Neema House Arusha (NHA) was started in 2012 to help abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies in Arusha, Tanzania. Since opening there have been 72 babies cared for through the home. There are 31 babies currently living in the house, as of February 2015, 12 babies have been adopted, 15 have been able to be returned home to a family member and 12 are being supported out in the villages. Two babies have been tragically lost. With the poor condition of some of the babies when received at NHA (some weighing less than 2lbs), some are merely too sick to be rescued. Even one loss is unacceptable to NHA, but they never refuse to take in even the worst-case babies.
Non-profit status: NHA is a registered 501c3 nonprofit in the United States (EIN 46-2762501) and a registered nonprofit in the country of Tanzania. They operate closely with The Tanzanian Social Welfare office. NHA is the only home dedicated solely to caring for infants in the large city of Arusha, Tanzania. Children up to two and a half are taken in. There are many orphanages that care for older children but because of the high cost of formula and the around-the-clock care required, many orphanages will not take babies. Many of the babies are abandoned preemies and some are in extremely poor conditions, but after a few months at NHA they are usually healthy and happy, and always loved.
Staff and budget: With the high cost of formula and 24 hour care, NHA operates on a budget of close to $14,000 US dollars a month. They operate solely on charitable giving, donations and sponsorships of the babies. Only Tanzanian citizens are paid for their work from the Neema House donations. The Founders and Directors, Michael and Dorris Fortson are retired, in their 70’s, and do not take a salary for their work at NHA. The onsite Directors, Matt and Kelly Erdman, have their own income from their church and family in the US. There are currently 32 full time Tanzanian staff: nannies, cooks, washer women, yard men, a driver, guards, a manager and 2 part time helpers
Volunteers come literally from all over the world to hold the babies. In 2014, there were over 100 volunteers from 21 different countries who paid their own way to come and care for the babies at NHA. Volunteers are unpaid helpers only and do not take jobs away from Tanzanians. Instead their financial contributions help pay the salaries of the Tanzanian workers.
Where do Neema Babies come from? Babies that are abandoned are taken to the police or the hospital, which in turn contact NHA to collect them. Some of these babies have been found on the roadsides, on porches, in the bus station, in front yards and in gravel pits. Many are simply abandoned at the hospital. Two were found in latrines. One baby was found in an open pit latrine had been in the pit long enough that maggots had to be removed from his ears. One little boy was left in a house alone in a dirty diaper that had dried and had to be cut off. All our babies have a tragic story or NHA would not have them. You can see their pictures and read their stories at www.neemahousearusha.org
All of the babies at NHA have lost the most important thing to an infant, their mother, either through abandonment or death. The mortality rate for childbirth is extremely high, especially out in the villages where medical care is poor or non-existent. Many Tanzanian families live on less than $1 per day, so when a child looses a mother, the father cannot afford the high cost of formula.
NHA is always glad to step in and help these babies who have lost their mothers. When these fathers remarry and are able to care for the infant, the baby can be returned home.
The future for Neema House Arusha: Land purchase for a permanent home for NHA was completed in 2014 and 9.8 acres was purchased in the city limits of Arusha.
A local contractor has been hired and work has begun onsite for the new baby home. NHA currently operates from a large rented facility that has recently been sold, so a move is imminent.
The new baby home will be an 8,500 square foot concrete block home to care for 60 babies with rooms for sleeping and playing. To date, $109,000 dollars have been raised for the Baby Home. At $24 per square foot, it is estimated to cost approximately $200,000 to build the new baby home. This home will be solar powered, with supplementary power from Taneso city power and a large generator.
The three phases of building plans include a
- Mother Child Center (including classes for prenatal/child care and training in micro-finance business.)
- Neema Family Home (a home for our unadoptable babies)
- Volunteer house
- They also plan a widow’s home, storage and shop, a clinic /pharmacy/delivery center, school, church and director’s home.
our friend and amazing travel-writer rhiannon stevie, writes about her first experiences at neema house.