Nema: Helping the orphans to a life of quality and dignity

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“Working not begging” is a phrase I really admire from Big Issue founder John Bird, it has an air of dignity about it, and self-help with a little bit of ‘you can help me to help myself’ added in.  That’s what we’re trying to do here at Nema – help people help themselves.   Sometimes that’s hard here as there are so few opportunities, but we are trying to generate some and this is the first step.

We have over 200 orphans in our project just in Naunde and we have yet to reach those vulnerable children and their families in the other villages in which we work, but one step at a time:  if there’s one thing you learn from working in Africa it’s patience.

The orphans in Naunde are a really cheerful lot despite their predicament and generally congregate at Rema’s house for fun and support most days.

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The orphans and vulnerable children use Rema’s stoop for playing cards, it’s where they all hang out

We have been gradually trying to create opportunities for the orphans and vulnerable children to earn a living.  However, whilst items have been made for the Nema shop and the lodge this is a limited market.  Trying to reach further and wider we approached some shops in Pemba town and found an English lady who has a shop in the Pemba Beach Hotel, the most expensive hotel in town.  She suggested that there really isn’t much of a market for tourist stuff with the oil and gas industry currently dominating hotel bookings but there are lots of hotels being built to cater for the oil wealth and that we could use her contacts to sell stuff for the rooms in the hotels.

Obviously a certain level of quality is required to sell to a hotel so we set about creating a demonstration model yesterday.  Calling the older kids to make stuff, the younger kids, desperate to join in, fetched all of the material from the bush.  Most of the time the material was bigger and heavier than the kids themselves but these are hardy kids.

Whilst Amina and Rema prepared a lunch of rice and beans for the kids (we used left over food from the food we give to the staff each month keeping costs right down), Manuel started preparing the demonstration models.  First off a waste paper bin.  Second a tray (my Kimwani is poor but I know this is kikombe as I have my tea in a giant bowl that they call kikombe).

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Manuel’s second childhood, making the tray with the bin by his side.

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These kids have some serious knife skills.

Manuel seemed to enjoy the work and set about making the items with imagination and a smile on his face. Demonstration models made, he allocated a shape and a size to each of the kids for us to make a range of pieces to take to Pemba to show to Lesley and the hotels. We made bins, boxes and trays. We’re going to line them with pretty material and see what they look like with some colour and then take them to town to see how it goes.

We can pay enough money to the children who made the items to make a difference to their lives this week. If we market the items right we can create a longer term income generating project for the children here. With the right labelling and a bit of marketing we can enable a sustainable long term income that’s just enough to make a difference to the lives of the most deprived of our communities, maybe even enough to allow some of them to go to school: we live in hope.

Working not begging.

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