She’s a grandmother, midwife and storyteller. She regales listeners with tales of the two-mouthed monster and songs from her childhood.
Her name is Nekaaki Olekioki Emash, and she’s the namesake of the new maternity ward built with the support of Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FOTZC). FOTZC is Thomson’s sister non-profit organization, committed to providing healthcare, education, clean water and women’s empowerment initiatives in northern Tanzania.
Due to the pandemic, FOTZC board members only recently returned for the first time in four years to the communities they serve. It was a time of giving and receiving thanks–they were overjoyed to see just how much positive change had occurred since then, and the community welcomed them warmly.
Here’s one recent success.
The Maternity Ward Dedication
Over one hundred people, including community members, Tanzanian government officials and FOTZC board members, gathered in front of the new maternity ward on the day of its dedication. After one year of construction, the facility had a labor room, three delivery rooms and a post-delivery room. It was only missing one thing: a name.
After the District Commissioner gave a speech on the front steps, he escorted Nekaaki to the side and unveiled a plaque on the ward’s outer wall: her portrait etched in gold that read “Nekaaki Maternity Ward, Sukenya 2022.”
Most Thomson guests meet Nekaaki on safari when they visit the Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge. She’s a fun-spirited elder who worked most of her life as a midwife for her community. The maternity ward honors the positive legacy she continues to leave on every life she touches.
“Nekaaki loved her plaque,” Bonnie Clendenning, President of FOTZC, said. “She was honored and delighted.”
After the dedication, women from Sukenya toured the new facilities with excitement. They danced, they sang, they cheered. Smiles were in abundance as the celebration got underway.
Why Is the Maternity Ward Important?
When the FOTZC-built Sukenya dispensary opened its doors to the community in 2015, survival rates for birthing mothers and their infants soared to 95%. The new maternity ward will build on that, offering specialized, high-quality access to pre- and post-natal care that wouldn’t be available otherwise.
The new Nekaaki Maternity Ward (left) next to the Sukenya Health Center
One of the most notable offerings will be the access to prenatal educational meetings between pregnant women and their doctors. The father will be encouraged to attend and participate in these meetings–a big step in addressing the cultural challenges that mothers face during pregnancy.
But FOTZC isn’t stopping there. FOTZC has already built an operating theater and plans to build a laboratory, along with an outpatient clinic for eye care, ear care and physical therapy.
Additionally, a rising demand for healthcare has prompted FOTZC to expand the health center’s staff housing. Clendenning announced this newest expansion in a meeting with the center’s medical staff and received an overwhelmingly positive response.
“The entire room broke out in delighted applause and cheering,” she said.
When completed, these additions will transform the facilities into a robust and welcoming health center.
What Else is FOTZC Doing?
FOTZC works closely with communities in northern Tanzania to build what is needed most. Here are some additional projects the organization has completed recently:
- New boreholes at Robanda Primary and Secondary Schools (built 2021)
- New classrooms at Robanda (built 2022)
- New boys’ dormitory at Robanda (built 2019)
- New girls’ dormitory at Soit Sambu (built 2020)
- COCOBA beading and honey processing facilities and training (ongoing)
Increasing access to water, education and financial independence are among FOTZC’s most important initiatives. Donations large and small make them possible.