24 May 2017

Young family in Tanzania gets a new start on life

Photographer: Dorothy Ndege

When families are suddenly confronted with multiple challenges, they may see their long-term well-being and their children’s development, education or health at risk. In Tanzania, SOS Children’s Villages works with parents like Judith, whose husband died and whose son requires special medical treatment, to strengthen families.

When Judith’s husband was alive, her family lived comfortably. She could afford to take her two children to school, and pay the medical bills of her four-year-old son. Judith also had income from a small business selling charcoal.

Then in January 2016 her husband died.

“That is when my world fell apart,” says Judith. “Nen started falling sick when he was only nine months old. He had breathing difficulties and suffered from serious convulsions. With my husband gone, there was no more support for his treatment, money for rent and other basic needs,” she says.

Nen needed intense care so Judith closed her business to stay at home with him. The doctor said the child needed corrective brain surgery. The doctors predicted that he would not survive surgery due to his low weight. Nen was undernourished because his mother was not able to provide sufficient food. Occasionally, the neighbours would bring her food but their support was not enough to keep the family afloat. Judith watched helplessly as her child’s health deteriorated.

Out of desperation, the 30-year-old mother decided to start selling charcoal again. But her business did not generate enough income. She could not keep her two eldest children in school anymore.

Connecting with family support

Judith sought help from the social welfare department, which helped her get free treatment for Nen at a local hospital. The welfare department also informed SOS Children’s Villages in Mwanza about Judith’s plight. And in March 2017, Judith was enrolled in the SOS family strengthening programme.

SOS Children’s Villages initiated its family strengthening activities in Mwanza, one of Tanzania’s fastest growing cities in the northeast of the country, in 2009. Through family strengthening, SOS Children’s Villages empowers vulnerable families in the area so they can adequately care for their households. This lessens the pressure on these families, and reduces the risk of child abandonment and neglect.

Judith was initially supported with food and special food supplements for Nen. “I cried so much the day I received these items,” says Judith. “I had struggled so much for so long. I could not believe my good fortunes,” she says.

Neighbours from the community were also relieved to see that Judith and her family received support. “We have never seen any person or group helping this family”, one of the neighbours said when the SOS family strengthening team visited Judith at home. “You are angles to the family and to us. We always help Judith with the little we have. Unfortunately it has not changed their lives. We feel bad about it. May your support continue for a long time.”

Planning for the future

To boost her business, Judith received capital to increase her stock of charcoal. SOS Children’s Villages also took charge of Nen’s medical costs.

With the resources, the mother of three opened a vegetable and spice store. Both of her businesses have been doing well. She runs them from home so she can also care for Nen. From her income, Judith has managed to pay rent for six months.

“I need to live in a better neighbourhood,” says Judith. “I will start saving so I can buy a piece of land where I will build my own house. I am so hopeful since my life has taken a turn for good. My son’s health is improving because he is eating nutritious food these days. I am a real mother now. I feel alive. I have started living again.”  

About our work in Tanzania

Find out more about how SOS family strengthening works