In 2008, Tanya Van Braekel left to Tanzania to work as a paediatric nurse in a hospital at the slopes of Mt. Meru, North-Tanzania, called Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital (NLH). An initial volunteer period of five months turned out to be the start of a project that keeps growing….
Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital is a faith –based organisation owned by the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. It is situated in Nkoaranga village in Arumeru District (Arusha Region) on the slopes of Mt. Meru. Together with the Government based Meru District Hospital, NLH is one of the health care facilities rendering health services to an estimated 268 000 inhabitants (Arusha socio-economic report 2014) in the District.
In 2008, NLH did not have a separate paediatric ward. During our work and several meetings with local staff, the idea of constructing a paediatric wing at the hospital started to grow. In March 2009, the non-profit organisation ‘Nkoaranga-Watoto’ was set up to offer support with the construction of a paediatric wing at NLH.
The NW organisation works in close collaboration with the Lutheran Diocese of the Arumeru District.
Sarah De Block
My name is Sarah De Block. I am thirty years old and work as a language teacher in a secondary school. In 2011, I spent my summer in Tanzania with Tanya, working as a volunteer in an primary school in Nkoaranga. I had the privilege to witness the opening of the brand new paediatric ward, Tanya's first project. These two months as well as Tanya's determination and enthusiasm to make a difference for the people of Nkoaranga have triggered my interest in joining the board of the non-profit in 2015. Right after my African adventure, I enrolled in an info cycle course on international cooperation and North-South relations of the Belgian Development Agency in order to broaden my expertise.
Co-owner and Sales Director of "Reynders Label Printing", suppliers of packaging solutions to the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and chemical industry.
My main tasks consists in approaching multinational companies, getting to understand their needs and wishes and convince them of the advantages of working with a modern, flexible and innovative company like ours.
"Reynders Label Printing" had adopted a serious policy of "Corporate Social Responsibility", with attention for local, national and international issues (http://www.reynders.com/corporate-social-responsibility). In that context, my personal support to this project is self-evident.
Since 2002 I’m professionally active as a medical laboratory technologist and a volunteer at the Red Cross Flanders. My professional career started at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. This, along with the stories of my uncle, who was a missionary, has fed my interest for Africa. It fascinates me how we can analyse body fluids with simple techniques to support the medical doctor in the diagnosis of a disease and thus contribute to healing. In Belgium I have the privilege of working with the latest technologies in my field, but it is an interesting challenge to bridge the gap between this knowledge and the possibilities in a Tanzanian lab. So it was a nice experience and a privilege to work together with the local staff to make the Nkoaranga Watoto Lab project a success. In the future I hope to go on making use of my talents and network to support the lab in Nkoaranga.
Martine De Bruyn
After studying law, I started my professional career at Agfa - Gevaert N.V.. Now, after nearly 35 years working as an Assistant Risk Manager in the Corporate Centre of this multinational, I 'm still lucky with this fascinating and challenging job, giving me the opportunity to deal with all kinds of insurance problems within the Agfa Group worldwide.
Up to now, the projects of the non-profit were very tangible, such as the construction of the paediatric ward, the ambulance..... but the new one - investing in people by offering more specific training to the local team - will raise the project to a higher level. I met the nurses, the pharmacist, ... they are all lovely people, working in difficult circumstances with a heart for the hospital and their patients, they really deserve this chance for further education.
After all, is it not the ultimate target of Tanya, 'making myself and the project superfluous at the end'?
I'm really proud of my 'African' daughter! Chasing your dreams might be idealistic, but taking the responsibility yourself to try to realize those dreams, is fantastic!
Marja Wessels, M.D, PhD, is a Dutch physician and clinical geneticist, working as staff member at the department of Clinical Genetics at the University hospital Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. Her main focus is genetics of pediatric diseases and congenital malformations. As she is also trained in obstetric care and fetal echo(cardio)graphy she visited the Nkoaranga hospital in 2011 to give a basis course in fetal ultrasound. During her stay she experienced the different goals of the Nkoaranga Watoto (NW) foundation, the projects that could already be accomplished by Tanya, friends and donators, and the enthusiasm of all local participants in the projects. She intends to return and be involved in some of the future teaching projects.
Luc Van Braekel
Should people not help other people? As a father, I am privileged to see my daughter Tanya work in Tanzania with passion and motivation. Her experience, studies and her interest in foreign cultures and knowledge of foreign languages make her the perfect match to work in Tanzania and to write a fantastic story with the staff of the Nkoaranga Hospital. Yes, I am just a poor lonesome lawyer…
Field Engineer at Ketele NV.
As a long-time family friend, I consider myself very happy and proud to be able to contribute just a little to Tanya's projects. Indeed, only admiration is the correct word to describe my feelings for what a youth is willing to sacrifice to have a life's dream fulfilled. Being lucky enough to accompany her to Tanzania in 2011 and on to the actual premises where everything happens, made me more aware of the responsibilities and the tasks Tanya has taken upon her. It is with friendship and respect that I support her work in Africa.
Born in 1958, married and proud father of 4 children including one foster daughter. Graduated as master in Law and MBA at Vlerick School for Management. Currently responsible for the marine division within Europe, Africa and Middle East for insurance group XLCATLIN.
The Nkoaranga Watoto project has deeply touched me for a number of reasons : the strength of mankind is only possible if we as adults, parents give all means to our next generation to strive towards a full self-deployment; this starts with children`s right to have – our duty to assure - a minimum of healthcare.
Moreover, this project emanated from the heart and soul of a young and extremely passioned personality and serves as an example for many of us living in a comfortable world.
Tanya Van Braekel
After my first adventures as a nurse in Ghana, I left to Tanzania in 2008 for the first time. I could have never imagined the impact of this visit on my future. I initially worked as a nurse at Nkoaranga Hospital. Together with the staff, the first plans to construct a paediatric wing were made. An initially small project started but the organisation kept growing. In 2011-2012, I spent again nearly two years at Nkoaranga Hospital. During that time, I met a lot of amazing people, Tanzanians and people from all over the world. From that moment onwards, I knew that my return to Belgium would be difficult. I started my studies in International Health in 2013 and finally two years later, in May 2015, I returned to Nkoaranga to work. This time a job with a focus on hospital management, but I am sure you’ll also still find me on the paediatric ward.