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Blog: Our visit to Forever Angels baby home - An amazing and uplifting experience

Mary Assimakopoulos, August 2012

When the documentary of Mark and I’s visit to Forever Angels baby home in Tanzania was launched on YouTube last week, I was able to reflect on the time we spent there.

Having lived in South Africa for many years when I was growing up, I was very aware of the poverty and problems we were likely to encounter on our trip, but nonetheless, what I experienced still managed to both shock and move me in equal measure.

Forever Angels Baby Home
Forever Angels Baby Home

When the documentary of Mark and I’s visit to Forever Angels baby home in Tanzania was launched on YouTube last week, I was able to reflect on the time we spent there.

Having lived in South Africa for many years when I was growing up, I was very aware of the poverty and problems we were likely to encounter on our trip, but nonetheless, what I experienced still managed to both shock and move me in equal measure.

Tanzania is a very poor country, amongst one of the poorest in the world, with the majority of the population living on around $1 a day. In rural areas, where people rely on agriculture to make a living, many families survive on one meal a day and their meagre incomes are allocated to the basic necessities of life – food, clothing and rent. The level of education is very low – only 20% of children of Tanzania attend secondary school.

Cultural issues have an impact on the country’s progress. People do not aspire to be better than their neighbours as they don’t want to provoke jealousy. In villages, many people still believe in witchcraft and consequently can be superstitious about multiple births, or children with illness, believing them to bring bad luck. One in 11 women dies in childbirth because of poor healthcare facilities. In these instances the burden of feeding a baby is overwhelming, as the cost of infant formula is prohibitive (£6.80 for a tin), and babies are often abandoned. Orphanages are poorly equipped and children with special needs or illness have very little hope.

In this very challenging environment Amy Hathaway and her family founded Forever Angels baby home in Mwanza in 2006. Amy and her husband, Ben, have 5 adopted Tanzanian children and Amy helps to manage the home day-to-day, living on site. The home now cares for over 50 babies aged 0-5 who have been left without one or both of their parents, who have been abandoned, are in ill health or starving. Where possible, Amy and her team of carers try to return the children to their families once they are in better health and weaned off milk. Forever Angels also aims to support the families of the children who are brought to them by setting them up in a business to secure their future wealth and wellbeing. They also have other outreach programmes to help stop the cycle of poverty in which many families find themselves.

Mark and I were very impressed by both the dedication of the people who run the home and the facilities of the baby home itself. The home is efficiently run by a team of managers, mammas and volunteers who are very well trained and clearly adore the children in their care (as did we!). The home is extremely clean, well-equipped and well-organised. The children are grouped by age, and each group has its own dormitory, with the ‘tiny babies’, aged 0-6 months, cared for in their own annexe separate to the rest of the baby home to protect them from infections. In addition there is an industrious kitchen and dining room, a spacious bathroom, 2 playrooms, a small pre-school for the children who are 3-5 years of age, a play ground and a sensory room that is unique to West Africa. The sensory room was set up to provide sensory stimulation to children with more severe disabilities. Some of the mammas have been professionally trained in physiotherapy and give daily massages to the special needs children here in a calming, yet stimulating, environment. It was lovely to take a tour of the home and see what they have achieved in the last 5 years, since its foundation.

The stories that Amy shares on the Forever Angels website about the children who come to the home are always moving – sad, shocking but mostly hopeful. Mabula is a recent arrival who came to the baby home abandoned and starving. Amy says in her blog “he could be anything from 2 to 4 years old – it is so hard to guess as he has wasted away and is just skin and bones and incredibly weak and lethargic. He has a full set of teeth and is 80cm tall – so is easily 2 years old – but he weighs only 7.3kg.” Fortunately he is now being well fed and cared for and looks significantly healthier and happier. Sadly, Amy believes he is probably deaf as he is not talking or responding to noise and this will mean his life will continue to be very challenging.

Fortunately the outcomes for children at the home are often uplifting and hopeful. Belta has triplet boys and brought them to the baby home in October, desperate because she was ill with HIV and had been abandoned by her husband. She couldn’t feed her babies and they were close to starving as she could not afford baby formula. The carers at the home were able to give the babies infant formula and in just a few months, they were in much better health, and we went with them on the journey back home to their mother. Forever Angels ensured that Belta could make a living from selling charcoal so that she can continue to feed and support her children on her own.

Forever Angels is an amazing charity run by an inspirational team of people. The charity relies entirely on donations and almost every penny raised goes directly to support the running of the baby home. Without this facility, many of the children in their care would have had no hope of survival. With Forever Angels, they now face a much more positive future. All donations, however big or small, help save a child’s life every day.

We are committed to supporting this very worthwhile charity and our employees are already planning another fundraising effort for the summer. If you haven’t done so already, please watch our documentary – for every view The Research Partnership will make a donation to Forever Angels.

Or you can visit The Forever Angels website to find out more about how you can help. We wish the staff and their children every success and hope to visit them again soon.

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