“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do everything changes.” – David Platt
A HUGE chunk of my heart lives on the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania in a very loud but peaceful baby home where the smiles are bright and the little hands will always fit perfectly in mine. I recently returned from a trip to Tanzania and even though this is one of the prettiest places on earth with amazing animals to see in the wild, it is not the reason that I keep going back every year.
Neema Village is the reason. You know the Beatles song that says, “To know her is to love her.” Well that’s how I feel about this orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. It just takes one visit, one baby to hold in your arms, one child to place their little arms around your neck and hug you tight, one mother to find her smile again because she now has hope for the future, or one hug from a Maasai woman who is happy that the mzungu bought her jewelry. One time and you are hooked for life. That’s all it takes to love another country and the people living in it.
Neema Village – a heart, a home, and a place of hope. I’m constantly amazed every time I go to Neema to see the new things that they are doing for the people of Tanzania. Not only do they provide a home, love, and care for the orphans in their home but they also help mothers who are at risk. Because they believe that when you save the mother – you save the child. Neema has provided many sources of clean water, jobs to the people of Arusha, and have brought the good news of Jesus Christ everywhere they go, even as far out as the Maasai Villages, by showing God’s great love for us. They help women find jobs, provide special needs child care(very rare), teach classes all the way from sewing to safe child birth, bring supplies to the hospitals for the sick babies, help provide school for many children that thought they would never have an education, fight for the rights of women in Tanzania, and as always fight for the orphans. It is evident at Neema Village that with God all things are possible.
On a normal day at Neema Village we would wake up and quickly be off to see the big kids before they went to school and then head over to the baby house to feed, hold, and play with the little bitty babies all the way to the toddlers. Every child, even the big ones, love to be held and get some one on one time so before you get there the volunteer coordinator, Hannah, has scheduled you to read with a few of the children. They love that time of it being all about them. Everyday is so different at Neema that no day happens twice. Sometimes we will wake up and find that a mother has come by to say she needs help so then we will head out the next day to see what we can do or we might get a call from the hospital that a poor baby lost its mother and they need us to come get them. Somedays are easy and full of laughter and somedays you see things that make you cry right then and there but all days are from Jesus and have hope.
One of the happiest places at Neema is Koala House. It is where the Mothers Against Poverty program meets for classes and fellowship (all of this is free for them). I can’t understand what the women are saying when they are all together sewing or learning but oh do they seem happy! It is crazy to see the change in these women when they realize they are going to be able to provide food and a bed for their children…. and not by begging anymore but by learning a trade for themselves. Empowered women are a force to reckon with!
The woman, Dorris Fortson, who had the wonderful idea for Neema Village was an orphan herself and she says that no child should grow up in an orphanage. So, until a child is reunited with family or adopted by a family, Neema makes sure that the child is loved and feels like they are in a caring home. I’ve been there before when an older child has just arrived and then been back to see them a year later and the difference in personality’s is amazing. You can really see a child blossom when they feel safe and loved. It’s amazing to me how children so young already care so much for others. When one child receives something they are quick to want to share it with another. The older kids love to help the little ones by holding their hands or giving them a quick hug before running off for the next adventure.
I think it is very easy to get caught up in worrying about your job, what you don’t have, or wanting more money for your life but when you see these children who have lost everything yet they seem to have such pure joy simply because they are loved, it reminds me to be thankful for what I do have. At the end of the day if you have love then you have everything. ❤
I have shared a link below where you can donate but also learn more about the wonderful happenings on the other side of the world at my favorite place. You can even sign up for a newsletter that pulls on your heartstrings and keeps you coming back for more, it is written by Dorris Fortson who inspires me everyday! http://neemavillage.org
I hope this has inspired you to get out there and see the amazing things God has done in this world and encourage you to help where you are called.
I love your story and pictures. A beautiful picture of loving kindness. I can’t wait to go there! Martha j
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What a lovely descriptive story. I too love Neema Village and all that it is. The Fortson’s are folks with hearts of gold.
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Thank you! Yes, they are a huge blessing to the world!
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