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Beating the odds

Unique children’s home in Tanzania is helping orphans thrive

Sara and John became statistics soon after they were born. Orphaned by mothers who died during childbirth, these infants had little chance of survival.

Thankfully, relatives brought Sara and John to Berega Orphanage in Tanzania. Lemsanya and Kristen Tisho serve with TMS Global in Tanzania and direct Berega Orphanage.

Berega was designed as a unique orphanage. Each child who lives at Berega must be accompanied by a “binti,” or caregiver. Often, the grandmother or older sister of an infant comes to live at the orphanage. Children are allowed to stay at Berega until they are two years old.

“We have found that Berega’s design has benefited the children in several ways,” said Kristen. “The kids have less attachment issues when they leave the orphanage since they are leaving with their binti. This helps the kids adjust more quickly when they return to their home village.

“In addition, the bintis learn how to care for the children, so we feel confident that someone will be there for each child when he or she returns home.”

Sara was brought to Berega a week after she was born, the day after her mother passed away. Her older sister, Julie, came to live with her.

John’s mother died 11 days after this birth. He and Faraja, his older sister, moved into Berega a few days later.

Julie and Faraja were never able to attend school. They spoke their tribal language, but could not read or speak Swahili. Kristen leads a literacy class at the orphanage, and both young women learned Swahili during their two-year stay.

While living at Berega, bintis also learn about nutrition, good hygiene, farming methods that use less water, and how to care for children. Kristen leads a sewing class to teach the bintis a trade. She also provides spiritual mentoring for the caregivers. Lemsanya directs the orphanage and assists with farming techniques to help support Berega.

In Tanzania, mothers dying from childbirth are far too common. Women lack maternal health services and skilled birth attendants, particularly in poor and rural areas. Even with the recent gains Tanzania has made in maternal mortality rates, the statistics remain staggeringly high.

In spite of their tough start in life, Sara and John are thriving. Sara’s father visited her during her years at Berega and was happy to bring her home when she turned two years old. John went to live with his aunt after he turned two. The Tishos check on the children after they leave Berega and keep in touch with them.

“Our hope and prayer,” said Kristen, “is that the children and caregivers who come to Berega will experience the love of Jesus and gain the tools they need to prosper when they return home.”