This picture makes me smile, doesn’t it you! The sweet look of love on the face of the new mom in the picture above just gives me happy goose bumps. A new family being made at Neema House Arusha!! How sweet it is. Mama Musa, our Neema manager, is on the left and Matt Erdman is pictured above with Ezra and his new family. Baby Ezra had been abandoned at the big government hospital in Arusha and brought to Neema on August 11, 2015. He weighed a tiny 2.5 kg but has now become a big healthy boy.
We try very hard to not judge these women who abandon their babies. It is difficult to understand what would make a mother do something like this. We know mothers everywhere love their babies. It must be something so drastic and traumatic that she feels she has no choice but to her lay her baby down and walk away. I cannot imagine the anguish in her heart as she does this.
We always have so many options here. When we get down to nothing, we can sell a car, call a grandmother, ask the church, find a government help program etc. But if you live in a country where there are no government programs and everyone else is destitute too, or you are in a culture that believes in stoning, or you are poor and desperate and don’t know what else to do, you might be tempted to do just what Ezra’s mom did.
|Ezra with Barry Azzopardi from Australia.|
But what evil meant for bad, God has meant for good! Someday we hope to see this little boy all grown up, loving people, helping his country, loving God and know that he was ours first and we had a tiny part in all that goodness for him.
Michael and Dorris Fortson
I am so glad you asked! I’ve been wanting to explain how sponsorships work at Neema House Arusha. After almost four years in operation we are still learning how to run this busy baby home and best serve the abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies God has put in our care in Africa. We are also very conscious of being good stewards and using your money wisely.
We have now cared for 106 babies since we opened the door to Neema four years ago! People frequently ask, how do you keep this going? By God’s Neema (Grace)! The only answer is God’s Amazing Grace. He touches the hearts of good people like you to help and we are extremely grateful. Neema is supported by individual sponsorships of babies, much like Compassion International.
Monthly sponsorships of the babies pay the monthly bills to care for the babies. You might be interested to know that Sarah Lockett, our incredible bookkeeper, who works free of charge I might add, has separate accounts so that sponsorship money does not go into building funds or tractor funds, or other funds but goes into the monthly operating expenses to care for the babies. That pays for formula, rent, nanny salaries, petrol, food, medical, utilities, lights, and water. That is Sarah, a nurse from Waco, Tx in the picture kissing the baby. The baby Sarah, who was named for her, has been adopted by a wonderful family who moved to Italy after her adoption.
You can see our monthly expenses on the website www.neemavillage.org. We are also pretty excited that an outside audit which we requested will be finished in a few weeks.
We also want you to know that we are always looking for ways to save money. In an effort to cut down on buying so much expensive canned formula, our cooks buy, boil and process 30 liters of fresh cow’s milk every day! It takes a huge pan on the stove to process that much milk! Kelly found a recipe for baby formula using fresh cow’s milk.
So once the babies are 6 months old they are switched to the new recipe which we make in our kitchen at Neema. It takes a lot of milk plus lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to get our babies to look like the healthy little Neemaities you see when you visit Neema. With our nannies and volunteers giving lots of TLC, these babies go from the tiny little one Bec Azzopardie from Australia is feeding to healthy little girls like Sharon and Maria pictured below.
We spoke at a business class at ACU this week and we asked the students after the video what they noticed that was different from other pictures of orphanages in Africa they had seen in the past. They were quick to respond that our babies look healthy, clean, chubby and happy, like Sharon and Maria.
I have been asked why we feed the babies things like a fruit smoothie, (which they get every afternoon at 4pm), and which they will not get when they go back home to their village. My answer? They eat a very unhealthy diet out in the villages why would we want to feed them that? When we send our babies home they will go home with all their brain cells intact and be curious, energetic, healthy little children. How could we do less for them?
When we move to Neema Village we will have our own cows and chickens and grow our own vegetables. Our landscape and gardens manager, Julius, ( pictured to the left) has already planted banana trees, corn, squash and beans at Neema.
Without the $1,200 a month rent for the current baby home and the $600 a month rent for the volunteer house and with growing our own vegetables and milk and eggs we should be able to save money when we move to Neema Village.
So, now that you know how we spend your money, how do sponsorships work? Many people begin sponsoring Neema babies at $30 dollars per month. With babies you surely understand that $30 does not cover the cost of keeping these babies! At $30 a month it takes ten or more sponsors to completely pay the costs of keeping a baby at Neema.
We arrive at the sponsorship cost by taking the month’s operating costs divided by how many babies we have that month. Last year it averaged between $300 and $388 per month depending on medical costs for the babies that month. In January we had three preemies, like Loitapuaki, in Intensive Care. Four million shillings in hospital bills for one month can blow a hole in our budget! We have learned that sponsorships is an ever changing thing! Credit cards expire, sponsors drop out, new sponsors come in, new babies arrive and other babies get adopted each month. It changes every month!
We have never had all our babies fully sponsored, the most babies we have had fully sponsored for one month was eleven. Many of the babies have lived at Neema for two to three years and gone home without ever having had a single sponsor. Some babies are sponsored at $150, $100, or $50 per month. But most of our sponsorships are for $30 per month. We don’t mind that since it gives us a broad base of support so when one person drops out we don’t get too upset.
We debated long and hard over whether we should let one baby be over sponsored. Should we tell a new potential sponsor, No, that baby is already taken, chose another baby? Some potential sponsors have a connection such as “My son’s name is John so I want to sponsor John.” So we decided the babies who have more sponsorship money could help cover the cost of the babies who have no sponsors. Thank God we have three babies who are “over sponsored” today. They help us take care of the ones who have no sponsors. Beautiful Saruni, pictured above, is one of our new babies this year.
When you sponsor a specific baby and that baby is adopted or able to return home then we always hope you will continue sponsoring and chose another baby. There are two great Neema sponsors who are on their third baby! They get excited every time they get a new baby.
We do have people sponsoring an “undesignated baby.” That means they chose to “Sponsor the Neema babies” as a group So the picture on their fridge would be of a group of babies, not one specific baby.
To sponsor a baby, go to the web site www.neemvillage.org, click on “See Neema Babies” read their stories and choose one. Sometimes it is hard to choose one. Our granddaughter cried when she had to choose one baby because it made her sad to think of the ones she couldn’t choose.
Now to the problem of how we can get updates and pictures of your sponsored baby to you. Without an administrative staff, correspondence with sponsors has become a huge challenge for me. Thankfully Kim White, our daughter and a board member of Neema (pictured below), asked if she could take on that project.
Kim plans to send sponsors updates on the babies quarterly by email. She has color coordinated lists of babies, birthdays and sponsors, to know when to send updates. She also has designed a link so with a click you will soon be able to go right to a photo album for your baby! It is pretty cool and in this age of instant messaging it is quite an advance for us. We hope you enjoy it.
So in a very large nutshell, (sorry for the extra long blog) that is how sponsoring a baby at Neema works. Very few things in life give you that warm feeling in your heart like caring for those who desperately need your help!
We reached the fiftieth baby under our roof at Neema this month. It gives new meaning to the term “Controlled Chaos!” I thought you might like to meet all the new babies at Neema.
Imran is saying Hi! He was about two and half pounds when brought to Neema. His mom had died and he was not expected to live. But the latest news from Neema is that Imran now has a double chin. Praise God!
Newborn Carol Ann was abandoned in February. She is such a little sweetheart. We pray there will be a good family to step forward to adopt her. We work with Social Welfare on the adoptions and they generally give about six months for a member of the family to claim the baby. If no one comes forward then the baby is put up for adoption. Neema has now had 21 adoptions! Neither Social Welfare nor Neema accept money for adoptions.
Saruni is a Masaai baby whose mom died at his birth. His father brought him into town to Neema. Many of these dads have no income and cannot afford expensive formula. There is also no electricity for refrigeration out in the villages and no clean water. We can help supply those things for the dad in his home and do quite often but if there is no one to care for the baby at home then we take them in at Neema. Saruni will go back home when he is stable, off the bottle and his dad has remarried. He is such a beautiful baby.
Cuddly little Russell was about 7 or 8 weeks old when he was left abandoned. He was healthy and looked like he had been well cared for. We have no idea why someone who obviously loved him would then abandon him. If we can locate moms like baby Rusty’s mom and get them into the MAP program at Neema maybe we can offer them a better way. Stay tuned for more news about the MAP program (Mothers Against Poverty).
Osiligi also lost his mother in childbirth. That is such a common occurrence out in the Masai villages where there is little medical care. Osi is normally a very smiley baby but looks a bit worried here. We would love to tell him not to worry, that we are working constantly to be able to take care of him.