Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

November 18, 2021

After packing 15 suitcases, weighing, repacking, weighing again, repacking again… finally just paying the fee for overweight bags, we made it to our Home Sweet Home in beautiful Tanzania, East Africa.  This picture was taken from the front of the David and Lyndy Edwards Blessing house. It is dry, dusty and hot here but still beautiful with lots of mangoes in the trees.

Now we will have time to unpack and look at all the lovely clothes everyone sent for the babies’ Christmas and to restock our baby closets. It may look to volunteer Grace from Ireland that new clothes were just in time too!

The toddler girls in their Sunday best below. Kelle in purple and Arianna and Venosa together with Ivan and his girls in the bottom picture below. Could they be any cuter? Well, maybe a little smile would be cuter. They usually go through a “you left me so I am going to be a little standofish for a while” thing when we return.

Ivan and his girls. Poor little buddy, he is in the toddler room all by himself with a group of baby girls!

A Great Big Thank you to everyone who helped fill this closet with clothes for us!

And Thank You to the loving fingers who crocheted the colorful, soft blankets for the isolation room babies.

When we send babies home, we always send a bag full of clothes and blankets with them so we get low on clothes sometimes. So far this year we have sent 20 babies home to their forever families, like little abandoned baby Hope who was adopted this year,

Monday night we returned to Neema Village to a full house especially in the isolation room where there are 8 new babies. The smallest is Nasiri, he is two months old and still only weighs 1.7kg

This little precious one below is in the hospital with a stomach bug. They stuck her a number of times in the hands and finally went to the head for the IV. Baby Judith may be little but Emily says she has a grip.

It’s the end of the year and three of these big boys, Isac, Ema and Eben, will be going together to the big SOS school in Arusha next week. They are excited. 

I know you will be emailing me about this but please remember we are a baby home and only take babies up to age two at Neema Village. We have always believed that no baby belongs in an orphanage so we try to have them back in a family home or adopted by age three or four and if that is not possible into a good boarding school. Sometimes their home life is not good enough for a return and the relative will not release them for adoption so boarding school or foster care is the next option. We have twenty-four children in our foster care/school program. Most English schools start children at age three here. It’s hard to think of these little guys in boarding school but remember this is Africa, not America or England.

The MAP program, helping African women who have been abused and abandoned, continued while we were in America.  Nine young women are in Neema’s current sewing class. We will need 7 more sewing machines for them when they finish the class in a few weeks.   $325 USD helps us pay for the teacher and house cleaner, their machines, sewing items, fabric, food on class days, and keeps the lights on! You might think about that as a Christmas gift for someone who already has everything but would enjoy the thought of helping someone else at Christmas.  Let me know and I can send you a picture of one of the seven to receive a sewing machine. Christina (shopping below) will start a business sewing Maasai wraps.

Editha, (below) is our newest MAP mom. She is seventeen and was in quarantine at Neema for a few weeks while her baby’s horrible skin condition healed. At home in USA River her mother has died and her father is very sick. Her five-year-old brother lives with them and they have very little in the home. MAP will help Editha support her family with a small duka (shop) selling things like salt, sugar, and soap. Our shop manager Baraka built her stand where she will sell her products. We bought her a bed and her business and support for six months will cost $600. Supporting a MAP mom would also be a great Christmas gift.  

This week Neema’s “Save The Mothers” program is in session again in the Mothering Center. This is Kassie’s third session this year teaching now thirty-four traditional birthers from remote villages how to safely deliver babies.  Can I tell you how much I love this program! These Bibis (grandmothers) cannot speak a word of English or even Swahili but we love them. We love their spirit, their smiles and willingness to jump into songs and dancing and the fact that they would come to a strange town to a strange home with things they have never seen like stoves and coffeepots, and that they would all sleep together on the floor for a week, eat different foods and listen to strangers speak a different language all day and show gory, moving pictures of birthings so they can then go home and completely change how they have done things for centuries in their villages!  I just admire them so much. They give Kassie a run for her money somedays but she is tough and committed and holding her own. Actually, Kassie doesn’t take any money to do this program. She has paid her own way here at Neema for over a year. That is what our volunteers do!

Traditional Maasai Birthers

While in America this trip we did purchase a compressor for the Neema Village Tanzania Water Well project. With the down hole hammer that we brought last trip home, we were able to get through the black rock but were not able to rent a compressor big enough to blow the chips out of the hole so the bit kept getting stuck in the hole. The compressor cost a bit more than we had hoped to pay, $14,000 USD and the shipping costs, because of Covid and ships unable to dock, has almost doubled in price. While in the States we also purchased 20 more drill stems to go down 400 feet. Each one cost $175. USD. Now that would be an unusual Christmas gift!! 

“Hey Hon, your Christmas gift this year is a drill stem for African water wells!”  I like it!

Scott Lockett and Alan Sandor are looking for a 20 foot shipping container to send the compressor and drill stems. If you have one sitting in your back yard and you would be willing to donate it to our nonprofit for a tax write off, we would really appreciate that. Or if you are willing to buy one for us that would be great too. Please let us know soon, we need to get this compressor on the ship. 

Scripture tells us, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” So, today we are asking and believing! I am convinced God’s people have everything we need to do His work. It is His job to touch your heart. It is our job to tell the story. www.neemavillage.org

Love you all,

Dorris and Michael

Witnessing A Miracle

Witnessing A Miracle

November 7, 2021

Kim calls with news from Neema Village.

A mom has come to Neema begging for help. A few years ago, her husband had gone to work in the mines and there was a cave in. He and nine other men were buried and their bodies never found. 

You can see it in her face as she talks, there is no closure for this mom; she is still hoping he will come walking in the door someday.

Her name is Anna Francis but we call her Mama Neema. She has four children; the oldest girl is named Neema. One year after she lost her husband, Neema fell into the fire and was burned over much of her body. Many Africans still cook on a wood fire on the floor in the middle of their homes and children being burned is a common problem. Neema’s hands and arms did not heal well and her fingers were frozen like claws.

Mama Neema had sold everything she owned to pay for surgery to help Neema’s elbows bend but her hands are still needing surgery. She had been at Plaster House and was recently released and had nowhere to go. Flora, one of our MAP moms who was there learning to walk without four toes from a burn, told her about Neema Village. (Flora, below, after her surgery)

So Mama Neema came begging. The family has been sleeping on the floor of friend’s houses. They have nothing.

Kim was with Anna, our MAP director, as Mama Neema told them her story. (Below, Kim and Anna out interviewing another mom)

When the mother realized that Neema Village was not only going to help with her immediate needs, that we were going to give her a place to live while she got back on her feet, that we would start her in a business to help her take care of her family and that we would help pay for the surgery for Neema’s hands, she fell on her knees, arms raised in Praise, and began crying and shouting “I’m saved, Praise God, I’m going to live!” 

There are no words adequate to describe moments like this. “This woman received a miracle and Anna and I got to witness it,” Kim said. Knowing Kim and Anna, there were no dry eyes in that room that day!

Kim says, “To see God’s miracles in your own life is an incredible thing. Witnessing a miracle in someone’s else’s life, right in front of your eyes, is nothing short of a Gift from God.” That He lets us be administrators of His Incredible Grace is our beautiful gift! I sometimes think we are just like a great big “God funnel.” He funnels it in and we get to funnel it out!!

On that same day Social Welfare brought in another mother with her new baby (Kasim, Above).  The mother is very young but is a prostitute on the streets and does not want the baby. She said, “You take him or I will put him on the street. I can have four men a night and make 50,000 shillings a night, I cannot have a baby.” 

Anna tried to talk her into staying with the baby at Neema Village for one night.  “Just give us one night,” Anna pleaded. She told her about our MAP program and that she could have a different life but it remains to be seen if she will stay and if she will keep the baby. Please be praying that God’s love for her will reach this young mother’s heart.

Two other new babies came to Neema Village this week, Nasiri (above) and Philbert (below). Kim says, let’s just call him Little Bert. I don’t know their stories. I will get those later. The baby home is a full house, so be praying for the Nannies, too!

From the highs and lows of daily life at Neema Village, a day can leave you breathless one minute and exhausted the next. But this is not unusual, it is what we do by God’s Overflowing Grace.

As we head back to Africa and the babies and moms at Neema Village please remember our personal mailing address (Not the Neema Village mailing address) is now :

Michael and Dorris Fortson

524 Tynes

Robinson, TX 76706

We hope you get to see a miracle this week; if not, be one for someone else!

Don’t Be Afraid, You’ve Got Me!

Don’t Be Afraid, You’ve Got Me!

October 22, 2021

Two adoptions this month and one baby is reunified with his mother. That makes us so happy. Baby Innocent’s mother was deaf and had other disabilities when Social Welfare decided she was unable to care for a tiny baby. We are so happy that she is now able to take Innocent home. Our little granddaughter Maria loves all the babies especially Innocent. (Video below is too cute for words!)

Innocent goes home 28237AED 973A 45A0 9442 A5B8B40CF81F

Handsome Prince abandoned in one of the gardens at the hospital, was brought to Neema Village a few months ago. He had been well cared for and left with a note telling us his name and medical records. It is so sad that this poor mother felt she had no choice but to leave her sweet little boy. A Tanzanian woman who had been wanting a baby for a long time adopted him.

We have been wondering when God would send a forever family for little abandoned baby, Hope. Her mother, who had wanted a boy, left the hospital to get some food and never returned. A member of parliament came this month to adopt this baby. It is always our hope and prayer that these babies find a loving and stable home and that they find Jesus there as well. Go with God Little Hopie, remember we loved you first.

When you have little resources in your life you can feel very alone and afraid. That is how Esther felt talking to Kim and our Women’s Rights attorney, Winnie last week. Esther speaks Maasai and leads the Birthers around campus below. She gets them to class, activities and meals.

She is one of the young girls living in an orphanage down the street for Maasai girls who have run away from their villages usually to keep from marrying an old man. Esther was caught in a pre arranged marriage with a huge bride price already paid. She ran away and we were visiting the little Swahili church down the road a couple of years ago when her mother walked seven hours in from the village to see if her daughter was ok. It was a tearful reunion and a bit hush-hush because money and cows were involved and the husband was looking for his run-a-way bride. (Esther below reading her Maasai Bible)

Esther told Kim how angry the jilted husband was and how he was harassing her family in the village and now her father is beating her mother to get the money from Esther. Kim set up a counseling meeting with Winnie, the Women’s Rights attorney. When the meeting in the office was over and Esther was crying and saying how alone she has felt with this problem Winnie, the attorney, got up, went around the desk, put her arms around her and said, “Don’t be afraid, you’ve got me!” Kim says that has become the new mantra around Neema when volunteers, moms and staff express a problem they are facing, “Don’t be afraid, you’ve got me!”

Sweet new baby Judith (above) came to Neema Village this week, another little one who will never know her mother. It is so sad to lose important, well known, big people in the world but who will know and who will cry for these little ones? Bless you for following their stories and supporting them.

Updates from the last blog; the mom with the baby with the horrible skin condition (above) has been at Neema in quarantine for about 3 weeks and is looking better. We have moved her out of quarantine and into the MAP houses. She looks so happy now and I am sure that baby feels better.

The mom who came to Neema with a horribly burned leg had surgery and is doing well. Her husband was abusive but she is in our MAP program now and is living in the May MAP houses on campus. She will join the Women’s Rights classes and learn that she has the right not to be beaten. Many African women do not know that!

One last bit of good news for you today. Anna, our MAP director came into the office a few days ago with big tears running down her face. She said Tausi, one of our MAP moms, came to see her today with a box with 2 million shillings (about $1,000) inside. Tausi had been homeless after her husband left her because she had two Albino children. After we brought her to Neema, through our MAP program she attended business and Bible classes and then started a charcoal business and a vegetable stand. Now she has saved enough money to buy some land so she can own her own home! Awesom, from homeless to homeowner. She also accepted Jesus and was baptized this summer. The Grace of God at work!!

I pray that we all know today that we are not alone. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20 “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

I’m pretty sure that is what Jesus is saying to us today, Don’t be afraid, you’ve got me!

Dorris and Michael

We Need Some Power!

We Need Some Power!

October 9. 2021

Summer 2021 has arrived at Neema village and our babies love playing in the water outside. We love having fun things for these little ones to do. All the babies at Neema Village are orphaned, abandoned or are at-risk. A baby without a mother is considered an orphan since they have very little chance of surviving out in the villages without a mother. All our babies have a tragic story or we would not have them. So we try to fill their lives with lots of fun and happiness while we have them.

Baby Ruth came to Neema in September with her 18 year old mother, an orphan herself, who had some very horrible things done to her and as a result became pregnant and contracted HIV. We are not sure what the future will hold for this little one. Please be praying for emotional healing that only God can give to this young mother. We are grateful to be able to stand in the gap for this mom and her baby but with five new babies this month we cannot do this work of God without you.

Please consider sponsoring Ruth while she is here with us. To set up a sponsorship for one of the five new babies this month please go to www.neemavillage.org

We have had a great group of volunteers this month thinking up fun things for the babies to do. They worked hard, loved well, sang a lot and played good. Exactly what we love about our volunteers. Bless you Jack and Sylvia Pape, Paul Pape, Ken and Joan Preslar, Joy and Mike Stevens, Ryan and Valene Roseke, Stacie Schaefer, Marquisette Bickford, Edwina Gramuska, Sophia Hays and our long term volunteers, Ashley Berlin, Kassie Stanfield, Bekah Johnson and Director Kim White on the right.

Kim and Bekah have had to deal with some tough problems this month including this desperate mom who showed up with her baby needing help. We took them to two different hospitals but neither hospital would take them. The baby does look very contagious. Kim brought them back to Neema and they are in isolation in the Mothering Center. Our nannies are bringing them food.

Another mom, Mary came to Neema Village looking for help this month. Her husband used to beat her and had left the family when she was pregnant. He took all the family belongings except the foam mattress Mary and her four children were sleeping on. When she couldn’t pay the rent she became homeless and would walk the village, dragging the mattress, during the day asking for a room for the little family to spend the night. This is where Anna and volunteers met her. in a borrowed room

She said the people she stayed with would give her clothes but it became a big thing and she could not carry the clothes too as she went house to house so she would leave them on the road. Anna loaded up her few belongings and brought her to Neema Village. Now Mary has a room with two beds, a table and chairs, a stove, pots and pans, blankets and sheets and a safe place to sleep. Praise God and thank you to the beautiful people who built this house for these homeless moms. Mary will begin classes at Neema, including the Women’s Rights Classes which teach these women they have the right not to be beaten. She will start a vegetable business soon. You can help these moms by donating to the MAP (Mothers Against Poverty) program at Neema Village, just put MAP on the purpose line.

The poor mom below came to Neema with a horribly burned leg. She says a pot of porridge was spilled down her leg but she also says her husband pushed her. She has been dealing with this huge burn for quite a few months. Neema took her for surgery yesterday along with Flora, one of our MAP moms who also had a burned foot.

With 55 babies currently in house, 87 MAP moms, going to classes and seminars, 75 full time staff, 12 special needs babies, and 13 buildings on campus Neema Village is a busy place. It takes a lot just to keep the place running and the lights on! The red buildings with green roofs were built for $24 a square foot. They look magnificent but they are just cement blocks and tin roofs with no air conditioning. They just had a good designer. The baby home was first drawn out on a napkin in the cafeteria of Harding University with Bob Gibson! Thanks Paul Pape for this different view of the village.

With 13 buildings on campus it takes a lot of power to keep everything running. We often do not have enough power to run the milking machines, water pumps, hot water heaters or pasteurizing machine so we are trying to get our own power lines and transformer.

We Need some Power!

Michael and I most often do not feel we have enough power to do what is happening at Neema Village. Most of this is way beyond two 78 year olds!! Fortunately we know the One who has the Power! We pray you do too.

More Power to You!

Love Michael and Dorris

I Didn’t Know

I Didn’t Know

September 27, 2021

I thought I knew a lot about Africa, we have lived in this beautiful country almost 17 years total. But I didn’t know this, Tanzania loses 1.25 moms in childbirth every hour of every day, 365 days a year! Did you know that? Gulp! I didn’t.

Many of our babies at Neema Village came to us because their Maasai mom died in childbirth, including our little granddaughter Maria (below). Maria’s mom was the 8th wife of a village chief. The little baby, Anna, is another baby from Maria’s village who lost her mom in childbirth. New little twins at Neema also came from this small village.

This week we had our second “Save The Mothers” session at Neema Village. Save the Mothers is a one week intensive safe birthing training program. We bring traditional birthing attendants from remote Maasai villages into Neema Village where they stay with us. They participate in 6 days of safe birthing classes and cover a wide variety of topics from basics of female anatomy (KiMaasai does not always have a word for things like placenta) to successfully resolving shoulder dystocia and many things in between.

Kassie was the teacher again and you might ask why a CPA is teaching a class on safe birthing and there are two main reasons. First of all we didn’t have a doctor volunteer, Kassie did. Then a doctor who helped Kassie write the program said, “You know, Kassie, a doctor could not do this. He knows too much, his head is too full of knowledge and he could not condense it down to one week!” So Kassie did!

Kassie decided to surprise the class one day and she wore the big Maasai dancing collars. They jumped up and began singing and dancing around her and soon Kassie was dancing with them. These Grandmothers can dance!

It was not all school for the Bibis (Grandmothers) they did get to spend some time with our Maasai babies at the Montana house. And yes, that is big boy Phillip below.

They learned how to do CPR on a baby, learned about uterine inversion, breech birth and other complications that cause so much trouble for them.

At graduation Kassie had each woman stand up and tell something they learned this week that they did not know. With tears in her eyes, one woman said, “I didn’t know that FGM was killing our mothers, I didn’t know.”

The picture above is women from Maria’s Maasai village. We have 4 babies from this one village whose moms died in childbirth. We are praying because of this class we will lose no more. You can be a part of something that makes a huge difference in the lives of these women. This program is costing Neema Village $3,917. We will do as many sessions this year as we get the money for.

Now you can’t say, “I didn’t know.”

May God give us all wisdom and discernment.

Dorris and Michael

The Latest News

The Latest News

September 10, 2021

With fifty four babies in house, five new babies in a week, MAP moms moving in and out, starting businesses, having babies, sewing classes humming, with chicken coops needing cleaned, not enough electric power to run the pasteurizer or milking machine, builders leaving out a wheel chair ramp for Sophia, mud stuck in the water well, the garden drying up with no rain, and corn needing shucked, Babu and I decided it was time to head home!

Up to the task, thank Goodness Super Woman, Dynamo, Eyes in the back of her head (according to the nannies) our daughter Kim has arrived. She brought her husband Bruce for the first time. One of our new babies, Little orphan Annie, is with Kim above.

And Kim’s husband Bruce, above, with our third baby named Sarah.

The MAP program continues to grow every month with 85 women in the business program now. Our latest mom is Rosie.

A Community leader called our MAP Director Anna at Neema Village about a Mother who had been abandoned by her husband so Anna and a few volunteers went to see how we could help. Rosie is a second wife and she and the first wife did not get along. In a fight the first wife injured Rosie’s little boy’s hand and after surgery it did not heal properly. Finally Rosie left with her two children. A kind old woman gave her a room to stay in with her two children, 3 years and 1 year old. There was no bed, no mattress, no electricity, nothing in the room. The mother had nothing, no food and no money. Rosie is 21 years old and her family is very poor and lives far away. They cannot help her. We will move Rosie to the Jeffrey May MAP houses. She will begin counseling and meeting with the other MAP moms at Neema. We can talk about a business for her in the future. Sophia Hays and Rachel Lanford went with Anna.

Abandoned baby little Handsome Prince was left in the garden at the local hospital. He looks well cared for and we just cannot imagine what happened with this poor mom to abandon this sweet baby. We are praying she can be found and we can help her. I hope she knows we will love him until she returns.

“We have a beauty on our hands,” was Kim’s comment when she first saw baby Lisa, above, whom Social Welfare had just brought in from a town in Southern Tanzania. Her mom is young and still in boarding school and grandmother did not feel she could take care of the baby.

Village leaders and grandmother brought in little twins, Nosiligi and Naleku, a few days before we left. Their mom had died in childbirth out in Maria’s village. Hopefully this village is on our list of places to do a “Save The Mothers” program. We have lost too many moms from this village.

We will be in the States for a few weeks. We could meet you for Mexican food anywhere, most anytime. Just let us know.

May God grant us all rest and peace,

Dorris and Michael.

(little Lisa below getting her first bath at Neema, such a good baby.)

Lisa baby movie IMG 5452

Why Are We Doing This Program?

Why Are We Doing This Program?

August 12, 2021

They had gathered under a tree in a remote Maasai village for the first progress report of baby deliveries since the “Save The Mothers” seminar held at Neema Village in June 2021.

Once again we were overjoyed and a bit amazed that seven of the birthers actually showed up for the meeting.

Below there’s a Kassie in those hugs somewhere! She remembered all their names and each one had to grab her for a big Maasai hug.

We had brought three of our volunteers, Heather Klos, Deborah Goppelt and Rachel Lanford out to see a Maasai village. They loved seeing the women break into happy songs and dancing when they saw Kassie.

The seven Birthers had brought along a few friends and the meeting progressed with over 50 women present, all of them wanting us to do a seminar in their village to teach them how to save babies. This seminar tackles the main obstetric complications that kill mothers and babies in childbirth.

We were quite happy to see an actual written report (below) since most of these women do not read or write. We learned that since the seminar these seven birthers had delivered 22 babies. Only one had lost a baby. She reported the mom was still in primary school, (that is between ages 7 to 13) and she knew immediately she would have trouble. The girl was too small to safely have a baby. But we were happy she had saved the mom.

They each reported using some of the techniques Kassie had taught them, two used infant CPR to save babies who would have previously died. One even used the Shoulder Dystocia procedures with a mom who had been in hard labor for over 24 hours saving both the mom and baby.

To make this seminar so much more important for us, three new babies came to Neema this month from Maasai villages after their moms died.

“A second new baby this week, one day old baby Anna, who weighs about 1.4 kg or about 3 lbs, traveled in from a remote Maasai village with her uncles. Her mom had died in childbirth and her dad had died before the birth. Chances of this little orphan’s survival up to age five without a mother and father were slim.”

I could not stop the tears when I found that she is from our little granddaughter, Maria’s village. Her father was Maria’s mother’s brother. Little Anna is Maria’s cousin. Now two moms from this small village will never see their little girls grow up, never see them marry and have children of their own. My heart hurts.”

August 2021- Moses (below) came to Neema a few days ago. He is healthy weighing 7.7 lbs. He was born July 13th, through a cesarean. His mother was in the hospital for three days and sadly died due to hemorrhaging. Moses’ grandmother would like to care for him but the family says she is too old. His great aunt did come with him to Neema to see him settled. She may be able to care for him eventually. We know God has good plans for this little guy. Neema will keep him healthy, loved, and happy till his forever family comes.

Please consider sponsoring him while he is here. Go to www.neemavillage.org to find out how. Thank you!

Baby Bahati which means “Good Luck” lost her mom this week from possible high blood pressure during childbirth. Bahati is three months old but looks about one month. She cannot lift her head.

These three little new ones at Neema Village who lost their mothers make us realize we must work harder and faster in this Save The Mothers program. Our next safe birthing seminar is scheduled for the middle of September. That will be to one village but there are many villages calling for help. Please pray and support this program. We know God’s people have all the money needed to support His work. We just have to tell the story.

May His Grace and Mercy be with you,

Dorris and Michael

Birthers progress video IMG 4712

Way More Good Than Bad

Way More Good Than Bad

July 11, 2021

Thursday we went out to see the triplet girls, Anna, Esther and Deborah who had lived at Neema for two years after their birth. We always love visiting our babies who have returned home especially this sweet family. Their original mud house is in the back and their newer cement house is in front.

Most of our babies go home to families that are able to send them to school, like one of our abandoned babies who was adopted by a surgeon in Dar. Unfortunately some of them need help going to school when they return home. Our second set of triplets, Anna, Esther and Deborah are a part of our outreach school kids program and Thursday we went out to see how they were doing in school.

Above, our beautiful triplet girls are looking at Neema’s business card which has their picture on it. If you have followed Neema you have probably seen this picture below. It is on all our business cards.

Three of these babies above came to Neema in July of 2012 a few hours after their birth. Their mother was close to death and the babies were very small so we brought all of them with the mother to Neema. Deborah weighed 1.13 kg when Michael went out to pick them up.

Now they are big school girls and Ashley and I along with a couple of volunteers had gone out to see how they were doing in school.

They are in a government school and their grades are not good. It was the only school available when they first went home but now there is a new English Medium school out in their area and we will to try to get them moved to the new school. Government schools are crowded and have very little equipment. Private schools are expensive but we want the girls to have a good education.

We had a great visit with the family and then the mother wanted the girls to sing for us. It was quite fun and lively as “Jesu ni Mwamba” filled the crowded room.

They brought out the drum (the blue bucket) and we all sang while a couple of our more energetic visitors danced in the back of the room. We had given their mother a sewing machine and she had made the girl’s skirts.

They live by a beautiful river but we had to cross this little stream below to get to the river first. It was about 2 feet deep and they were jumping across when Ashley fell in and was soaking wet. Thank Goodness they brought a board for the rest of us. Poli Sana Ashley!

The triplet girl’s mother, Elisifa, is such a gracious host and fixed us chicken and rice for lunch. I always love her name, it means God is Praised. We love this little family and want the girls to have a good education but they will not get it in the government school.

After we left the triplet girl’s house we stopped by to check on Gloria. Gloria was one of our favorite kids from the beginning of Neema. She had been brought to Neema as a baby almost starved to death. Now she is a big school girl. We had put her grandmother into our MAP program and set her up in a little Duka (shop), so that Gloria could return home. The shop seems to be doing very well.

Ashley looked at Gloria’s school work and we were a bit disappointed when the teachers told us Gloria was 19th in her class. She had been number one in class when we first put her in the school. They said grandmother had not bought her books and she had no exercise books for her homework. We give all our school families 200,000 TSH for uniforms and books so we will need to find out why grandmother did not buy them. I guess without books 19th was not bad.

Then we stopped in to check on Meshack and Ema who are in foster care with one of our MAP moms. She is doing great and Meshack is number one in class and Ema is number four. So proud of this mom and the boys.

We made one final visit on the way home to see a woman who has been keeping a disabled child for ten years. She is retired without an income which is common here and was needing help with diapers and milk for the child. We were quite touched by the years of dedication and love of this sweet woman for a child that was not even hers.

Volunteers Ylva and Billie Axell from Sweden decided to take on the support of this kind woman and Ashley is buying her a blender for preparing food for the child. The kindness of good people always astounds me! In case you have ever wondered there are way more good people in the world than bad!

We all know how important education is for the children of Africa, especially the girls. When you educate a girl you not only change her world you change ours! Thank you to all of you who support our school kids. You will probably never know the far reaching good you have done.


Dorris and Michael

If you are strong of heart and over 18 I will tell you a true story.

“I heard this story of a Maasai girl whose father told her she must be circumcised. If she didn’t he would be shamed in the village. Unbelievably she made a deal with her father. If he would let her stay in school she would agree to be circumcised. On the appointed day she walked into the cow pen with all the village looking on and a rusty razor blade was used to cut off all her female parts. The pain was unbearable and she fainted but two weeks later she was back in the classroom.” God help us.

If you want to help us educate these children please go to www.neemavillage.org.

His Plan Is Always Better

His Plan Is Always Better

June 25, 2021

We have been talking, planning, and dreaming for a few years about building birthing centers out in the remote areas of Tanzania to help save some of the moms who die in childbirth. We would staff it with medical grads, we thought, who would spend six months working in Africa before they settled down to a practice. It sounded good. Thankfully, God stepped in and had a better plan.

Instead, let’s bring them in for two weeks of training! Meet our first Maasai “Birthers.” Twelve Bibis (grandmothers) came in to learn new techniques on how to save mothers during childbirth. Kassie and I were close to tears as we realized they actually were coming in. For most of them this was their first trip to a big town; many of them had never seen a paved road, flush toilets, or water running in a sink; we know because Kassie had to turn it off the first day! And yet they came to spend two weeks with strangers, in a place they did not know, to learn how to save the mothers. Amazing.

Kassie loves to hold the Neema babies, so the seminar took away some of her baby holding time. Hopefully she can make it up. That is cutie pie little Venosa with her. Kassie had prepared two weeks of lessons with videos, since none of the birthers knew how to read or write. She started by just listening to them.

Each lesson had to be translated twice, from Kassie’s English, into KiSwahili by Mercy, a midwife, and then into KiMaasai by Juliette, one of our nannies. These three made quite a team!

We had planned all their meals starting with Chai at 8:30 every morning. We knew that Maasai do not eat game meat but we did not know they do not like chicken so we had to scramble to change some of our menus.

Classes started at 9am sharp or somewhere close to that! We had something fun, like drawing, for them to do each day. They didn’t like playdough!

I think I have seen some of these drawings on a cliff somewhere, haven’t you??

As the women began to open up and talk Kassie kept notes.

It would be hard to tell you all we learned from listening to them but one thing for sure, their customs run deep, are generational and will be hard to change

There was plenty of one on one visiting time, too

We learned to love these grandmothers, even though some of their customs were harsh to hear, left Kassie in tears and were unimaginable to think about. I couldn’t pronounce most of their names but I think this Bibi was Sweet Face.

In the mornings after Chai, we had a short Bible lesson. Kelle Samsill, Leslie Miller and Ashley Berlin did some beautiful lessons on God’s love and plan for His people. Ashley, in the middle below, is our wonderful teacher at Neema Village.

On Sunday the volunteers took the Bibis to a local Swahili church. They sang some Maasai songs and said a few words to the group. Maasai women always look dressed up because they wear so much beautiful, sparkly jewelry

One afternoon after classes I took them down to the barn to see our big Holstein milk cows. That may have been a mistake since most of the wars in this country have been fought over cows. Maasai believe God gave them all the cows on the earth and if you have a cow, they want it back.

They wanted to see how a sewing machine worked so Orupa came down one day to show them a machine.

Four of them proceeded to sew a bag.

Two weeks later on graduation day, they each got a certificate and a red Maasai Bible.

Our little granddaughter, Maria, a Maasai herself, got to hand out the Bibles. You must use two hands when giving and receiving to the Maasai.

Esther was our fabulous, after-hours director for the Bibis. She walked them everywhere, made sure they made it to class and meals on time and slept in the MAP houses with them. She lives in an orphanage down the street from Neema Village. Esther had run away from her village to keep from marrying an old man. Hiring Esther was one of the best things we did!

At graduation they each got a T-Shirt with the “Save the Mothers” Emblem on the back and “We love Mothers and We will Save Them” written in KiMaasai on the front.

I love the SAVE THE MOTHERS logo on the back.

During graduation they each had to tell one thing they had learned in their two weeks at Neema Village

Some of them said that they learned how to do a Shoulder Dystocia. Others learned how to safely deliver a breech birth.

Michael and I do not know how to do most of what we do here at Neema Village but one thing we have learned is that God’s plan is always better and we are never afraid to drop our plans to do His.

You deserve a medal if you made it to the end of this marathon blog!


Dorris and Michael

Bibis sing Ache IMG 4983

God’s Mercy and Grace

God’s Mercy and Grace

June 4, 2021

We were already down four drivers and needing to make a hospital run with a Neema baby when Anna, tears streaming down her face, walked up from the Mothering Center carrying a scrappy, dirty bundle of rags. Last week Hayley, our granddaughter and a couple of volunteers had gone out with Anna on a MAP run checking on a mom in trouble.

After the first MAP visit last week here is Anna’s report:

“Salma is 23 years old with two kids and we think pregnant. Abandoned by her mother when she was age one, she lived with her grandfather until marriage. After her husband left she moved back to live with her grandfather. She had never known her mother or father and then a few years ago her grandfather died and Salma was alone in the world. She started begging on the street and that is where she got pregnant again. She used to sleep with many men to get money to feed her kids. One day while begging she met Ema, our Neema Village driver. He knew she needed help and he gave her 10,000 TSH ( about $5) to get a pikipiki ride to Neema Village.”

Anna’s little bundle of rags this morning contained a perfect little baby girl with a slip of bloody rag tied to the umbilical cord.

Kelle Samsill describes this morning:

“Last night Salma was in labor so she fed her other 2 children and put them to bed. She knew that she would have to deliver this baby at home alone. The baby was born during the night. She cut the umbilical cord with a razor and tied it off with a piece of torn material. When it was light, she left her other 2 children and walked to Neema Village with her newborn baby. You see, she knew where to come for help. She knew where she could come and be loved and not judged. When she walked into the office carrying some material, we did not know what was was in it. As we opened it up, there lay the most perfect baby girl, still naked, sleeping peacefully. As we took her into our arms, we began to realize what was taking place. Anna and Dorris jumped into action. They took Salma to get cleaned up and to rest while the others of us held this sweet angel and sang to her and prayed over her.”

Nanny Glory giving the newborn a bath below.

Salma was worried about her other two young children, five and three, left at home alone so Michael took “Ole Bob” our big truck (Thank You Karen Harmon) and three volunteers with Anna to pick up the two children and the new bed and household items Neema had bought for her last week. She said people would come in and take everything.

And so the little family is reunited again and safe at Neema Village. She doesn’t know it yet but a new and different life is in store for this little mom. Mercy has come to her and Hope is on the way.

In her sweet, soft voice Salma tells Kelle the new baby’s name is Neema. Once again we cry.

With a few more tears we see our precious Dallas off to his new life this afternoon. An abandoned baby, Dallas is being adopted by one of the happiest couples we have ever seen pick up a baby from Neema. I wish I could show you their pictures as they laughed and played with happy little Dallas today but it is their story to tell now.

And so another day of God’s Mercy and Grace ends at Neema Village and these two old folks are ready for bed.

Love you guys,

Michael and Dorris

From Black Mamba to Graduation, What a Week!

From Black Mamba to Graduation, What A Week!

May 20, 2021

What a week! From seeing a black Mamba eat a chicken, a giraffe almost eating out of Kassie’s hand, to the MAP moms graduation, it has been an exciting past few days. Last Thursday our school kids, Frankie, Julius and Maria got to go to the snake farm, ride camels and tour a Maasai village.

Kids, you would want to stay as far away as possible from this snake! The black mamba struck so fast we missed it!

Just a little less dangerous, Kassie was ready to feed the giraffe on our trip out to visit with the village leaders about the Midwife classes starting this Sunday. We have never seen so many giraffe along the road and right outside the petrol station.

A new member of Parliament, Mr. Mrisho M. Gambo, came for a visit on Wednesday and brought gifts of food and a goat. A friend from our long ago Chimala days came with him; it was fun to get caught up on the family.

Tuesday was an amazing graduation day for our MAP Moms. The Computer classes, Sewing classes and Women’s Rights Program at Neema Village all had graduates this time. Women, who just a few months ago were so beaten down and abused they could hardly hold their heads up, now have hope through the Mothers Against Poverty program. Linnet and her baby, homeless and abandoned by her husband, now has a successful used clothing business and look at that smile of joy as she sings for us!

Margreth who was working at the dump picking up used water bottles took the computer classes and sewing classes at Neema. We are so happy for this young woman.

The sewing classes did a lively style show so we could see the beautiful dresses they each designed and made at the MAP Center.

Tausi was one of sixteen women who received sewing machines at graduation. Last year she had been abandoned by her husband because she had two Albino children. She was begging around a small village outside Arusha when an older woman let her stay with her. There were two adults and five children sleeping in a mud hut that was ready to fall down when we drove out to see if we could help. We cannot say thank you enough for those of you who donated sewing machines. I hope Tausi’s smile says Thank You to you.

After graduation, the women and village leaders walked up to the new MAP Houses. Over a year ago Kristi May came for a visit at Neema Village. We told her of our dream to build small apartment rooms for our MAP moms. When we bring a woman in who has been living on the street or in unsafe places we have been renting houses for them to stay while they rebuild their lives and start their MAP businesses. Kristi emailed later that she wanted to build the houses in memory of her husband Jeffrey Scott May. God’s people showing His love never cease to amaze us!!

Furnishings for the six apartments, beds, stoves, pots, pans, etc were given by another supporter of Neema Village. Purple and white bougainvillea will line the fence in front and there are dobi wash tubs, showers, toilets and a clothes line all across the back for the moms.

The MAP logo on the front was painted by a local artist at the Maasai Market. We chose the name The Mercy House because the women know we are all in great need of God’s Mercy. Rehema means Mercy in Swahili. Titus 3:5 “It was not because of our righteousness but because of His Mercy that He saved us.”

With ribbon cutting, hanging the plaque, cutting the cake, prayers and songs, the MAP houses were dedicated and are now open and ready for the next MAP moms.

Not to forget our babies, new little twins came to Neema last week, Isaya and Isaka. Their mom has HIV and is very depressed. Social Welfare decided she was not able to keep the babies. Hopefully she will be well enough to take the little guys home soon. In the meantime they will need sponsors.

So glad you made it to the bottom of this long blog!

Love you guys,

Dorris and Michael Fortson

Save The Mothers

Save The Mothers

May 9, 2021

I’ve tried to pick her face out in a crowd. We’ve sung with village girls like her many times, maybe she is one of them here. She was just 15, a few years short of hips wide enough to birth, when she had her first baby and died.

Frankie Village Girls Dancing IMG 7697

It is beyond sad, these young girls dancing their hearts out, never knowing that one in seven of them will most likely die in their teens having their first baby.

Baby Israel was born in January 2021 and his fifteen year old mother died three days later. The baby was brought in to Neema Village on Feb 5. At two weeks old he weighed 4.5 lbs or 2.05 kg. His head was terribly misshapen, it must have been a horrific birth, and he had a ringworm on his forehead. We are calling the baby Israel because we cannot pronounce his Maasai name, which is Ndorosi Ndiono Makarot.

He is looking better now in the picture below.

What happened you ask? Why do we lose so many young moms here?

I’m sure there are many reasons, lack of good medical care out in the remote villages, girls having babies too young, not enough healthy foods for pregnant women, the hard work of women carrying large loads of wood to cook the meals, carrying water long distances for the family and scarring from female circumcision. Scar tissue does not stretch like normal tissue. Maasai people are traditionally very tall, thin, narrow-hipped, beautiful people and they have learned over the years to try to have small babies. We learned at some of our Safe Birthing Seminars out in the villages that they stop eating the last month of pregnancy or they eat grass to vomit so they will have small babies.

The traditional “birthers” in a village are also the “cutters.” If a girl was not circumcised as a young girl between three to ten years old, when she has her first baby they will often circumcise her then. if we are going to do anything to help save these moms we have to work with the older women birthers.

We have decided it is time to stop asking “Why” and begin to ask “What.” What can we do to help save these mothers?

Isn’t it amazing, when the time is right God sends just the right person and in waltzes happy, giggly, energetic, extremely bright, talented, dedicated Kassie Stanfield, who is a certified CPA and left a good paying job in DC to come work free of charge at Neema Village. She also came with about 35 pages of lessons on Safe Birthing, some eye opening videos and an idea of training these “birthers” to become sort of “local midwives.” We have also hired an excellent midwife to teach the classes and she is already working on getting permission from the local government officials for the program. The midwife’s name is Mercy (teaching one of our birthing seminars below)

We plan to have our first Save the Mothers class at Neema the last of May. Twelve women from two Maasai villages will come for two weeks of intensive training and classes. They will stay in the new “Jeffery May MAP Houses.” The rooms are open , brightly painted and ready for moms!

It is going to be a big project, one that will save lives and if you want to help please let me know. We will schedule how many classes we have a year by how God moves people to help.

We are praying the “Save The Mothers” project will be a game changer for Africa’s moms. Please be praying for Kassie, Mercy and the women God will send for training. Also pray for our newest baby Sarah who weighs 1.25kg and still in the hospital with a feeding tube.

Have we told you lately that we think you are awesome!

dorris and michael at Neema Village