Matt and I were ready to move us and our little ones to Africa, sight unseen, but Michael and Dorris were insistent that we make a trip to Arusha to visit the orphanage before we set sail. We agreed, and through an amazing turn of events, God provided the funds and timing for our trip. We spent 15 days, a crash course, you might say, at Neema House in August. During that time we were able to get an idea of what the on-sight directors would be responsible for, what we need to bring, what we need to buy there, how badly we need to learn Swahili and what a reasonable budget would be.
As the on-sight directors, we will be working with a staff of about 33 nannies, guards, drivers and cooks to provide for the 30 current tiny residents of the home. Our primary goal at this time is to create and maintain the best baby home in Tanzania. That means doing continual training with the nannies on improving the level of care based on the babies unique needs. It means taking care of sick babies, and making sure the others stay well. At the time of this writing we have 30 little ones under our care. That number is fluid, as we get frequent calls about newly abandoned babies and as other babies go home to family, whether biological or newly adopted. Just in this paragraph alone there are about fifteen jobs for the on-sight director. With the assistance of a local manager, we will work to have the highest possible standards for the care of our babies.
The nannies are amazing and provide wonderful care to each child, we will be there to make sure that systems are in place to educate nannies on the unique needs of the babies based on development. We will oversee, along with th e manager (Mama Musa who is worth her weight in gold), that the staffing ratio stays at approximately 4 babies to one nanny, 24 hours per day 7 days per week. We will be managing payroll and the on-sight budget. One of the things that is most important will be making sure that Neema stays as close to our operating budget as possible. Every single penny that provides for the babies is a donation raised from the united states and countries around the world. Most of this fund-raising is done by Michael and Dorris. Matt and I will be doing our best to make sure that the funds stretch as far as possible. You might want to think that because Tanzania is a third world country, everything is very inexpensive, but the opposite is actually true. On average, we spend $1500 on formula and $500 on electricity every month. Every penny needs to be accounted for, and every penny needs to be wisely spent. We know and fully believe that God will provide for our needs, but we also are determined to be wise stewards of His provisions.
Matt will be uniquely tasked with overseeing the maintenance of the grounds and motor pool. Maintenance includes making sure that water is pumped and treated daily so that it is safe to drink. That electricity is bought and that the back up generator us in good working condition. That the cars, two SUVs and a small car, are in good working order. The cars are quite the challenge due to nature of the roads. While we were there both the small car and one of the SUVs needed significant repairs. You can only imagine the maintenance needs of a house like Neema that is full of adults and children.
In addition to the demands of managing Neema, Matt and I will also be working to raise awareness of adoption in the surrounding community. In Tanzania, it is the current law that you cannot adopt a child unless you have been a Tanzanian resident for three years, which eliminates out-of-country adoptions. However, if you are a Tanzanian resident, adoption of a truly abandoned baby is a quick and free process overseen by social welfare and the orphanage. As the directors, we will be going to speak and visit local churches and community groups to let as many people as will listen know that these babies are in desperate need of loving homes. While we were visiting Neema House in August, we went on such a trip to the Vineyard Church in Arusha, and we took two abandoned babies who were eligible for adoption along with us. Dorris was able to get up and speak about Neema and the babies that we had brought. At that gathering a women was there who had been trying to adopt another baby but that babies mother had come forward in the last minute. She held one of our little girls through the entire services and over the next two weeks while we were there, she came to Neema multiple times to see the baby she believes will become her daughter. She had also gone to social services to start the process of adoption and bought clothes, wipes and diapers to Neema House. It was amazing to see God work, by just our obedient presence in the community church and the church’s willingness to let Dorris speak, God was able to raise up a new family for an abandoned baby. Our plan is to continue this outreach knowing that it is God’s desire for new families to be formed with these abandoned children.
Not all the babies are up for adoption, as almost half of the children are at Neema House due to tragic maternal death during the birth process. These babies who have lost their mothers, but still have fathers and extended family will eventually reunite with their family either once their father remarries or another family member is available to provide care for the child. As the directors we will be tasked with facilitating either in home support after maternal death by supplying formula and diapers to the widowed father and family, or by providing care for the child at Neema House and then facilitating return to home at a time that is best for both child and family. It is our first goal that the family unit stay as intact as possible. As managers we will be creating systems that ensure that the family unit is preserved, and also that the child’s return to the family is safe and as non-disruptive as possible.
In addition to direct management and raising awareness, we will also be facilitating a thriving volunteer program for Neema House. At this time Neema rents a volunteer home that is just a block from Neema House with room for 10 volunteers at a time. The house is available to those who want to come and spend time volunteering at Neema, some come for a short time and some for much longer. As the on-sight managers we will be responsible for providing orientation, job assignment and guidance for the volunteers. The volunteer program is one of the areas I saw while visiting that I am most excited to go back and get better systems in place to take it from bare bones to extraordinary. I think that the volunteers will be a great asset to Neema House and I cannot wait to have family and friends come be a part of this amazing ministry!
Thank you for all the kind comments!