When Mark Dombkins adopted three children via Tanzania-based charity Forever Angels it changed his life and his work forever...

This is a feature from Issue 7 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.

My wife and I lived in Tanzania for three years with our two kids, Jackson and Jemima. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place, full of hope, vibrancy and life, but it’s also a country where one-third of the population lives below the basic needs poverty line and 20 women die in childbirth every day.

We had a dream of providing a family for kids who didn’t have one and we went on to welcome Shay, Charlie and Jabari into our family, adopted from the Forever Angels Baby Home.

By the end of 2013, we had finalised the adoption and were ready to move back to Australia, but we couldn’t just walk away. Forever Angels had just started a new project to give families the confidence to become self-sustaining. Though many babies in Tanzania are abandoned, in heartbreak and desperation, they are not unwanted, just unable to be kept. Out of the three million orphans in Tanzania, 80% have a loving family who dearly want to keep them. We saw the impact Forever Angels had on this situation first-hand.  

One of the women they were working with was 65-year old Martha, who had bravely stepped up to care for her grandson Daniel and his four older siblings, after their mother tragically died in childbirth. But without the proper nutrition available she began to struggle. She tried everything, feeding him porridge and tea, but he quickly became malnourished. When Martha bought Daniel to Forever Angels he was six weeks old and weighed 1.4kg.

The charity’s Maisha Matters project empowers women like Martha through education from experienced and dedicated Tanzanian staff over a 12-month period. Every Tuesday, Martha travelled over an hour with Daniel to training, sometimes in the bucketing rain, and she was joined by over 60 other carers just like her. They were given training in first aid and nutrition, an update on the children’s weight and formula milk for a week.

When the child returns to a healthy weight and their confidence and quality of life improves, the team then teaches business skills and works with each caregiver to help them set up a business that reflects their skills and interests. This bespoke approach dramatically changes the course of each family’s life. Twelve months later Daniel was a healthy and thriving little boy and Martha had a business selling fruit and vegetables, making enough money to care for her whole family independently.

I have witnessed first-hand the beautiful sense of connection and community that develops between the women in the Maisha Matters project. They no longer feel isolated or desperate. These women feel empowered, seen and connected.

I have become a dedicated advocate and supporter of Forever Angels. Back in Australia I now run Forever Projects, a like-minded community of people who use their time, their talent, or their money to make a change in the world and I’m proud to be able to support Forever Angels through this.

Make a Change

Forever Angels has cared for over 421 babies, reuniting 189 with relatives and finding adoptive families for 120, but its aim is to make sure that babies never have to leave their families. Click here to find out more.

This is a feature from Issue 7 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.