr Forrest's story was picked up by news organisations across the world. In just two hours the tally jumped from $10,000 to $80,000.

It now sits at more than $160,000 and at one point was increasing by around $1000 every minute.

"This really came out of the blue for me," Mr Forrest told USABC. "I don't have a lot, I have very little in fact. The goal is to raise enough for a year so I can get a part-time job so Leo doesn't have to be in daycare and I can help care for him. He's lost a lot in two weeks. It'd be different if he had his mommy."

The Government has fast tracked citizenship and a passport for Leo, according to Mr Forrest's Facebook page.