“Project is a life-saver” …a glimpse into a project officer’s diary

Catching our flight this morning proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated. We needed to leave the hotel by 7.00 am. Breakfast was slow. The egg cook was still half asleep. Check-out was slow. Then, there was the traffic…it came to a complete standstill!

Our driver turned onto a small dirt road. We wove through communities, driven in the sedan “rally-style” over countless rough roads, much faster than I was comfortable with. Suddenly we emerged from the villages off ‘Nelson Mandela Road’, and met the highway again. Still more than 30 k’s from the airport, the driver was now determined to deliver us at the airport in time. We made it!

 …We stepped out of the plane in Mwanza, Tanzania, and it was hot. We emerged into the tiny airport shed and were met by Amy from project J735N ‘Forever Projects’. Amy and her husband lived in Mwanza for twelve years until 2014, they adopted five Tanzanian children, including a child with HIV and another who is deaf. The family moved back to the UK in 2014, but Amy continues to visit regularly. They are soon to adopt an African baby with Down syndrome, so her next visit will be a little late. Our partners are special people.

We arrived at the babies’ home where we dropped our bags and inspected the facility. Forty-two babies currently reside in the home, and 321 have been supported over the ten years since it was established. They also look after four toddlers with varying disabilities. There are no organisations providing care for these kids in Tanzania, so they’ll be here for the foreseeable future.

We went out to lunch and Amy talked about her experiences here in Mwanza over the years. Moving here from the UK with her husband as a teacher, one day she visited a friend in hospital and noticed four emaciated babies in a cot covered in a blanket and left to die. She asked the nurses what was happening and was told they were abandoned HIV babies. That tragic situation stirred her to do something, and she volunteered in orphanages and researched how best to help. That led to the establishment of the ‘Forever Angels Babies’ Home’.

The home has provided emergency care and nutrition for babies whose mothers have died, don’t have breast milk, or have simply been abandoned—sadly this still happens frequently. More recently, the organisation provides formula and nutrition to support to new mothers or the family of babies so the child can stay at home and receive the care needed. They’re also helping those who are capable of setting up a micro-business at home to enable them to earn enough to cover their own costs. These two initiatives, in particular, are what we came to see.

After lunch, we headed out into the communities to meet some mothers in the project. We drove into the slum community of Mambatini, through a small track that was busy with kids heading home from school and lined with shopkeepers. Hussain parked the car and we walked further up the hill dotted with houses and large rocks. Reaching Mama Magrite’s house, we found her in her tiny shop. We were invited inside her home and sat on a small couch while her two sets of twins eyed us nervously. Amy spoke Swahili with Magrite and shared with us how difficult her life had been, raising her three children and the new twins. The project helped build a small addition to her home and started her off with some stock (phone credit, cigarette lighters, soap, etc). Now she’s able to feed her kids, and the kids are all healthy and happy, with the eldest attending school.

We met two more mothers, and spent time in the office at the Centre to understand the operations. Finally close to 6.00pm, Amy dropped us and our bags to the hotel.

This organisation is filling a critical gap in the Tanzanian social welfare system. And Amy, with her hugely generous heart, has been instrumental in saving the lives of 321 Tanzanian babies. She spoke of her interactions with government social workers that have questioned why she bothers with abandoned babies, particularly those with disabilities. There is still a long way to go when it comes to caring ‘for the least of these’ in this society and in the meantime, this project is a lifesaver.

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