News and Updates
March 15, 2016 Update
Approaching the end of our fourth year of operation, Neema House currently has forty-eight babies under our roof! We were full at thirty, so you can imagine that we are wall to wall babies now. With the belief that no child deserves to grow up in a orphanage, Neema House has successfully returned twenty babies to their extended families and seen nineteen adoptions since our beginning.Founded by Executive Directors, Michael and Dorris Fortson, Neema House is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit with a board of directors (listed on website). The On-Site Directors are Matt and Kelly Erdman from Temple, TX, who with their two daughters, moved to Tanzania in December 2013. Rebekah Johnson, a Board Member and trained EMT, directs the medical care for the babies.
In addition, volunteers have come from around the world to help our Tanzanian staff* of forty, consisting of nannies, cooks, cleaners, laundry ladies, drivers, and guards. It takes a lot of hands to care for forty-eight babies!
We have been blessed to purchase 9.8 acres of prime property within the city limits of Arusha, where we are now building Neema Village, which will include a new baby home, cottages for older unadopted children, a widow’s program, a mothering center, and a school/church building. Already complete is the widow’s home and storage/shop building.
Scheduled for completion by June 2016 is the new baby home, the Montana Home for unadopted children, and laundry building.
On the drawing board for June – December 2016 is a new volunteer house, a second home for unadopted children, and a home for our on-site directors.
In the building program, God has blessed us with the following:
- Purchase of the property – Funded $157,000
- The new sixty bed baby home – Funded $198,000
- The home for widows – Funded $45,000
- The Montana Home – Funded $45,000
- The Volunteer Home – Funded $70,000
- Laundry – unfunded $22,000
- Shop and Storage – unfunded $25,000
- Second home for unadopted children – Funded $45,000
- The Mothering Center – unfunded $75,000
- School/Church building – unfunded $50,000
- New Bore Hole – Gifted $10,000
- Water system – Funded $20,000
- The On-Site Director’s cottage – unfunded $50,000
- Barn and livestock – unfunded $10,000
- Tractor and implements – unfunded $38,000
- Roads and Landscaping – unfunded $10,000
*Only Tanzanian staff are paid from the Neema House Budget, which may be seen on our website.
A Full House
It has been a tremendously exciting year for Neema House Arusha, our home for abandoned, orphaned and at risk babies in Tanzania, East Africa. In 2015 we received 21 new babies, we had five babies reunited with a family member and have had six adoptions this year! Since we believe no baby belongs in an orphanage this is pretty exciting for us. We have two new moms living in our house with their four babies all of whom were at risk of being hurt if they returned home when the hospital contacted Neema to ask for help. We reached our highest number of babies in house at 46 this year. By God’s Grace, Neema has helped a total of 88 babies since we opened our doors three and a half years ago. With little ones from three weeks old to age 4 it is a full house! We enjoy telling folks it is loud and messy and at times quite wonderful!
We began January 2015 with great optimism. God had blessed us in 2014 with funds to purchase 9.8 beautiful acres of land within the Arusha city limits in the Moivaro area and with funds enough to begin developing the property.
The on site directors of Neema, Matt and Kelly Erdman, with their two daughters, Camille and Tabitha, traveled back to the states for their first furlough home since coming to Africa a year ago.
At the beginning of the year, we began the complicated process of developing building plans which would then have to be approved by village councils and apparently every government official from the garbage collectors to the high commissioners. But we were optimistic that by the end of January we would be ready to begin building. Then came the delays and more delays and waiting for building permits and more “not yets.” We were reminded again that we work in “The Land of Bado Kidogo” which means “not yet, a little bit.”
February was a good month for Neema, when our daughter Rebekah moved to Tanzania to live in the center and help as our medical director for the babies as well as the staff.
Also our daughter Kim and two Montana friends came to volunteer for two weeks. We began clearing and leveling the property in preparation for construction. In March a group of five men from Montana came for two weeks and began helping with the building of a fence around our property. In April, more delays and government red tape continued to block the beginning of the building project. Dorris and Michael returned to the states April 15 without the start of a single building.
In May the container which was sent in February from Nacogdoches and Temple Texas, arrived and was precariously set in place on the land. And we began digging the foundation for the Widow’s Home, because we had full funding for that home and we did not need further approval from the government.
Rebekah had a serious compound fracture of her left ankle in May, and Michael returned to Tanzania to be with her through surgery in Moshi and to get her back home to Neema House.
Construction on the Widow’s home (right) progressed.
On a visit to Montana for our grandson Tanner’s graduation, Christians from there presented us with a nice check and a promise of full funding for the “Montana House” all of which has now been raised and deposited into the Neema building fund.
June saw the influx of many volunteers, among whom were five Aggies for Christ and more of the Pape Family. Michael returned alone to Tanzania in June to help with volunteers and the beginning of the constructions. Dorris stayed home to work on empty rent houses, ugh!
A driller from Gillette, Wyoming, Trusty Mathson, came to try drilling for water on our property in June. After a week of drilling he stopped at 435 feet with no water. This was a big disappointment but in November Trusty returned and this time hit water at 95 feet!
We also drilled a dry hole out at Franki’s Maasai village. Another big disappointment for the women of that village who walk 4 to 5 miles a day for water as well as a disappointment for the kind folks in Colorado Springs and Nacogdoches who gave the money for the Masaai water well. But we have not given up. God is still good and we hope to try again in the future.
In July a group of five from Waco came to volunteer and help with construction. We began building the shop building at that time.
In August, after seven months of delay, we finally began laying out and digging the foundation for the new baby home. Today it is up to the second floor!
We also laid the foundation for one of the four homes to be built for our older unadopted kids. Michael returned to the states to resume fund raising August 15.
With our fund raising side kick, Dr. Sue Hamby (in the middle left) from Temple TX we tell folks we will travel anywhere to speak about these beautiful babies.
In September and October we visited universities and churches in the U.S. and had lots of lunches, dinners and even a few breakfasts with folks to tell the Neema story, recruit volunteers and find sponsors for the babies.
From the very beginning of Neema House in 2012, we were hooked with our first baby and knew then that we would spend every day for the rest of our lives asking God to help us get money for their formula, pay the monthly bills and buy building supplies. He has never failed us. We’re not professional fund raisers but we are pretty passionate about these babies!
Dorris and Michael, returned to Neema House in December to help with the work and to spend our first Christmas with the staff and babies of Neema.
The staff number has now reached forty at Neema and at the Christmas Party this year, all our staff received a great Christmas bonus of $100 accompanied with lots of dancing and trilling. We killed and cooked two goats to celebrate plus peeled a couple hundred potatoes for the party.
Baraka, (right) our last little one of this year to fly the nest, who has been with us from his birth, finally was able to return home this month to live with his dad, who is a teacher. We will miss that sweet boy.
Even with all the ups and downs and the loss of one baby this year we know that God has been Faithful. We continue in the knowledge that this is all His work and we are but His helpers.
So just like one of our sweet volunteers, Karla Carrol had to say goodby to baby Sifa a few days ago we say goodbye to 2015 and wish you all a Happy New Year!
May God bless us everyone!