I would like to introduce you to Forever Angels Baby Home, an interim home for orphaned, abandoned, HIV positive and disabled infants from 0 to 5 years in Tanzania.
On the surface, we seem like any other African Orphanage but if you look a little deeper you will see that our aim and our outcomes are very different. We save the lives of sick, malnourished and desperate infants at our centre – but at the same time, we work with their extended families and we educate and support them to provide for themselves and their families now and in the future.
We believe in saving lives sustainably.
Initially, in 2006 we opened a Baby Home in Mwanza, Tanzania to care for orphaned, abandoned, HIV positive and disabled infants. The Baby Home is still running and you will be astounded at the level of care we offer our children. Our standards are so far above the norm for an African Orphanage that all of our visitors comment on the miraculous health, vitality and happiness of our children.
Meet fourteen year old Lucia (an orphan) and her four month old baby Adamu. When we met them they were both extremely malnourished and incredibly sick with HIV and TB. Lucia was so ill, her body was not producing any milk and she miraculously fed Adamu for four months on just water and tea! He survived, but only just. We cared for Adamu temporarily at Forever Angels whilst helping Lucia to recover and gain strength.
We gave Adamu lifesaving formula milk and watched him gain weight and become happy and healthy in just a few short months! Once Lucia was healthy, we set her up in a small business selling fruit and vegetables. Her business thrived and so did Lucia and Adamu!
Adamu soon went home to live with his Mum and to this day, they are a healthy, happy and self-sufficient family unit.
We have developed over time though and strangely enough – we are now an orphanage that does not really believe in orphanages!
There is no doubt that the number of orphaned children in Tanzania is impossibly large – mostly due to the influence of HIV as well as general poverty and hardship. A practical way to deal with this problem is to create institutions – Children’s Homes and Orphanages which can care for the influx of babies and children left on the street – that belong to no-one.
We have seen many ineffective orphanages in Africa though – and we now believe that no institution, not even one as carefully conceived and lovingly implemented as ours, can hope to do an adequate job of raising children. So our ideals and vision changed. Children need a family in order to grow into full individuals, and it is our fervent desire to see each of our children reunited with their extended relatives so they can spend the remainder of their years as part of a loving family.
Forever Angels Outreach Programme is succeeding in this goal.
As well as the 60 babies we care for at the Baby Home – we also support large numbers of babies in the community. We give life-saving formula milk to babies whose mothers have died in childbirth, or whose mothers are sick and have no milk. Before we offered this support in the Mwanza community, families did their best by giving the newly orphaned baby water and tea and what resulted was malnourished, sick babies who frequently died before reaching the age of one.
Through our Outreach Program – not only do we save the baby – but we support and empower the whole family. Our goal is to save lives sustainably. And it is working!
We sadly cannot stop women from dying in childbirth. We can also not eradicate poverty. What we can and are doing – is supporting babies who, without our involvement, would tragically die. This initial ‘life-saving’ support would be pointless without our Outreach work which has empowered large numbers of caregivers to set up businesses enabling them to support their own families and lead happier, healthier lives now and into the future.
For those children that come to us abandoned with no known family roots, we work with Social Welfare to find them an adoptive family.
To give you an idea of the scale of our success, let me give you a few figures. In the past seven years:
- 45 of our babies have been adopted into new families
- 122 have been reunified with their family.
So that’s 167 children who are no longer orphans because of our efforts – who are now living with their own or a new adoptive family and who are thriving. I have no doubt that without Forever Angels, all of those children would still be trapped within the orphanage system, at the end of which around eighty per cent would end up back on the streets and the poverty cycle would continue.
To summarise; while orphanages are an undeniable necessity in Tanzania, they are no substitute for a loving family. By concentrating our efforts on young babies and toddlers, Forever Angels offers these children the very best care possible to give them a much needed head-start, while at the same time working hard to keep the original family together.
If our model was replicated wide enough, then we could cut down the number of Tanzanian orphans in care by more than 75% (based on our current success rates). That’s 75% fewer institutionalised children!
Of course, this work costs money – and indeed, caring for the needs of 60 children at the Baby Home and countless others in the community through Outreach takes an enormous amount of energy, a high staff ratio, and a significant amount of money.
Our current yearly expenditure is £200,000. Up to now we have raised this through fundraising events, coercing friends and family to support us and through a child sponsorship programme. For as little as £10 a month you can Sponsor a Child and receive quarterly photos and updates about them.
Our success has gone beyond our initial vision though. We are now bigger and definitely better. Our work saves lives, improves countless more and empowers entire families to help themselves.
Can YOU help us?
To donate please visit: www.justgiving.com/foreverangels/Donate/
For more information how you can get involved visit: www.foreverangels.org
In Tanzania, Forever Angels is a non-profit making company (Number 52450) and an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) Number 1506. We also hold a Children’s Home License from the Department of Social Welfare. In England, Forever Angels UK is a non-profit making company (Number 5449185) and a UK Registered Charity (Number 1111873).