The Arusha Times

Issue 00481

August 11 - 17, 2007

issn 0856 - 9135 

Society

“Living a Promise”
Tragedy Inspires Triumph for Woman in Majengo

Rehema Juma

By Rachel Ruffman

Rehema Juma, only 24 years old, has founded her own NGO, the Tanzania Compassion Society.  She works out of her home in Majengo, equipped with a one-room office.  She currently cares for seven child dependants, all under the age of fourteen.

TCS is an official NGO which began in May of 2007.  The catalyst for its founding was the death of Rehema’s second child, born the preceding year, from a fairly rare disease called hydrocephalus- which describes an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain. (Only one in every 500 children is born with it, but it is usually fatal if not operated on.)

TCS is set up to benefit children in need, particularly those with disabilities or diseases.  So far, Rehema has taken 30 sick or otherwise vulnerable children under her wing.  She counsels, performs home visits, cooks and cleans as often as she can for the twenty-three outside her home.  She is the sole caregiver for the seven in her own home. 


Rehema and her dependant children

 

Losing her child ignited a compassion for others in vulnerable situations.  Indeed, the story of her survival as a mother is of the sink- or- swim variety.

Four months into her second pregnancy Rehema became frequently sick, suffering intense pain for no apparent reason.  She was in and out of hospitals for the next five months, seeking expert help, but there was little available.

At birth, her son Karim was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, and an operation to drain the fluid within the skull was ordered. The procedure went smoothly, but his condition deteriorated as soon as he was discharged from the hospital.

Karim was battling high fevers and Rehema rushed him back to an Arusha hospital only to be met without a doctor on staff. Moshi was their next stop, but her baby died upon arrival at the bus stand.  She turned around and carried him back by daladala.

Rehema now contacts people daily, going door –to- door in order to see to the needs of the thirty children she cares for. 

She makes her rounds as best she can.  The children’s cases are not simple.  Three children are too sick to get out of bed, three others are HIV positive, and there is also a child who has hydrocephalus.

She goes often to counsel the mothers of these children.  It’s a nightmare that hits close to home and most would shun the associated memories.  Rehema pushes through.

And that may be the reason she is regarded as so genuinely motivated in her community.  Oftentimes, it is hard to know who’s really doing what at the NGO level.  The increase in Arusha’s NGOs coincides with competition for funds and an amplified focus on monetary sustainability.  In turn, this may mean less time and money spent on the NGO’s beneficiaries.

But, Rehema defeats the odds. Speaking with the Citizen, Rehema was quoted in a December 2006 article as saying, “ I wish I could do something for such women and their children, like opening up a centre that would provide support and care… If I get enough funds and external support, I might put my dreams into a reality.”

She has done that, and her success is already palpable. Recently, Rehema was recognized for all her good work and invited to participate in the Golden Rose’s, “Operation Christmas Child” program.  She was able to take all of the children to Golden Rose where they received small gifts and a day’s reprieve from their hardships.

Speaking with her again, now that she has fulfilled her December goals, she confesses that she was severely limited, without a regular job and income. Rehema is now looking to get her NGO funded from a permanent donor and has submitted an orphan’s proposal.  She hopes to move herself and her 7 dependents to a rent-free domicile and send all thirty children to school.

Rehema is characteristically confident that she will.  And if she believes it, her community is sure to.  Perhaps that is the most telling sign of her good work.  Rehema proves against odds, indeed she motivates and inspires those living around her.  Truly, her gumption is something to be revered. 

If you would like to contact Rehema, or are interested in visiting her NGO, she lives in Majengo, barabara mpya.  She can be reached at 0787963874, or 07

54756730, or by emailing Tanzania.compassion@yahoo.com.
  

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