Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Shalom Orphanage Karatu Tanzania

I have been in Tanzania for 5 days now and I am now settled in and started volunteering at the orphanage in full force. The children are wonderful, full of love and laughter. I help the youngest kids with math and writing their letters, I teach the older kids some English and then they have taken me on a few walks around the area – telling me “don’t worry they will take care of ME.” I had a chance to sit down and talk with the founder and local volunteer to learn more about the organization. Here is the inspirational yet heart wrenching story of Shalom Orphanage & Children Care Center.

The Shalom Orphanage is located in Kartau, Tanzania which is about 2 hours west of Arusha near the Ngorongoro Crater. The orphanage was founded in 2004 by my host mother, MamanWarra and host father, Rev. Nnko (Baba.) Their sole mission is to improve the lives of poor and disadvantaged children in Karatu and neighboring communities Arusha and Moshi ensuring they are shown mercy regardless of religion, tribe or ethnicity. There are currently 56 living at the orphanage ages 0-15.

Baba is a minster and while he and Mama were in Karatu ministering at a church they met many vulnerable children. These children did not have proper clothing, food, or a place to sleep. They met some of the children at the dump where they were searching for food to eat. Mama and Baba knew they had to do something and that is when they took in their first three children, Anna (now age 15 and the oldest child at Shalom – pictured in the middle,) Maggie (age 10 – right) and Well Well (age 8 – left). These 3 children Mama and Baba took to their home to live, thus beginning the start of Shalom. (the photo was taken in 2004.)

Mama Warra is a woman of faith who believes she can achieve anything with the help of God and this inspiration is what has made her the visionary for this home for children. She started with 3 children in her own home, then moved to another rented 3 bedroom house where she housed 15 children and now because of her hard work and savings from donations given by travelers and volunteers she was able to build the current orphanage 2007. There are still many dreams for this location but I will talk about them in a little bit.

Innocent, a local volunteer at the orphanage and Mama helped explain the circumstances that communities in Tanzania face. The biggest problem is HIV/AIDS, at the orphanage there are 6 children who are infected with HIV, but many children across the country lose their parents to this disease. The proper education is still lacking and so many people do not understand the consequences of HIV/AIDS. The 2nd biggest problem is road accidents. There are many road accidents killing many people each year as there are not the laws that we have in the US. When a parent is killed, especially the father, it is extremely difficult for the other parent to provide for their children. In Tanzania the husband goes to work and the wife stays home to care for the children so if that father is gone it’s almost impossible for the mother to be able to financially support her children and she ends up abandoning them. The 3rd major issue is alcoholism. When a parent becomes addicted they start to lose their mind and no longer care about feeding their family but just how to get their next fix. This brings about many vulnerable children because the alcoholism brings about harsh punishments and starvation so the children start begging on the street and looking for food at the dump. Other problems that these children face are lack of available work, educated parents, other diseases, and shame. If a young girl becomes pregnant she is usually kicked out of school, sent away from home and then blames the baby she is carrying for ruining her life, and more often than not she leave her baby out in the bush to die or for someone else to find.

Since 2008, the orphanage has had many successes, including the purchasing and building of the current site, which holds the living quarters, kitchen, a classroom for preschool aged children for both children from the orphanage and from the community. They have established a farm, with sheep, cows, chicken, ducks, turkeys, pigs and land to grow corn and other vegetables. This is all important because when Mama finds these children they are severely malnourished so she works extremely hard to make sure that she can provide them with the proper food to help them grow and become healthy. Another success and income generator is the orphanage’s grinding machine for corn, for both the orphanage and the community to use. The orphanage was able to drill and build a well so that they have their own water and they do not have to pay for public water, which they were doing and it was so expensive they are still paying past bills. Lastly, there is an amazing project that is almost complete which is the Bio-gas project created and lead by Innocent. This project will provide heat and light energy to the orphanage by using the waste from the cows on the farm. As mentioned previously Mama was able to save from donations given by tr and volunteers to be able to build all of this; however the funding is never a definite as I mentioned there is no permanent funder, like the Good Shepherd Orphanage I was at in Ghana.

There are many setbacks that come with running an organization like this. The fact that they survive on donations and never knowing when they will come is its own struggle, sometimes there is not enough money for food; even with the farm there are other needs for the children like bean which they currently are not able to provide to the children. The orphanage also has no play equipment and barely any toys. They would like to give the children a “football” (soccer) field as it is a very popular sport here, and also a swing set for the younger children so that they have a place to play. Running an amazing place like Shalom comes many bills, including electric (which is being threaten to be turned off,) past water bills, school bills, as the orphanage only has one classroom for the youngest children they have to pay for all of the older children to go to school, as education, even in public school is not free here. This is not only costly but the education is not very good. The last challenge they face is the need to pay their staff. They have 15 staff members including: child care workers, social workers, teachers, cooks, cleaning help, and gardeners. Due to lack of funding some of the staff has not been paid since March they pray each month that there will be enough money to pay their personnel.

As I mentioned Mama Warra is a visionary, she has many long term goals for Shalom Orphanage and listening to this story brought tears to my eyes and even as I write this blog I have been holding them back. Mama’s biggest goal is to be able to help more children. There are 56 children currently living at Shalom but there are still so many children in the community that need a place like Shalom to call home. The most important project that Mama would like to see complete is to build a school on site for all children to attend. This would help cut down the school cost and it would also guarantee that all of the children are getting a solid education. Children from the community would be able to attend helping to bring in some income. The second vision is a Child Care Village; this would be an area with 6 houses where 10 children would live with a mother, father and older sister who would care for them. They would live and take care of each other as a family. This would be like a stepping stone for the children; they would start in the dormitory and then be able to live in a family unit to teach more about a stable family dynamic. Lastly, Mama Warra would like to build a volunteer house on-site. Where I am staying now is not far from the orphanage but she has to rent it and it is becoming very costly. This volunteer house would not only serve current volunteers at the orphanage but it would also be available to travelers who would like to come to Karatu (not far from the national parks) and stay overnight, much like a hostel and all of the funds would go back into the orphanage.

As I have mentioned throughout this post Mama Warra is an amazing lady and the children and staff at Shalom are full of love (I’ve only been here 5 days and I know I’m going to miss them so much when I have to leave.) Mama Warra wants to empower these children to know how important it is to continue to help. These children have no iPods, no cell phones, no video games new clothes and on Christmas Day they go into town to meet the street children and bring them food, pencils, clothes, and toys – all items that were donated to them and they then share these gifts and give them to other children who do not have a place like Shalom, they call it “Celebrate Christmas Donated By Shalom.”

Shalom believes that every child has a dream and it is their hope to give these children an opportunity to use their skills and gifts to reach their full potential and see their dreams become reality. They can’t do this on their own there is a high demand for support. Below is more information or you can email me directly at if you would like to help this great NGO, it is something I have now become very passionate about and would like to do all I can to help.

How you can help

Financial and Material Support:
• There is a high demand to purchase items on their daily wish list including food, first aid supplies, tooth paste and brushes, cooking oil, soap, medical care, etc.
• Contribute to the construction costs of upkeep to the current building, a hope for a new school, community houses and volunteers house.
• Help with the cost of utilities
• Contribute academic materials such as backpacks, school supplies, and books
• Volunteer!

Warra Elisamia Nnko – Director
Shalom Orphanage Center
PO BOX 370 Karatu
Tanzania East Africa

You can also contact me if you would like to donate, I am going to work on getting them funds through donations when I return the US.


  1. It's post like this that break down my cold, cold heart. You are a true missionary - because not only are you getting out there to help these folks physically...but you're spreading the word to people like me who wouldn't think twice.

  2. You have such a big heart baby girl, I can't even put it into words.

  3. Have finally read thru your entire blog-- so far. (Thank you for emailing your address.)Will be anxious to hear more of your journey when you return "home" ...a changed woman indeed...overflowing with even more love than you started out with. I'm so proud of you, and overflowing with thanksgiving for you and for the way you have been touching lives. These fortunate people have been witnessing God's love thru you. Praying for continued blessing and protection. Love you, Sherley

  4. ps...and in response...all "those people" have been pouring out their love to YOU, and touching you... in indescribable ways that are imprinted on your huge heart. :>) Praise the Lord! S

  5. We visited the Shalom Orphanage in April, 2011. We fell in love with the wonderful orphaned children but we quickly realized that the orphanage needs were plentiful. We listened to the most urgent needs such as clean water. They had run out of money to pay the government for their water so they were drinking unclean water. We learned that they had the beginnings of a well to pump the water but weren’t able to complete the construction at a cost of $2000.00. When we returned to the US we approached friends and family for donations. We were able to raise and send Mama Warra the $2000.00 for the completion of the well system. They now have enough clean water for the orphanage as well as the village around the orphanage.
    They are still in a desperate need for money to pay their workers and for the purchase of food. They have another added burden with the sudden death of Mama Warra’s husband. He has been the only father figure that the orphans have known. We have collected another $1300.00 to assist in the payment of the workers and to purchase food and most recently we have donated money from our Presbyterian Church in Clearwater, Florida for the construction of the children’s play equipment.
    There are so many ongoing needs and we would like to continue providing money however, we are not able to do so. We pray that others will feel the need as we did to assist this wonderful orphanage.
    Leah and Jim Hayslett

  6. Leah and Jim
    You will be happy to know that I have been able and will continue as long as I can to send funds over to Shalom. I am a part-time photographer and I took thousands of photos while in Africa. I have decided to sell some of the photos and the profits will go towards the orphanage. Thank you so much for your comment it's great to hear from others who share the same love for Shalom as I do! Beth

  7. Hi Beth,
    I stumbled upon your blog today while searching for some information on google. Two years ago, my church took our first missions trip to Africa and worked at Shalom for 2 weeks. We fell in love with Mama Warra and her family and all the kids (which I'm sure there are many more now since you've last been). It is so awesome to find someone else who understands and shares my love for Shalom and the pure beauty that is found there. This past summer we went back and broke ground for the on-site hostel you briefly discussed in the above post, and will continue to go back and work each year until it is complete. I'm very glad I found your blog today! Continue your good work!

    Rachel Wegman

  8. Hi Beth,
    Thank you very much for this blog. This is an update as for February 2018.
    I was at Shalom with my daughter and two friends. I agree with all of you. It is incredible how one falls in love with them in a few days. We all four left with tears and with a strong will and need to come back. We feel part of Shaloms family now and will do everything possible to raise funds for many of the waiting list projects.
    The Guesthouse is precious and almost finished. Hopefully construction works will be completed in the summer. In the meantime, money needs to be raised for furniture and outside fence for a fast start up.
    The childrens house needs urgent renovation and some carpentry work. The estimate is one to two thousand dollars. When they are all home on school brakes and holidays, many beds are shared with 2-3 children.
    We were able to pay $1200 for past water bills (still $500 to be paid).We also paid the tailor to make new uniform pants for the boys and also church dresses for girls. We went to the market with a long shopping list for food, a bull for meat, beddings and shoes. Also got some school books, watches, paid workers and university fees for one of Mama Warras daughter that lost her sponsor.
    There are 75 children in Shalom now and more than 20 are waiting for sponsors.
    We wish we could have done more. They need to buy some more land (on sale now for $20.000) to continue with their projects.
    Shalom is truly a home of peace and love for 75 orphan children under 20 years old. It is amazing to see how God is using Mama Warra to educate and raise these joyful and grateful children.
    We pray everyday for more donors and we will continue saving and sending all we can.
    If someone wants to keep in touch my contact is:
    M.Carmen Gómez