Neema House was started in 2012 when the Fortsons (who are retired & in their 70s) were on vacation in Tanzania & found out that newborn infants were being thrown away in open latrines & gravel pits.
They felt someone should do something & they were someone. Their initial goal was to save babies but later found out they needed to also save young mothers & AIDS widows.
Now Neema House has become Neema Village as they have expanded their mission. The Fortsons take no salary & the only paid employees are Tanzanian employees. It is certainly courageous for retired people in their 70s to take on, not only the financial responsibility of 47 babies, but the actual care of babies, some as small as 1.65kg.
The babies all start out as high risk because of malnutrition & awful circumstances from which they are rescued. The goal of the campaign is to return children to families. If the child is orphaned, then the child is kept until medically stable & returned to extended family member.
1)To rescue abandoned, orphaned, and at-risk babies
2)To reunite children with extended families (aunt, grandmother, etc)
3) To find "forever families" for abandoned & orphaned babies & facilitate adoption.
4) To restore hope and empower women through micro-enterprise and education, business opportunities, and mentoring.
5) To renew dignity to AIDS widows
6) To encourage volunteers to become change agents through volunteering at Neema Village.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
Objectives were achieved by opening Neema House in 2012. Since 2012, 88 babies have been saved. Currently Neema House is caring for 47 babies, although the bed capacity is only 30.
The objectives were also achieved by developing a Return to Family Program where babies are able to return home once they become medically stable. Since many of babies are from remote Masai village, Neema House provides formula (which is $12 a can and too expensive for families since most live on $1 day), clean water, medical care & other needed supplies on a monthly basis.
They also monitor the children to ensure that they are doing well & don't need to return to Neema House or need medical treatment. By setting up an adoption program in partnership with the local social service agency, children are able to be adopted into the community. The other objectives will be accomplished through a Mothering Center & Widows Cottage. The volunteer program is very successful with people from all over the world.
The greatest innovation is changing the mission from just rescuing babies to including care of young mothers & AIDS widows.
9.8 acres has been purchased & a new baby 60 bed home is being built. Widows cottage has been completed & a cottage for unadoptable children (those with disabilities) is being built. A new micro-enterprise project will soon start to empower young mothers & AIDS widows so they can become self sufficient by starting their own businesses.
They are also going to be offering Gardening for Life Workshops so people can learn gardening. A mothering Center is planned so that young mothers can receive the prenatal care that they need and hopefully reduce the maternal & infant mortality rate.
Since opening, Neema House has saved 88 babies. In reality, they have probably saved many more because the number 88 only includes the numbers that have been housed at Neema House.
Neema House also provides formula, clean water, medical treatment, & other needed supplies to at risk infants in remote Masai villages. Because of the nutrition & loving care the babies have received they are not only healthy but happy children. When you look at the faces on the website, you see "chubby cheeks" & beautiful smiles on the faces of the babies.
In 2015, five babies were reunited with family members. Baby Baraka had been with Neema House since his birth, after his mother died.
His father, a teacher, is now able to care for him & he returned home healthy. Six babies were adopted & now have new families. Neema House was able to also save & help 3 young mothers, 2 of which are living at Neema House now with their children. Over 125 volunteers have come from 21 different countries.
The biggest challenge initially was opening a baby rescue center in a foreign country. Renting a facility, furnishing the home, hiring staff, and completing all the necessary paperwork was challenging.
The next challenge was making Neema House known to others so that they could help with not only the financial support but also volunteer support, and help provide a loving homelike environment rather than an institutional environment.
Probably the biggest challenge is not being able to save all the babies. Although Neema House has only lost 3 babies and has been able to save 88 babies, that is 3 babies too many. It is also an emotional challenge to see young fathers leave their babies at Neema House when their wives have died & they are unable to care for the baby by themselves. They sometimes go into the hospital excited about the birth of a new baby & when their wife dies, they have to leave "empty handed".
Many lessons have been learned. Probably the first one is that most Americans and people living in developed countries don't realize how fortunate they are to have running water, electricity, health care, etc.
The second big lesson is that women in developing countries need help in becoming self sufficient. Neema House started off as a baby rescue center but after several months, it was realised that the problem was much bigger than originally thought and that young mothers & AIDS widows also needed help so Neema House became Neema Village.