Nancy Foundation Supports Bugisi Health Centre


Nancy McCarthey from New Jersey in the US shares her inspirational life story and how fate brought her to Tanzania where she is now supporting the work of the OLA Health Centre in Bugisi. 

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 Ezra (second from left) with Sr Kate, Juma and Zakayo of Bugisi Health Centre. Image courtesy of Nancy McCarthey.

 

As the US Director of the Nancy Foundation Tanzania Corp, I have been asked many times how I chose to begin this Non-Profit Organization? Actually, it chose me! Before I continue, it is vital to this story to understand that Nancy (in English) and Neema (in Swahili) mean ‘Grace’. For it is by the Grace of God that is the tapestry which has woven this story.

In 2013, dear friends asked if I would go with their group to Tanzania to be the medical staff member of the group. I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and I felt as though God was calling me by name to serve. The mission in Tanzania asked specifically for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP).  I thought deeply about the scripture Isaiah 43:1; The Lord who created you says, “Do not be afraid - I will save you. I have called you by name - you are mine.” I also remembered thinking “how can I ignore the plea to help the children in Tanzania?” I took the journey with 6 others to help a group of children in the region of Shinyanga, Tanzania. I performed physical exams on 80 plus children, with the help of each of my team members.

Meeting Ezra

My translator, Ezra, and I shared our faith journeys, family stories, happy and sad experiences in our lives, etc. Ezra became a dear friend in whom I would remember always. After working for approximately 2 weeks, Ezra brought his wife Neema to meet me before we left for the US. We had met her and their son Christian previously. When we talked together, Ezra told me that he had told stories to Neema of our daily experiences. They told me that they were going to pray to God for the gift of a daughter and name her Nancy. Ezra and I continued to email and call on the phone frequently after I returned, for I felt as though I left a piece of my heart there.

The mission team was returning again to Shinyanga in July 2016. I had recently retired to care for my terminally ill husband who had lost his battle to cancer. Our mission had changed for this visit, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do there, but intended to help with a clinic at a cramped and neglected compound for children with albinism. When I was talking with a team member before we left, I told him I wasn’t exactly sure what my role would be. He said, “Don’t worry, God will let you know.”

The Miracle Baby

When we arrived, I was anxious to see Neema, Ezra’s wife, as she was now expecting a baby in approximately 2 months. I feared she was starting with Pre-Eclampsia, which can raise the mother’s blood pressure [BP] severely, cause seizures, and result in a poor outcome for the mother and baby if not treated. After 4 days of watching her BP remain basically unchanged, and seeing the poor conditions of healthcare for myself, I felt as if I was watching her and the baby die. My team encouraged me to do what I thought was right, so I encouraged Ezra and Neema to allow me to take them to Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, to seek some improved healthcare. We met a wonderful doctor who saw us in his OB clinic in Dar Es Salaam. He ordered tests and an ultrasound. The technician asked Neema if she knew what she was having. She said, “It’s a girl”. Neema went to the hallway to Ezra and said, “We have our Nancy!” The doctors said if we had waited another 1-2 weeks, Neema and the baby would’ve died. We transferred to a hospital that had a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). On August 3, it was decided that Neema required a cesarean section that day, as she and the baby were in peril. Baby Nancy was born weighing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds), was on room air, and was the “noisiest and most active baby in the NICU” per the doctors! After many huge “bumps in the road”, Neema and Ezra were allowed to fly back to Shinyanga with her when she reached 2kg (4lbs), October 5th and I flew home to the US on October 3rd. After nearly 3 months, my visa was about to expire in a few days.

Sharing Our Graces with Others

The family arrived home safely and baby Nancy is thriving. She turned 1 year old on August 3, 2017, and we are eternally grateful to God. The three of us had long discussions and prayer time together about God’s plan in our journey. There were so many questions about how baby Nancy and Neema could have overcome the maternal child mortality statistics, but there was only one answer-God took care of us. Our prayers and the prayers of countless others around the world kept us strong. Our faith has been truly deepened by all of this, and we want to share the graces we’ve been given by God.

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Always hard to get everyone smiling for a family photo. Here is Ezra (left) holding baby Nancy, Christian, Neema and Nancy McCarthey. Image courtesy of Nancy McCarthey.

 

Therefore, the Nancy Foundation, Ezra and Neema’s idea, exists to help share with others the graces we’ve been given by God. We want to teach young women self worth and how to care for themselves while they are pregnant; provide education for young mothers on how to keep themselves and their infants healthy, give hope where there may be little, and advocate for the women and children who are given little chance to survive and thrive.

I was planning to return to Shinyanga at the end of January 2018, to work with Neema and Ezra setting up our mission. We had legally achieved NGO status in both Tanzania and US, and now it was time to decide who to help and how to do it. Neema was pregnant and was supposed to have her cesarean section when I arrived. I felt that there would be so much for Neema and Ezra to do with the baby,that my presence would interfere with them bonding and getting settled with a new baby. So, I moved my arrival date to February 17. Sadly, 3 days after her birth, baby Anna passed away in the hospital.

Chance meeting with Sr Kate

We felt even more strongly that our mission had to be centered on decreasing the death rate of pregnant women and babies. After numerous interviews with government officials and NGOs, we were pretty overwhelmed at the need and yet we were such a small NGO. After much prayer, Sister Kate from the Bugisi Health Center came into the cafeteria where I was having breakfast. She was there for a meeting at the hotel. We talked about what each of us was doing there, and I knew in my heart that God had answered my prayer by sending Sister Kate along my path. We all agreed that the mission at Bugisi fitted our mission so well. We brought supplies to the health centre twice before I returned to the US, and Neema and Ezra plan to travel there regularly. We will provide prenatal vitamins for 50 women from their 1st prenatal visit until 6 months of breastfeeding. We also purchased khangas to wrap the babies in before going home, and we will pay for an ultrasound for each mother. We hope to fundraise more this coming year to be able to provide for more mothers. Our long-term goal along with the OLA Sisters is to try and get more women to come from the villages for prenatal care and deliver their babies there, rather than in their homes. God has put us in each other’s paths!

 

- Nancy McCarthey 

 

  • Click here to visit the Nancy Foundation website.

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Neema giving her testimony to the prenatal clinic patients. Image courtesy of Nancy McCarthey.