small foundation with a big impact

Walther​ speaks

Walther speaks
I came to Tanzania in 1993. Before assisting Happy Watoto at the end of 2008 with the expansion of a second home and primary school in Ngorika, I worked at a number of other organizations. At that time, Happy Watoto was one more home in the village of Kikatiti with 84 children of different ages. A big job for a small team, but not comparable with the 250 children that we now provide for. That we manage that in the right direction, says a lot about how we have developed as a team over the past few years. Our houses are even an example for other children's homes. How we involve the extended families of the children in their upbringing is unique.
Although the children come from difficult circumstances, we send them back to their communities and extended families during the holiday periods. This is a challenge, because we do not want them to be confronted with violence, abuse and hunger. Nevertheless, we guide the families, communities and children to prevent these problems. The alternative is to keep the children on our grounds, separated from the outside world. That would alienate the children from their communities. For the same reason, we encourage the family to involve the child in events such as weddings, baptisms, funerals and during public holidays. That's how they feel like a member of the family, even if it's a family without their biological parents. And so they retain their own identity, which is as  important as food and shelter. I remember a grandmother who came to ask if her grandson could come home with Idd el Fitri so that they could celebrate it together. Of course you could! We could never have given him the feeling of an Islamic celebration. He helped with the final preparations and celebrated the party. On his return, he was beaming and his school results quickly improved. That's how important recognition is.
Since I grew up in a mix of cultures and have worked in different cultures, I became the supervisor of the international volunteers who have come to Happy Watoto over the course of time. Whilst I’m still doing that work, and recently my role has been given a new dimension.
After a successful completion of our primary school, all children now go to secondary school. We continue to follow them in that process, more intensively than in most other organizations, which increases the chances of success of the children. We now have 87 children in various high schools and vocational colleges. This age group (14-18) has its own problems. In close collaboration with Mary and Elihuruma, who know all these children from A to Z, I act as a mentor for these children. Someone they can go to with their adolescent problems, who can stimulate them in their learning trajectory and guide them in professional choices. In fact, a confidante and substitute parent.
I am proud of my role in this. If you, as a reader, have been ignited by my enthusiasm, come and see it all with your own eyes. And forgive me when I sometimes play "crazy Gerrit" with the children. I just need it as badly as they do.

December 2019,
Walther de Nijs
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