Christian Couple Helps Babies and Mothers in Tanzania
by: Stafford North | September 6, 2018
Michael and Dorris Fortson have spent fifty years in Christian ministry. They were missionaries in Tanzania where two of their children were born. And then they worked for thirty years at the church in Nacadoches, Texas. On a trip to Tanzania in 2008, the Fortsons were stuck by the large number of homeless children they saw and decided they could do something about it. They were near their time of retirement and would have enough income to support themselves, so they decided to live in Tanzania where they could start a home to take care of babies.
Building on this dream, in 2012 at Arusha, Tanzania in East Africa, they started Neema House, now called Neema Village, with four goals: (1) rescuing abandoned, orphaned, and at-risk babies; (2) reuniting children with their extended families and promoting adoption, (3) restoring hope to women through education, business opportunities, parenting skills, and spiritual guidance; and (4) renewing dignity to AIDS widows. Very appropriate that the Swahili word “neema” means “grace,” which is what the Fortsons clearly want to demonstrate.
Now also working with them is Rebekah Johnson, an emergency medical technician who brings her medical skills to help babies and mothers. Often she monitors babies in the hospital whose circumstances will require a place when they are ready to be released, and she takes them to Neema House. She also teaches first aid classes to help people know how to deal with medical problems that need immediate attention.
In 2014 the Fortsons purchased almost 10 acres to begin a more dynamic, far reaching scope of programs designed to help women better care for their babies, survive childbirth, find ways to supplement the family income, have better nutrition, lift widows from lives of neglect and abuse, and impact the surrounding Maasai villages through water wells and medical care.
”We feel that with the purchase of this property, the completion of the baby home, the widows home, a volunteer house, two homes for unadoptable babies, and the construction of the women’s center, that Neema Village is now on the verge of making real and lasting change in Africa. All we need is substantial capital.”
One of their special programs is Mothers Against Poverty (MAPS) in which they seek to help mothers in poverty become self-sufficient through business opportunities. They educate them, develop their skills in a trade such as sewing or raising chickens, and help them know how to handle money. Women both from nearby and from rural Massai villages come for help in this program. The one pictured is a Massai woman with nine children who was taught beekeeping.
To help with their work, the Fortsons have a social worker, nannies, cooks, a driver, and a manager. They also have about a hundred volunteers every year who come from all over the world, primarily to hold babies. Many of these are high school and university students.
The need for their work is clearly demonstrated by this statement on their webpage: “Our babies have been left on roadsides, in the bus station, in a front yard, in latrines, one in a gravel pit and one in an open pit latrine who had been there long enough that maggots were in his ear. All our babies have a tragic story or we would not have them.”
Since their beginning in 2012, they have now helped more than 185 babies and, in addition, have helped many mothers and enabled many in poverty to be able to support themselves. Their work is also a blessing to the work of the church in that area. Church members come to pray with the babies and to sing to them. Often they hold church services on the campus because they can’t take all the children to church and those that don’t get to go cry for not being able to go. Sometimes they take abandoned babies to church in the hope that someone will want to adopt.
The Fortsons teach Bible classes for the children on a daily basis. They have baptized one of the mothers and an employee and Michael recently participated in the baptism of four in a Maasai church. Pictured is a baptism in the pool at a local safari lodge where the guests joined in singing “Oh, Happy Day.”
What good news that such a facility as this exists to help so many have better lives. For more information on Neema Village or to contribute to help meet medical bills for babies and other expenses in their program, go to www.neemavillage.org.