Neema Baby Home

Tanzania Trails: Where Do They Go From Here?
Since we are strictly a baby home for abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies, we are often asked where do the Neema babies go after they reach the age of three? I’m sure you have wondered that too. During our tour of orphanages around Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in 2011, we found that most orphanages do not take babies under the age of three because it requires so much more staff, expensive formula, twenty four hour care, etc. On our tour we found a great need for homes that would take these little ones, so we decided with God’s help we would build a baby home. We opened Neema House in Arusha, Tanzania in June of 2012 and are now full with rolling, crawling, tumbling, bumping, crying, laughing babies everywhere! It is loud and wonderful and a bit scary at times! It is a big challenge, way too big for us, we have found, but fortunately not too big for our God! We named our home Neema, which means Grace in Swahili, because we knew it would only be by the Grace of God that we would be able to do this work.
For those of you who do not know us, Michael and I are both in our seventies, retired and volunteer our services for Neema. (See Michael and Dorris below)
We have an idea that “No baby belongs in an orphanage,” so our challenge has been to get them back into their family unit, like Helena below, or into an adoptive home as soon as possible.
Our abandoned babies, of course, do not have a family to go back home to, so we try to find them new homes. Every Sunday we visit different churches in Arusha and we take a baby with us. We dress them up in new clothes with bows in their hair, etc. (like Bella Bee, left) African churches always want their visitors to stand up and introduce themselves so we take the baby up front and tell their story. All of our babies have a story or we would not have them. Here is what happened the day we took Bryony to church. Bryony is beautiful with soft black hair and big eyes that always look like she is asking the question, “Ya talkin ta me?” She was abandoned in a latrine and is about five months old now and has been at Neema since she was a week old. We dressed her up that morning in a pink dress, put a bow in her hair and left for church. We pulled up to the church and I was getting out of the car with Bryony when an African lady and her friend pulled in and parked beside us. She told us later that when she saw me she said to herself, “Why is that white woman with that black baby? How is she able to get a baby and I can’t get one,” she thought. We all went into the building and I sat down where she had wanted to sit and she said to herself again, “There is that white woman again with that black baby, God, why can’t I have one.” She had tried to adopt a baby earlier and it fell through when the family was found and wanted the baby back. She had already prepared a room and bought a baby bed and had been devastated when that adoption fell through.
When introduction time came at church that morning, I stood up with Bryony and introduced her and said she is looking for a new mom and dad. The woman started crying and her friend came after service and took Bryony from our arms, walked over to the lady, put Bryony in her arms and said, “Meet your new daughter.” I think we were all crying by then. Pictured right are Byrony''s new mother, Dorris with Byrony and Sarah Lockett with Elliott.
(Left, Byrony in Shermaine''s arms)
Of course, since we work closely with Social Welfare, she is going through that process, but she and her husband both have good jobs and the welfare people have already been out to check their home and we don’t see any problems for Bryony’s adoption. We do want our babies adopted into families around Arusha so we can visit them to make sure they are doing well. There is a black market for babies in Africa so we think being “proactive” to find families is better than having someone walk in the front door to find a baby. That is how we find homes for the abandoned babies.
We did the same with Zawadi who was abandoned at the bus station. When we stood up to tell Zawadi’s story at church there were two women visibly shaken who began crying openly and almost wailing on the front row. Of course I always cry too when I tell the babies stories. A family from that sweet little African church which is built on a hill in the middle of beautiful corn fields is already planning to adopt Zawadi. (see below) It is a great feeling to think of Zawadi growing up learning about God and caring for people in that lovely little country church. We found a home for baby Michael who was left abandoned on a porch just like that as well. Check out our blog story “Sunday with Godlove” at and you can read all about a family from that church that is going through the process now to adopt Michael. It is quite thrilling to see how hearts are touched and how God works through this to find families for these little ones.
We have three abandoned tiny, newborns at Neema now that will be looking for families as well; Daniel left in a front yard, Sarah left in the hospital and Debora left in a house. Please pray that God will bring just the right families for them. We also have babies whose mothers have died during childbirth. (Like Ebenezer, left) It is such a common occurrence in Africa for mothers to die giving birth. The maternal death rate in sub-Sahara Africa is one in every 39.
Since formula is expensive at $12 a can, most African families, who live on less than $100 dollars a month, cannot afford to buy formula. If they must travel long distances to collect fire wood to cook with, to expect them to boil water for 20 minutes and boil bottles every day for a baby whose mother has died is way beyond what they can do. When the mother dies out in the villages it is almost a death sentence for the baby as well. So we take those babies too. Sometimes the dad is available but many times the dad is not around as in the case of the twins, Malikia and Julius. Their grandmother was trying to care for them and knew she could not manage, so she brought them to Neema. Meshack’s mom died and he was about a month old out in the Masaai village when we found him. His grandmother was feeding him raw cow’s milk. He was almost gone when we brought him in to the Arusha hospital and then home to live at Neema House.
Meshack has since gone back home (see him and his dad, right) and does not need formula or bottles, so we visit him regularly with porridge and other foods and clothing. He is a big healthy boy now and scared to death of the “Wasungu” who come out to see him.
Other Neema babies whose moms have died and have no one to care for them are like Ibrahim, Baraka, Riziki and JoJo.
Our “at risk babies” like the triplets, Deborah, Anna and Esther will live at Neema until they are off the bottles and ready to return home. The triplets were two and three pounds when the hospital called to see if we could take them. They were so tiny they would not survive without help. Their mother visits regularly and when the triplets are two or three years old, she will be able to take them home.
Gian (right) is a new baby at Neema who is also an at risk baby, his mother is very young, still in school and cannot care for him.
Joeli’s mother had abandoned him with his grandmother when he was about a year old. When he came to Neema he had burns on his feet. His grandmother, who visited Neema regularly, had been asking to be allowed to take him home for quite some time and she was granted permission at the beginning of the summer. We were quite concerned since she is very poor, but were told just being poor does not mean she cannot have her grandson. She also had a cow living in the front yard and Joeli is afraid of animals. But we knew sooner or later, one day the grandmother would be there to pick him up and we would have to let him go. Just a few weeks before we left in September the grandmother came to take Joeli home. (See Joel left) It was a very sad day for everyone at Neema. Our daughter Bekah and Mama Musa are going out to check on him regularly. It is not always how we want things to work out for these precious babies but we do have to work within the Social Welfare system.
For the babies who can’t go home and are not adopted, we plan to build cottage style homes and have house parents who provide a loving family atmosphere as they continue to grow up at Neema house. It is always our prayer to put the Neema babies into homes where they will be loved and cared for and we do plan to be in the homes to check on them. So now you know what happens after Neema!
Dorris Fortson