Setting the Record Straight

Over the last five years, Neema Village has cared for over 130 babies!! Currently there are 45 babies in the house. Below is a picture of our little crawlers having their morning bottle.

Astoundingly ninety one, 91, of our babies have been adopted, returned home or were cared for in their own homes through our outreach program. We think that is impressive! Think of it another way, we have been able to put 70% of our babies back into a family!!

There are a lot of orphanages in Africa and we are not one of them. You don’t have to tell me that orphanages are not the best way to care for children! I was raised in one. Neema Village is not an orphanage, we are a Faith based, Christ Centered rescue center! Our goal has never been to keep these babies.

Below are pictures of new babies at Neema. We need your help to care for these babies until we can safely get them back in their homes.

Baraka, pictured above, was born on 27th of May, His mother went to another region about a 10 hour drive from Arusha in Tanga to look for land so she could farm and make a living. While there she got pregnant and gave birth to Baraka. Unfortunately she got sick shortly after and passed away. Her family didn’t know anything about what happened, so the neighbors in Tanga took care of the baby. They searched for the family and found the brother of Baraka’s mom. When the uncle found out that his sister died and had a child, he decided to take the baby with him back to Arusha. He has a big family to take care of, two wives and six children. Some are the same age as Baraka. So, he feels he cannot take care of Baraka at this time. The uncle went to social welfare for help and they referred him to Neema Village.

Abbas was born on the fourth of September. He came to Neema weighing around 4lbs. His mother had a rough delivery and lost a lot of blood during his delivery. She was sent home but was not well. She went back to the hospital about a week later for a blood transfusion. Unfortunately her heart was failing and she passed away in the hospital. Neema was called by social welfare and we picked Abbas up at the hospital and brought him to Neema.

Joan was born on the 21st of May. She was abandoned by her mother who ran off with Joan’s two year old sibling. The father has filed a police report, and is having the police try to locate his wife and child. For now Joan is at Neema and is a very happy, healthy baby. The father is a good dad and comes to visit. We like that.

Update News!! Joan has been able to return home. Her grandmother from Moshi will be able to keep her. We loved her while we had her but are so glad she is back home with her family.

Majaliwa, above, came to Neema on September 10, 2017. He was one week old. He is very healthy, over seven lbs. (3.5 kg). His mother died during his birth.  He is the fifth sibling in his family. We hope to reunite him with his family when possible.

A baby who loses his mother in Africa has only a one in 10 chance of survival. When there is no electricity in the home, no clean water, no refrigeration, very little medical care and formula costs $16 per can many of these little motherless ones out in the villages will not make it without help. We stopped for lunch on a trip last week and these little guys came to watch. Yes, we fed them their first peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We gave them some clothes we had in the car.

It can be a rough life in Africa for children and babies. It is our privilege to stand in the gap for these little ones.

But we cannot do it alone! We need your help to do this God Given work. We have made it so that almost anyone can sponsor a baby at Neema, it starts at $30 per month.

Of course that does not keep a baby at Neema. It costs us over $300 per month to keep a baby. That pays our Tanzanian nannies and workers salaries, food, formula, utilities, petrol, medical bills. It does not pay for buildings, land purchase nor director’s salaries.

We are a registered non profit both in the U.S. and Tanzania and in good standing with our auditors. We were voted the number one child care facility in this area last year.

As much as we love our babies we do not want to keep them. We want to get them back into a stable home and we work closely with Social Welfare to do that. They are precious, innocent children of God. Please choose one to sponsor, you will be happy you did!

Be Blessed!

Dorris and Michael

Weary In Well Doing

The one room house is barely big enough for the bed where she sleeps with her two children. It’s better than many houses in Africa, at least it’s cement, not mud. She rents the room for seven dollars per month. There is no kitchen and no bathroom, just the small bedroom with only enough room to walk around the bed. But it is neat and clean and she has an infectious smile.

Mama Noela lives alone there with her two children, Noela and the new baby who is three weeks old. They call mothers by their children’s names here. Mama Noela’s name is Felister. She has been carrying this seven year old girl on her back for seven long, weary years. She loves the child and would have continued to carry her but she became pregnant again.

We met her at a local church where she had the seven year old on her back and was eight months pregnant. She was totally exhausted from carrying this big girl. Her minister asked if we could help. I told him God’s people are good, surely we can find help.

So we found a home for handicap children and drove to Moshi with the child’s bag packed, but they wouldn’t take her. They told the mother if she loved her child she would continue to care for her and then told her they would find the husband and make him pay. They didn’t and she does love her child. She is just so weary.

That kind of government help makes me weary. So we have hired a house girl to help her with the children.

We are giving her $30 per month to pay the house girl. Now with our new MAP “Mother’s Against Poverty” program we can work to set up a more permanent solution for Mama Noela. I suggested making jewelry to sell which she could make in her room. Later she showed us her chickens in the chicken coop and asked if we wanted to buy some eggs from her neighbor. Below is her chicken coop made from old mosquito nets.

We realized she was more into chickens than jewelry. Through our MAP program we can help her get started in an egg business. But first we will need to build her a bigger, better chicken coop! Below is where she cooks for her family when she has wood. Other times she cooks on the porch with charcoal. The chicken coop is behind the kitchen.

Since this is our second egg/chicken business we know how much it will cost to build a wooden/cement block chicken house and buy 40 chickens. About $400.

If you would like to help individuals such as Mama Noela with starting a business please consider contributing to our MAP program.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9

Bless you!

Dorris

Down to Three

After a busy summer of volunteers we are down to just three who are living in the Pape volunteer house.

Silka from Belgium, Emily from Colorado and Sumera from Chicago are pictured above.

It is a big job to love so many babies, so say a prayer for these three hard working girls!

If you are new to the blog we are a baby home and we only take in babies who are two years and under so it takes a lot of volunteers. The babies are all either abandoned, orphaned or at risk. At risk means they have lost their mother or they have some physical condition that would lessen their chance of survival out in remote villages.

Volunteers Silka and Emily got to go to the hospital last week to pick up a new baby. They had to take clothes to dress him, the hospital does not have clothes or blankets to give out. If we don’t take clothes we bring home a naked baby!!

This little one had just lost his mother. Babies under five who lose their mothers have only a one in ten chance of survival in rural Africa. This is due mainly to lack of electricity, clean water and adequate medical care. We have cared for over 130 babies like this in the last five years.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Volunteers are a great help. We have had 87 volunteers since May of this year!!

They hold babies, change diapers, teach class, sing songs, read stories, help bathe, wash dishes, peel potatoes, organize storerooms, mow grass, teach women’s classes, and did I say hold babies.

They may build things like play grounds, put in flower beds, dig post holes and lay some bricks on occasion.

They come from all over the world like Belgium, Australia, Italy, England, Norway, America and many other countries.

But they all have one thing in common, they want to help these little ones who have lost the most important thing to a baby, their mothers.

Like our newest baby, Abasi, pictured below.

He weighed a tiny 4 lbs at birth and the hospital called us after his mom died. We will keep him until he is stable and off the bottle, hopefully before age two.

We can only keep these little ones because good people like you chose to sponsor them. We do not take money from the U.S. government, from Tanzania, or from adoptions. Our monthly support comes from people who sponsor a baby at $30 per month or more. And remember no one takes a salary from Neema donations except Tanzanians. 

Our 45 full time Tanzanian staff could not possibly give these little ones all the love and attention they need. That is why we have volunteers. If you came to volunteer this summer, Bless You! I wish I could mention each one of you by name but I would surely leave someone out. Just know that we remember you and miss you! Thank you so much for your hard work this summer.

Love and Blessings,

Dorris and Michael

How Many Aggies does it Take to…

I think I heard my first Aggie joke over 50 years ago. We were living in Southern Tanzania and a visitor said, “How many Aggies does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The answer, “Four, one to hold on to the bulb and three to turn him around.” At the time I remember thinking, what’s an Aggie? If you, like me, are not up on Aggies, they are students at the prestigious Texas A & M university and are called Aggies. It’s a tough school and the students have to be just a cut above to make it so they developed these Aggies jokes to make people think they are really just normal people. We have learned differently.

This summer at Neema I learned a bit more about who Aggies are.

They are educated and talented, especially face painting.

They can be loud when needed.

They will make good professors.

They go bananas quite often.

They major in bubbles and fun.

They are beautiful people!

They are creative.

They are touched easily by poverty.

They are loving.

They are willing to try new ways.

They are patient even with Osiligi.

So How Many Aggies does it take to love 45 little Neemaities? Seven was just the perfect number. Thanks Aggies for Christ at Texas A & M for helping to make 2017 Summer at Neema Village a blast.

Love and miss you!

Dorris

Meet Happy

You never know what might come from something as simple as walking down the road to teach a bible class. Emily Broadbent from Billings, Montana visited Neema in February and she came with the idea of walking down the dirt road in front of Neema and just see if any children were interested in a bible lesson.

Yes, they were, especially since we had bubbles and candy!

We stopped at a lady’s house and the children came from all directions. She was very kind and brought out chairs and benches for us to sit on. We blew bubbles, passed out candy, sang songs and Emily got to teach her class about the birth of Jesus.

We have since gotten to know the sweet lady who shared her yard that day. Her name is Happy Mollel. Below is a picture of Happy in front of her kitchen behind her house.

She is the mother of seven children and tries to make extra money for her family by buying milk and reselling it to make a small profit. Her problem is that quite often her children need the milk so she is not able to sell very much.

With Casey McMullen and Lexi Koon from Abilene Christian University, two business majors spending the summer at Neema, we decided to visit Happy and see if she would be interested in starting a business though our MAP (Mothers Against Poverty) program.  We talked for a while about things she might could do to make extra money for her family and finally realized that she loved to fix hair. She sits outside her house and fixes her neighbors hair but she had never dreamed that she might someday have a chance to have her own business.

And so we talked and listened to Happy talk about her idea and watched as that spark of hope grew in her eyes. We got pretty excited with her.

To begin this entrepreneurial journey with Happy, we decided it would be best if she did an apprenticeship at one of the busy hair salons in downtown Arusha.  We found a successful shop that agreed to take her on as an apprentice and now Happy rides the Dala Dala to the shop downtown on Tuesdays through Saturdays. They are teaching her everything she will need to know to start a business. She is loving it and we are so excited to be a part of this with her.

One of our volunteers from Houston, Lori Thompson had her hair braided by a Neema nanny. Very Pretty Lori!

The total cost for a three months apprenticeship, lunch and transport for Happy to learn the hair business is $261. dollars. When we told Happy we wanted to help her get started in her business she could not stop shaking our hands and thanking us and asking God to bless us. I wish you could see the light of hope as it comes to women like Happy when they realize they might actually have a chance to do something to help their family. We are thrilled to be a part of this incredible dream for Happy.

Wouldn’t it be just the coolest thing for some established beauty salon in the U. S. to partner with an enterprising, hard working woman in Africa in her dream to help her family by fixing hair!  By helping Happy pay for her $261 dollar apprenticeship you can be a part of changing the lives of this family in Africa!! Just put a can at the desk in your shop with Happy’s picture and see how fast your customers will fill it for you!! I think your heart will be filled up too, I know ours is.

You can donate any amount on line at www.neemavillage.org. To make sure it is tax deductible for you please do not put an individual name on the donation. Just put MAP program at Neema Village. Who knows you might come to Africa someday and need a new hair do like Lori!!

And to think it all came from a walk down a dirt road to teach a bible class! God is amazing!

We commissioned an artist at the Maasai market to design an icon for our women’s center. Isn’t this bold and beautiful!! Notice the baby on the back.

Love to all you dream makers out there,

Dorris and Michael

Cows and Airplanes

Fridays are field trip days at Neema for our school children. We have been trying to take the big kids to educational places and so this week we went out to Justin and Anna Maynard’s farm at the preacher training school.

Thanks Anna for the great pictures and such a fun craft and exciting day for the children!

The kids were beyond excited and could not wait to pet the cows and chickens. Getting close enough to actually touch the animals quickly became a different story.

I had to peel Frankie off my neck! When I told him, Now aren’t you a Maasai and all Maasai love cows, right? Maasai believe that all cows belong to them and if you have a cow they want it back! Wars are started in Maasai land over cows But not today for Frankie!

It was good for them to get to see where milk comes from as Justin’s helper showed them how to milk the cow.

Then it was on to the chickens. It took a while but we did finally get some of them to go inside the big chicken house and try to find an egg.

We had brought a picnic lunch of boiled eggs, fried chicken, cold milk and cookies.

After the farm we drove into the Arusha airport hoping to find a place to spread our blankets for lunch and watch the planes come in. We did better than that! The kind man at the airport brought us right into the airport lounge and out onto the runway where the children got to see airplanes taking off, landing and loading passengers.

It was so cool and we could not thank the kind man enough who had helped that fun time happen for our children. I asked Frankie if he wanted to grow up to be a pilot and fly planes and he answered with his two missing front teeth an emphatic, “Yeth!”

“Its What Neema does Best!”

Almost three years ago we received a terrified little girl at Neema who had been found abandoned on the road. She was older than most abandoned babies, although she could not walk or crawl, we estimated her to be about 18 months old and it appeared as if this may have been her second time to be left abandoned.

She was extremely afraid of white people, would cry if we came close and would not talk or smile especially if any wazungu were near. After a trip to the doctor we learned she had in the past had a broken femur and other broken bones, too many to be accidents, the doctor said. 

We were so sad for this little girl. All we could do was love her.

But after a long time Careen began to smile, timid and cautious, but a smile no less.

She was extremely afraid of doing something wrong. When our daughter Kim designed the educational toy basket time the instructions were not to get off your mat. Careen was so afraid of disobeying and too afraid to ask pemission to go to the bathroom that she made a mess on her play mat. Kim loved on her and told her it was okay that she could ask permission to leave the mat. The next night she came timidly to whisper in my ear, “Bibi, I will not mess my mat tonight.”

As we work with these precious abandoned children it breaks our hearts to think of what they have been through. That is one of the reasons our staff knows that to hit one of our children is a firing offense. The babies have been through enough.

Before the move, a couple had looked at Careen to adopt her. Watching the children play in the yard one day they asked me why she didn’t talk like the other children. They then decided they did not want her. But now a new mom for Careen has been found. She is a nurse from Karatu and has been coming to visit so that Careen would know her and not be afraid. This week our beautiful Careen got to go home to her forever family! It’s what Neema does best!

“A Cow for Neema.”

A few weeks ago we were contacted by a Swedish couple living in Iringa about buying Neema a cow for Mother’s day. So last Wednesday they took a 12 hour bus ride from Iringa to help us pick out the cow. Tomas, Mariella and their daughter Tuva had a blast playing with the babies

and driving around Arusha looking for cows.

They settled on this little lady whom Tuva promptly named Rosie.

Tomas and Ramah built a temporary shelter for Rosie and the children have been going out in the evenings to pet the cow.

Yes, even Frankie.

“Our little Nuriath returns Home”

One more bit of good news, our little Nuriath was finally able to return home. She was one of the cutest babes ever brought to Neema. Of course they are all cute but this one was pretty special.

Her father had remarried after the death of Nuri’s mother and Social Welfare thought she was stable enough to return home. Ashley got to see Nuri off.

Since we love for people to know we are not an orphanage and do not intend to keep these babies we are always happy when they can return to a loving family. May God go with you sweet Nuri and Careen!

And you also dear friends of Neema,

Michael and Dorris

Mothers Against Poverty Begins at Neema

One afternoon almost four years ago we received a call from the police that a baby had been left on the side of the road. They asked Michael to come pick up the baby but by the time he got there the neighbors had identified the mother. She was young and living on the street, not a prostitute, just on the street with no way to care for the baby so she had laid him down and walked away. When Michael arrived, she was wailing and crying and the police asked Michael to take the baby away while they took the young mother off to jail. I thought then, she doesn’t belong in jail.

That day the dream was born in my heart to do something significant to help these women of Tanzania. The baby was Shabani, one of our sweetest little guys who is a big boy now but still loves to be held and still sucks his tongue when he is tired or scared.

By God’s immeasurable grace we have helped over 130 babies through our Neema Village program both here at Neema and as outreach to the Maasai villages.

But all along we knew that babies in need were not the problem. Mothers who are poor and desperate are the problem. And once again God would not let us forget Shabani’s mom and the dream of helping these women.

June 2017, MAP Begins at Neema!

This has been an exciting week at Neema as the MAP (Mothers Against Poverty) program got it’s first mom started in a very substantial business venture which will add a daily increase in her income.

Six weeks ago, two students arrived from ACU to begin researching how we could significantly help mothers in Tanzania.

Michael and I had spoken at a Business Finance class at ACU last year and met one young man with a spark of interest in his eyes and after a few weeks we received an email from him saying that he would like to come to Africa to help.

His name was Casey McMullan and in May he came with another student, Lexi Koon, to spend eight weeks at Neema.

program making sure we were within the laws of Tanzania as well as the US donor laws and meeting and talking with the women, helping them plan how to start, what they would need to begin and how to sustain a business.

Below is one of the women they visited, the triplets, Anna, Esther and Deborah’s mom who will start a sewing business.

We have interviewed five women, one who wanted to start a chicken/egg business and one who wanted to start a small business selling jams and jellies. We tasted some watermelon mango jam she made and it was yummy. Another woman wanted to expand a failing small duka (or shop) selling soaps, cooking oil, milk from her cow and other items.

Two of the women want to learn to sew on treadle sewing machines and begin selling skirts and bags made from the beautiful African fabrics of Tanzania. Below are two of our volunteers showing off the lovely skirts made with the colorful Tanzanian fabrics. The necklace is also Tanzanian handmade and take a peek at the cute handmade Maasai shoes!

It is an incredible thing to watch that spark of hope in a woman’s eyes as she sees the very real possibility of helping her family have a better life.

And so, this week through the generous help of a family in Montana, Bertha, known as Mama Alan, was able to begin her chicken/egg business by building a larger chicken coop.

Mama Alan works in the fields making 5,000 shillings a day (around $2.50) and now Casey and Lexi have helped her start a business that will make 3 times that amount every day! She is also one of the women who learned to do nails in the Mani Pedi business taught in the spring. Mama Alan is one of those lion-hearted women of Africa we talk about, an entrepreneurial woman with the drive and potential, to really change things for Africa. She wants desperately to help her family have a better life. I am not sure who is more excited, Mama Alan or Casey and Lexi.

In October, a young woman will be coming for a year to help with the MAP program. She is a financial advisor from Germany and will be bringing 10 laptop computers for the computer room in the Koala Center where the MAP program will be housed. One of our business ideas for women is document preparation and the laptops will be needed for that business. Most business transactions here are done with a hand shake so we think this could grow into a substantial business for enterprising women who want to learn about computers. Below Lexi giving Mama Allan her first grant money for her chicken business.

We are so proud of Casey and Lexi for dedicating their summer to get this program started. To give someone hope like this is beyond exciting. It will not only change Mama Alan’s life I think it has changed Casey and Lexi’s lives as well.

I told them one day as we walked home on the dirt path from Mama Bennie’s home that you will meet many people out in the business world with money, so much money they won’t know what to do with it. You can now say I know how to help you with that.

Who would have known that five years ago because we started taking in these little babies that someday we would start a program that would impact the lives of mothers as well. God is always able to do so much more than we think or even dream isn’t He!

May God’s richest blessings be upon you so that you will always have enough and more for every good work.

If you would like to help women in the MAP program go to our website www.neemavillage.org and click on Neema Mothers. You could be a very real part of changing Africa!

Being poor, or crippled or mentally handicap in America is not the same as being poor in Africa. Take a look at this picture I took yesterday just outside the church building. We woke him up from his sleep on a garbage dump to give him some cookies and clean water.

“Let the beauty of the LORD, our GOD be upon us an establish the work of our hands for us.”
Ps 90:17

Dorris and Michael Fortson

The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done!

They had started out on June 14, pumped, prepared and determined to climb to the highest point in Africa but they were in for a surprise. By day three they realized they were facing the fight of their lives.

“Whoever said this was a walk up was crazy,” one of them said. They had set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain as a fund raiser for Neema Village, our home for abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies.

Led off by Michael Fortson, the founder and Executive Director of Neema, three generations of Fortsons would attempt the climb. Our son Rob, a Neema board member, and grandson Tanner White from Billings, Mt. were among those who started out with high hopes of making it easily to the top. It was supposed to be a walk up right?

“I trained for months, was motivated and yet I barely made it,” Howard Castleberry from Nacogdoches, Texas later said.

Anything this beautiful, moving and meaningful doesn’t come without a cost,” Howard said. It was so strenuous their oxygen level and blood pressure were checked twice every day by the camp doctor.

It did start off easy, a nice walk in the rain forest with the black and white Colobus monkeys which Allyson Dibrel aptly named the tree skunks.

By the end of the second day they were above the clouds and got their first clear view of the goal, the top of Kili. It looked immense.

Different men had prepared devotionals each night and the porters would sing them awake each morning. Summit day was to be a glorious sunrise devotional.

“It was an awesome experience that I was not prepared for even though I have done Trek in Colorado several times, but somehow I pushed through,” Rob said.

At this point clothes still appeared clean, hair shiny in the sunlight and the girls still beautiful like Bailey Rogers in the picture below. After a couple more days trudging up the mountain, that all changed.

As one beyond exhausted climber said, “At this point I skipped dinner preferring to sleep instead.”

Fourteen year old Aiden Martin from Temple, Texas appeared to be the most excited to be above the clouds. Great Picture Jason Martin!

There were five women climbing, they called themselves The “Fierce Women Warriors.” To spend eight days without makeup, shampoo or even a bath for these brave women was a challenge but Julia Gentry, Lindsey Vineyard, Bailey Rogers, Allyson Dibrell and Zoe Rascoe were confident they were ready.

On the morning of day three Lindsey Vineyard looked at the wall of rock before them and said, “You have got to be kidding!”

Few people on the face of the earth have spent 5 nights camping in freezing weather above the clouds. They slept in short two man tents they had to crawl into because the wind was too fierce for a stand up tent. The potty tent was sheer torture on a bare bottom and one man said he could barely stagger exhausted into the dinner tent to eat at night.

On the 7th day, nearing the top, one climber remarked my guide had to pull me up the last few steps. The guides climb this almost every day of the year and with 50 lbs of equipment, water, food, and tents on their heads! “My guide was pushing from behind,” another climber said.

In the middle of the night on the seventh day they were woken to begin the night climb to make the summit by sunrise. A mountain goat must have designed this harrowing climb in the dark. They wore head lamps which made them feel like they were climbing in a tunnel. It was disorientingly scary.

But all but one had made it to the top of the African world. Michael suffering from uncontrollable leg and back aches found after he got home he had a raging tooth infection and had to have a tooth pulled. Thank God he was not any further up the mountain, he knew he would have had to be carried down.

What would make 20 perfectly sane individuals attempt this? If you look closely you will see they are all carrying a polaroid picture of a Neema baby. They had climbed for the babies.

Tanner said, “I’m honored that I got to climb for Shabani.”

I am convinced that Peter as he hung upside down on that cross facing the last great challenge of his life, must have thought, Yeah, but I walked on water! These 20 courageous men and women will forever be able to say in the midst of life’s struggles, Yeah but I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!!

Thank you is never enough.

Love,
The babies of Neema.

Late One Night in Arusha

It was late at night when the neighbor heard the cry. It could have been an animal or an owl but to the old woman it sounded like a baby.  She ran to a neighbor and together they began searching for the sound. When they came to the gravel pit in a nearby construction site they knew it was not an animal. In her own words, she said, “I saw a baby lying face down in the pit and the cord and placenta were still attached. I took a rock and I sliced the cord.” As she knelt down to show us how she cut the cord she exclaimed, “I wrapped my konga around the baby and lifted her up into the sky saying, ‘Thank you God for my new daughter.’”

(Above, picking new baby Dorothy up at the hospital.)

I remember as I watched this story being dramatically performed in the small baby room at the old Neema House, I thought Meryl Streep has nothing on this woman. But knowing she could not keep the baby the woman later turned the little newborn into Social Welfare and Social Welfare called Neema Village to pick up the baby from the hospital. Abandoned and alone in the world, we named the baby Dorothy after my sister and a dear friend in Abilene, Texas.

We picked up 2 other babies from the hospital that day, Dawson a newborn left on the side of the road, and a beautiful little newborn whose mom had died in childbirth and the father named Doris. Jack and Sylvia Pape kept these three little ones in their room for days until they got settled in and we were taking their bottles.

Now at four years old, funny and precocious Dorothy dances to her own music most of the time. Below she is singing “If all the raindrops were Lemon drops and Gum drops” and running around the yard saying, “Aa, Aa, Aa Aaa, Aa Aa Aa Aaaa!” with her mouth open wide to catch the gumdrops.

While the other children cried to go to church with volunteers she would throw a fit if we tried to make her get into the car for church. She may have associated cars with going to the hospital to get a shot but at any rate she was having none it.

We watched this little girl grow and we wondered when someone would choose her. She kept us laughing most of the time when we weren’t trying to catch her and one of the cutest pictures we have of our babies is the one below of this little giggly baby girl.

Finally jut a few weeks ago, her big day came and her forever family with new mom and dad, uncles and cousins came to pick her up and fly her off to Dares Salem. The family had been coming to visit so Dorothy was not afraid plus the family paid for one of our nannies to fly to Dar with her. We like that.

These are always happy days with just a tinge of sadness for us knowing that most likely we will never see this funny, dancing girl again. We are grateful to have had a part in saving this little girl. It is what Neema does.

May God go with you Little Miss Dorothy and protect you and remember that we loved you first.

Be Blessed All,

Dorris and Michael Fortson

A visit to Maria’s Maasai Family

We knew it would be a long day so we left early on Wednesday for a visit to Neema baby Maria’s remote Maasai village.

Maria was born in March in the big government hospital in Arusha two years ago. Unfortunately, her mother died shortly after her birth and her father died a few months after that.   We were in the hospital after the birth where we met the grandmother who had agreed to stay and care for the baby. She was the tiniest baby I had ever seen, about 8 or 10 inches long from tiny toes to head.  Curled up, I thought she was about the size of a hamster. We were not sure her little body would ever grow to meet her big eyes!

There was probably no way this little one would survive. Only about one in ten babies from these remote villages who lose their mothers will survive. Our daughter, Bekah, was taking formula to the hospital and checking on the baby. When we returned to Neema on our next trip to Africa we found after three months in the hospital not only had the tiny baby survived she had been transferred to Neema.

Wednesday we went out to meet Maria’s family. We traveled through some of the most beautiful African countryside we had ever seen. With all the rains this year the white moon flowers had covered the plains like snow and the zebra, wildebeest and impala grazed alongside the cows in the fields.

Some of the volunteers just had to get out of the car and take pictures of the flowers.

After three fairly tortuous hours of pot holes and rocks we left the main dirt road and drove over footpaths to the entrance of the village.

There were twelve of us on the trip with six volunteers, Hayley, Abby, Lexi, Alex, Morgan and Bailey.  Our volunteers work hard while at Neema, we expect 30 hours a week of work from them, so we are happy to give them a day off to see the beauty of Africa.

As we drove into the village I immediately thought how very clean and swept every yard was. Red ocher mud walls and neatly thatched grass roofed houses scattered around the village and lots of newborn goats scampering here and there, all added to the charm of the village.

The women and children poured out of the houses and greeted us in their colorful reds and yellow wraps. They each wanted to hold and kiss Maria.

Surrounded by chattering and giggling women with children and baby goats under feet we were escorted to the brush fenced arbor where the village elders awaited our arrival.

It was quite a ceremony.  Maria had been the last baby of the eighth wife of one of the leaders of the village so she has a big family and each one of them wanted to tell Bekah how grateful they were for her love and care for Maria over the last two years.

After the greeting speeches and the welcomes they presented Bekah with a beautiful hand made purple dress and jewelry and then had her stand in the middle of the group while they dressed her up in all the finery.

Amid lots of clapping and ohhs and ahhs they then presented each one of our group gifts of jewelry and a beautiful beaded belt for Michael.

They served us goat, chicken, rice and liver, some of which was quite delicious. We gave out candy and whistles to the children and 50 lbs of rice, beans, ugali meal, and a bag of tea and sugar.

Finally Maria who had had enough of all the hugs was ready to leave. We loaded everyone back into the cars and waved goodbye as we headed out of the village. It had been quite a day.

They have asked Bekah to raise Maria but it remains to be seen what the future holds for this precocious, funny, prissy little baby girl who sang almost the whole way home entertaining us with her antics. Click on the link below to see a cute video of Maria’s performance in the car on the way home. It will make your day!

https://www.facebook.com/dorris.fortson/videos/1669724166375503/

We believe God has good plans for each of our Neema babies and pray that you will continue to follow the exciting tales of Neema Village in Tanzania.

Michael and Dorris, Founders and Executive Directors of Neema.

Dedicated to Neema

You may not know but Michael and I have four children and sometimes you just have to tell someone how proud you are of your kids, don’t you?  Rob, our oldest son was a youth minister for 19 years and now owns his own business in Waco. Rob was born in Tanzania and when we went back to Africa in 2008 for a visit he put the dream in our hearts to start Neema Village. After hearing the stories of orphans in Africa, he said, “Mom you have to do something, when you retire you and dad can help.” He never let me forget so after a lot of research, we opened Neema in 2012. Rob is on the Neema board and handles the banking and wiring money for Neema when Sarah is gone. He is fun loving, hard working, a good dad with a beautiful voice and a bit of a cut up as you can see from the picture below.

Rob’s wife Becky, above, who works at Baylor University, is the smartest person I know in actuary and math and lots of other good things as well. She is solid in her faith, dedicated to her family and keeps Rob pretty steady. Becky is on the finance committee for the Neema Board.

Our daughter Bekah lives at Neema right there in the baby home, 24/7. She is an EMT and handles the medical emergencies and daily meds for the babies. She is pictured below with Carolyn Sue, one of our abandoned babies who has since been adopted. Sue had chicken pox as did about thirty of the other babies at the same time! Not our favorite week at Neema!

The nannies ring a bell located at the bottom of the stairs when a baby is sick. Bekah has committed her life to these babies, going downstairs from her bedroom at any hour of the night and at 7am in the mornings to check on what happened during the night, who vomited, who had fever, etc. She does the medical charts, takes babies to their hospital appointments, and picks up the abandoned babies from the hospital. She works closely with our pediatrician in Arusha and is in almost daily contact with him. As a board representative living at the baby home Bekah is our liaison between the board and the staff. She was born at the Chimala Mission hospital in Southern Tanzania.

Bekah at church with Maria is pictured above.

In case you didn’t know the Neema Board is made up of 14 highly respected people; a Scott and White medical doctor, a CPA, an attorney, 3 ordained ministers, a PHD, a nurse, an insurance agent and an engineer. There are four board members with doctorate degrees. They are hard working, Christ centered and dedicated to the vision of Neema Village. We cannot thank them enough for their hard work.

Our youngest son, Matt and his wife promote Neema every where they go, telling folks wherever they are about the babies. They are our prayer warriors and best supporters of Neema. Prayer is the best thing you can do for us!

Three of our grandchildren will be spending time this summer at Neema. Abby and Hayley Fortson and Tanner White from Montana.

Finally, Kim White, our daughter from Montana, is on the Neema Board and our educational board. Pictured below, Kim has been to Neema three times. She leads large groups of volunteers, organizing their trip, their travels, the work schedules, the projects, the safaris, etc.

We are so proud of the work she does, not only leading groups to Neema but as the person who keeps you informed about your sponsored baby. We added her to the board so she could have access to the donor list of emails. We don’t give that list out to anyone but board members. When you receive a quarterly update about your baby, Kim is the one who sends that to you. It is a huge job since we have now cared for over 130 babies!!

When Kim comes to Neema she doesn’t just come to hold babies. She brings lots of volunteers from Montana to get the Neema experience and hopefully become sponsors after they return home. Her group this year from Montana brought 24 suitcases of things for the babies and children!

 Her group taught a bible class in the village, bubbles included

they taught seven women how to do a mani pedi business, a women’s small business project where seven African women got to have their feet pampered by Montana women, only one of whom actually knew what she was doing! Thanks Debbie Chai in the picture below you were awesome!

One of Kim’s group brought everything to set up women in a massage business as part of the women’s program.

They bought and developed the play baskets program to teach the children about educational toys, (pictured below)

they built and painted a tire dinosaur project for the children to climb.

They set up reading book baskets in each of the big kids bedrooms, they cleaned out storage rooms and worked in the office. Cynthia, who runs a large homeschool coop in Billings worked in the office on her trip. She got to take a safari out to one of the Maasai villages on a break from the office. Cindy is the one in the yellow top.

 Kim’s group picked up two abandoned babies from the hospital during their stay at Neema. That is Rachel our granddaughter, Kim our daughter and Emily from Montana pictured below with abandoned baby Bethany.

Kim’s group planned and took the big kids on Friday field trips to the snake farm and different playgrounds in Arusha. They planned and paid for the children to ride camels, well those that would actually stay on the camels! That is Louise trying to keep Bakari on the camel.

They visited the poorer areas of Arusha and passed out soccer balls and candy, they taught bible lessons to the nannies and taught life skills to the children about how to cook and clean up and share your toys.

They did all this while, loving, holding, feeding and hauling around in the wagon the beautiful babies of Neema.

Are you tired now? I’m a little breathless myself!

They were busy every day. We love telling our volunteers you will get out of this experience just exactly what you put into it. Our daughter Kim certainly knows how to put in a lot of love!  Below is part of the Montana women with Ashley Berlin from Casper, Wyoming. They were on their way to church with the big kids, all of whom we have had at Neema since they were little babies.

 From its earliest beginnings our four children and their spouses have been totally vested in Neema Village.

Thanks for staying with me to the end of this long epistle. I will leave you with a blessing and a challenge.

May your heart be filled with a passion to change someone else’s life so they can change their world and,

May your life be a Praise to God whatever you do.

Dorris and Michael, Founders and Executive Directors of Neema Village

Abbie and Ceb at Neema Village

We have a lot of volunteers at Neema. In fact we have 83 on our list coming in the next few months!  Ourvolunteers stay in the Pape house on campus and hold babies. They work hard loving the babies, teaching the big kids, helping Safina in the kitchen, working in the yard, organizing the store room, helping in the school and anything else they can do. Then they get time off to go to the game parks, or the Moshi tour and swimming at hot springs. Generally they have a blast. Abbie and Cebastien from Australia came this year and wrote their impressions of Neema Village. I thought I would share their words with you.

Volunteer Cebastien Isherwood from Australia

Volunteered Jan. 12 – 27, 2017

Ceb with Patricia above, writes:

“Neema Village truly is indescribable, it must be observed by the naked eye in order to gain a complete understanding of what occurs here. There are numerous reasons why this place is breath taking. At first the babies here at Neema stood out as the most amazing, however, as I settled in and became more familiar with the routine.

I realized that the workers, the directors, the sponsors, the medical specialist, the facilities, the surrounding villages and the people of Tanzania are all equally amazing. Without them Neema (Grace) would not exist. With that being said, I must admit the most instrumental person, sustaining an efficacious effect on Neema, is Dorris. Her life experience has helped shape this home into a little slice of heaven for these little miracles. Thank you for accommodating me, you have changed my life. Love, Ceb.”

Ceb and Abbie are on the back row of the volunteer group below with Julius on the right.

Dr. Abbie Jones-Stacpoole from Australia

Volunteered Jan 12 – 27, 2017

Abbie, with Mo, Little Zawadi and Patricia, writes:

“No words can describe the first time I drove through the gates of Neema Village drained of energy from the long flight. I saw cheerful babies staring through the windows and smiling nannies greeting us with open arms. I fell in love the first time I met the Neema babies. The children of Neema are raised by their nannies to love and accept everyone, they are full of happiness and laughter with their smiles being infectious to all those they meet.

“I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the employees of Neema during our stay. I have never met such hardworking, compassionate people that put all others before themselves. A special mention to Safina our volunteer house cook, she spent her days preparing beautiful meals for us five days a week. Her presence in the volunteer house brought so much laughter and joy. Thank You Safina! I love you and will miss you dearly.

Thank You to Julius and Emmanuel for driving us around town, dedicating your time to wait for us while we bartered at the Maasai market and overall being such great company.”

Emmanuel with Babu Michael in the picture below. Julius is in the picture at the top with the volunteers.

“The beautiful nannies, each and every single one of you are so special, it is evident in the love you share with the children. Thank you for allowing us to spend hours playing with the children and taking millions of photos. I will miss your beautiful singing.”

“To Dorris, Michael and Bekah! You have dedicated your lives to the babies of Neema. This village and home of miracles you have created is just so special, the children absolutely adore you and I can see why. You are so full of love and kindness while giving these children the opportunity to live a safe life. You have provided them with healthy meals, schooling, love and friendship and so much more! The three of you will forever be an inspiration to me.”

Traci and Janiece from Abilene with Dorris and Bekah and Linda coming around in the back ground in the picture above.

“Every member of Neema makes such a difference to this world in their own way. The opportunities we were given while at Neema like collecting an eight-day old baby from the hospital one day and returning one of the children back to his Maasai village and his home over three hours away! It was amazing and I will never forget that.

Neema is full of people giving and caring for others, their plans for the future and the mothering center will make such a difference to this world. I am already planning my next trip to Neema!

Thank you for giving me the experience of a lifetime!

Love Abbie”