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 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.

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!

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”

Neema Village Says Goodbye

We are sorry to have to announce that Matt and Kelly Erdman and the girls are leaving Neema Village. After three years at Neema they will be going on to bigger and better things. Many changes have happened while they were at Neema and we are grateful for their time and their part in this precious ministry of saving abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies in Africa. We wish them all the best in their new adventures.

But the work at Neema goes on. Two new babies have come to us this month.

Ezekiel in the picture above was born on April 4, and is an abandoned baby. We will be watching for his Forever Family. Neema has now had 28 adoptions! Maybe Ezekiel will be number 29.

Editha, pictured below, came to Neema on Thursday, she is 14 months old and weighs only 9 lbs or 4.2 kg. Kelly Mollel says she looks like a small 3 month old. Editha was born with a cleft palette which has been repaired but she still has some other medical issues.

With good Neema love and care we are praying she will be healthy and happy in just a short time.

Kelly Mollel, her husband and baby are leaving today for Nairobi and heart surgery for Abigail. The hospital bill was paid from the Neema Village Medical Fund so Thank You to all of you who contributed to that fund so Abigail can live. Please be praying for the success of that surgery.

 As we say goodbye to Matt and Kelly and wish success for Abigail’s surgery we leave you all with a Blessing.

“The Lord Bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24

Michael and Dorris Fortson, Executive Directors, Founders of Neema

Returning Home

There is just something special about returning home, isn’t there. Unless of course you never really lived there! Then it could be a bit scary. That is Riziki’s story. Because it has been our goal since the beginning of Neema Village that no baby belongs in an orphanage, I love to tell the stories of our thirty babies who have been able to return home to their villages and extended family.


Riziki came to us when she was just ten hours old. Her mother had died during the birth and the father who was very poor had no way to buy formula nor a home to keep the new baby. Michael went out to the village to pick up the baby and we brought her back to Neema. It was sad as all the villagers were wailing and crying.

In the picture below, Riziki baby, just 10 hours old, gets her first bath from nanny Grace.

After her bath she had her first bottle. The villagers do occasionally have milk cows but raw cows milk can kill a baby. Formula is very expensive and

clean water, sterilizing procedures and medical care are not available out in most of the villages. Babies who lose their mothers in Africa have only a one in ten chance of survival. So Neema was called to step in.

 We all fell in love with this sweet baby who rarely cried and grew into a beautiful and a bit shy little girl.

A happy day came when Riziki’s dad came to tell us he had come into some money and would be taking Riziki home. He now has a new home, a new wife, a small store and even a nice car. So the happy/sad day came when Riziki got to return home. She was a bit scared and we are always a bit apprehensive when our babes return home. We were looking for a time to go out to the village to check on her in her new home. The drive was lush and green with banana trees along the road, just what you would think of Africa.

Four of our little girls were all best friends when they lived together at Neema and Malikia had been asking to go see Riziki. Which is funny since Malikia is blind but nevertheless she wanted to see Riziki! Below is a picture of the girls as we got out of the car and they saw Riziki for the first time. The couldn’t stop hugging her.

She showed us her new baby calf and then we took the long walk up to her home. It was on a hill and we walked past their corn field and banana groves on the sides of the path. There is a tall concrete wall around their new home and courtyard and a home for the grandmother inside the compound as well. It was a bit like a fortress on the hill! You can just see the house at the top of the hill in picture below.

We had brought suckers so everyone had a good time making their tongues red. We also brought clothes and books for her. But she was most happy just seeing her little friends from Neema.

Th neighbors all had to come stand outside and look at the funny Wazungu. They love to point and giggle at us. Fortunately we had enough suckers for everyone. Riziki was one of Ashley Berlin’s special babies so she got to go on the trip with us. Ashley is one of our great volunteers from Casper, Wyoming.

On the walk back to the car past the corn field, I asked the grandmother if we could pick some ears o corn for the children back at home. She said it wasn’t ready yet because they always wait until the corn is hard kernels and can be ground into Ugali flour. I wanted our children to try corn on the cob so I checked an ear and knew the corn was perfect for boiling and eating with butter. The girls got to pick enough corn for every one back home. It is always a learning experience when children get to see where their food actually comes from.

All in all it was a pretty good day. One of our babies who had returned home was happy and that is always a good day for us. 

May your home always be your safe place where you are loved no matter what.

Love and Blessings
Michael an Dorris

5k Race Cancelled

Neema Village

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can stop us but obviously the sewer can! The 5K Race to raise money for formula for the Neema babies is cancelled. Bummer! First the city of Temple closed our usual site for the race, Pepper Creek Trail, where we have had the last three races. Then this week we got the call that Lions Park was closed due to so much rain and sewer problems. Poli Sana (so sorry). We know you were looking forward to this fun race. We will be looking at fall dates now since Michael and I will be in Africa this summer. We will also be working to get your sign up money back to you as soon as possible.

But our babies still need formula! So please check out the web site and help us buy formula for this year. Thanks a bunch. Love you,
Dorris and Michael

The Video Says It All

I love sharing stories of Malikia and Julius. Be watching for our newest book soon to be out titled “Two is Better Than One”, published by Guardian Angel Publishing. It is our fourth book of the babies stories to be published and all proceeds are paid to Neema Village. Below is a sample of one of the pages from Malikia’s book, drawn by a local Tanzanian artist.

Neema Village

If you have been following the Neema story you know that Malikia (Molly-kee-uh) and her twin brother, Julius, just a few weeks old, were brought to Neema late one night by their grandmother.

Neema Village

Their mother had just died out in the Maasai village. Tiny, wrinkled and desperately searching for help, the old grandmother had taken the babies to another large orphanage in Arusha. But they didn’t take babies so they packed all three in their car and brought them to Neema. After we had checked the babies in, I watched the grandmother walk out alone that night and I remember hurting for the hopelessness of this woman in Africa. She had just lost her daughter and now had given her grandchildren to perfect strangers. As she turned to go back home alone to her empty, mud hut in the village I thought, God help us love her babies well for her.

Neema Village

But Grandmother did not tell us one of the babies had a problem and we heard a knock on our door in the middle of the night with nannies telling us there was something wrong with this baby.

Blind from birth, Mali has wiggled her way into all our hearts and has not let being blind stop her for one second. She is smart, funny, loving and can sing any song in the book which leads to the point of this story.

Mali’s buddy, Linda Johnson, pictured below, found a piano teacher, by the Grace of God, in Austin who lives in Arusha and after we contracted with her to teach, Sophia has been coming every week to teach piano and choir at Neema. She was teaching Mali a song one day titled “I can see, I can see,” and Maxine captured this amazing event on video. It’s about the blind man who came to Jesus.

Neema Village

“What is happening, why so much noise?” the blind man asked.
“It’s Jesus passing by” they said.
“I can see, I can see,” he cried for joy
“I can see, Praise the Lord, I can see!”

They were learning this song when Sophia looked at Malikia and said, “Mali, you know that someday you will be able to see.”

Now watch the video and see the same joy the blind man had as Malikia sings this song at the top of her lungs and jumps for joy in her chair. Joycie is singing with her and doing the hand motions to the song. If this doesn’t grab your heart you may be comatose!

Neema Village

The Race is On! Our 4th annual Formula Fund Run for Neema is scheduled for April 29 at Lions Park in Temple. Come run and help us buy formula for the babies.

Neema Village

Packet pick up and late registration starts at 7:30 and the race starts at 8:30 am. Lions Park is a new venue for us, so come to 4320 Lions Park Dr in Temple, just off Hickory. All the proceeds go to Neema Village. Remember no one takes a salary from Neema donations except our 44 Tanzanian employees. We like that.

At the 5K run we will have some items to auction off that were bought in the market in Arusha. Below is a picture of one painting that sold in a Nacogdoches auction for $350. Watch for the pictures for this sale on my Facebook page and you can bid there as well as at the 5K.

Neema Village

Now if you live in Australia or somewhere and you cannot make the race or if you just really want to spend the day in your easy chair then you can still run the race!

It’s a Virtual Race too! So sign up and stay home. We will send your t-shirt to you if you send me your size and address to

You can register online at

We are not sure who is going to win the virtual race but you are all winners in my book!

Neema Village

Meet Neema’s newest baby, Ezekiel. He was born on April 4, 2017 and left abandoned at the hospital. He is precious and weighs almost six lbs.

Come run the race with us and help us buy Ezekiel’s formula.

We also supply formula to off campus babies when possible. These two young Maasai girls are trying to learn how to fix bottles using the formula that we take out to the villages.

Neema Village

Formula is expensive anywhere but especially so to people who have so little of this world’s resources. Many Maasai people do not have money, ever. The average Tanzanian makes a hundred dollars a month so $15 per can of formula is way out of their price range.

You can help buy their formula by signing up for the 5K.

May you be blessed for sharing.

2 Cor 9:8God is able to make all Grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work.

All Grace to You,
Michael and Dorris

Left on the Street

The busy street in front of the mosque was crowded and loud, people coming and going to work, dirty faced children playing with homemade toys in the garbage strewn streets, banana carts being pushed through the mud, mangy street dogs sniffing by, people calling to one another and no one noticed the little one sitting alone by the door. She was patient for a while, then hungry, then anxious, then scared. Dark eyes that filled her face searched the crowd. This was probably not her first time to be left alone. Someone always came. But not this time.

No one knows how long she sat there, maybe an hour or two, maybe all day, dirty diaper, no food, no milk, no water.

It gets me just there behind my heart and stomach. My chest feels a deep anxiousness. I cry for them. You see my sisters and I lived this life here, right here in America the land of plenty, the land where a puppy found in the trash can is heart wrenching national news and people get organized to stop it. But a baby abandoned in a pit latrine, too much, we don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk puppies.

Neema Village

Many of our babies at Neema were abandoned with grandmothers who are too old to care for them.  So were my 3 sisters and I. Four little girls abandoned with an old grandmother, its not unusual anywhere on this fallen planet. You see abandoned babies is not an African problem. It is a heart problem. Real poverty in a life and poverty of the heart happens everywhere.

Neema’s newest baby was left by the door of a mosque. The police were called and came to pick up the baby. That is where the second baby’s story comes in. “There’s another one,” somone said. A baby boy left at the open air market. So the police pick up both babies, take them to the local government hospital who checks them out and then calls Neema Village to come pick them up.

Estimated to be about 2 months old, the nannies named the little boy, Brim. Hi Brim, we love you little one.

Neema Village

The nannies got to name Jade too. She is beautiful and is estimated to be about a year old. Precious smile little one. Grandmommy and Papa will be there soon to hold you.

Neema Village

Bless you for caring about these babies at Neema Village in Tanzania, East Africa! You wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t care. Please pray for these babies in our care at Neema.  Pray that they will soon find their forever family and never be abandoned again.

We cannot say thank you enough for your support of this precious ministry.

Michael and Dorris Fortson