Sister Helena Ntambulwa first started the Center with government and police support in 2012. She started with 12 children in her care. In 2013, Karene and Eric Boos founded ZeruZeru, Inc., a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to help Sister Helena in her mission to protect children with albinism and to spread awareness about the discrimination that Tanzanian people with albinism are faced with.
The Center has grown immensely. Through the support of donations and international partnerships, the Center has been redone to include dormitory space, protective walls, indoor and outdoor kitchens and stoves, solar-powered electricity, running water, gardens, and a chapel. With the expanded space, we now care for 70 children, and have the capacity to care for 100!
Children with albinism often do not attend school for various reasons related to their condition, but ZeruZeru and Sister Helena are dedicated to ensuring that each child gets a good education. The center has its own preschool teacher for the younger children. The other children are escorted to local schools that are proven to be safe and effective learning environments.
After primary education, we, along with our German partners Marian and Edgar Korner, support the students financially and emotionally to attend secondary school. We also support vocational training, and we have sent two older girls to sewing/tailor school.
We are currently working towards opening a combined restaurant and lodge for tourists passing near the center on their travels to the Serengeti. When we open this business endeavor, we will offer skill development and work-based educational opportunities to our students in the restaurant and lodge.
Because of their condition and the lack of knowledge about albinism, many of the children came to the center with medical issues such as severe sunburns, malnutrition, or injuries from abuse.
Thanks to donations, we are able to address the children's medical needs. Financially, we support the children's health needs from medication to hospitalization and everything in between.
Our corporate partners also help us with generous donations of supplies. Optic Nerve Eyewear donated much-needed sunglasses, and Wallaroo Hat Company donated hats to protect against the sun. Coolibar graciously donated sun-protective clothing for our children. We are also greatly thankful to Asante Mariamu and Bas Kreukniet's African Albino Foundation for donating sunscreen!
Our children wearing their new sun-protective Coolibar clothing!
The Earth is an important resource for us, so at the Center we try to employ environmentally-friendly practices. We use solar power for electricity. There are water storage tanks and a rain-water well on the campus. However, there can often be issues with the water if there is a lack of rain or if a pipe breaks.
Another important factor of our sustainability work is our organic garden project. With the help of the children and staff, we grow a variety of foods, which either go directly to the children at the center or are given to community members. The Center is a member of the Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots program, which aims to promote compassion for life and to positively participate in the community; we aim to do this through our gardening program.
Sister's Center is known throughout Tanzania, and we continue to reach out to government officials and those who understand and can support this human rights issue. We have had visits with the Regional Commissioner of the Simiyu Region of Tanzania, the Regional Police Commissioner, religious officials and others. We were also graced with a visit by Abdullah Possi, former Member of Parliament, now the Tanzanian Ambassador in Germany who is also a person with albinism.
Internationally, we have worked with the UN OHCHR, and we are registered with the iSCO by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The center has been supported through partnerships with other international NGOs such as Inside the Same, Africaintesta and Polish Aid. We have presented to local and international communities and government officials to increase awareness and response to this human rights issue. We also have formed a "twinning relationship" with St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John the Baptist churches in Elkhart Lake and Plymouth, Wisconsin. We are very grateful for their support!
Community and Empowerment
We encourage our children to be active in their lives, communities, and futures. The children help out in various ways around the center such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, caring for the younger children, and getting water. The excess of the produce we harvest from the gardens is given to community members. The children do yardwork for the community as well. Through these programs, we hope to both teach the kids a lesson about giving to the community and to teach the community a lesson about children with albinism being normal kids with no magical properties.
In 2017, the center also donated a "PikiPiki"-a motorbike- to the police so that the officers could get to the center faster and easier to provide better protection.
Meet Some of the Children
Fatuma’s mother was ashamed and did not want to care for Fatuma. She brought Fatuma to the Center when Fatuma was only 6 months old. Sister explained she could not take the child this young and the mother must care for her until she was 2 years old.
The mother took Fatuma and inflicted a large wound on the child’s forehead and returned to Sister days later claiming there had been an attack on the child’s life. At this time, Sister agreed to take the child in protection from the mother. Fatuma’s mother has never returned to visit.
When Mange became ill, Sister called his father to tell him of his illness. His father replied, “I do not know what you are talking about, I do not have a son. Never call me again.” Sister called the boy’s grandfather. His response was, “You are wasting your money; the boy has a curse on him- I bewitched him.”
Mange did get better after nearly a week in the hospital. When Sister called the grandfather to tell him that Mange was better and returning home to the Center, the grandfather said, “Good, because I have sold him to the people who want albino body parts, and I am coming for him.” Sister did not let the grandfather come, but instead called the authorities and they went to get the grandfather.
Kabula was being cared for by her grandmother in a poor bush village near Bariadi. This area had no police station and the houses were built a long distance from each other. People used to come knock on the door and threaten Kabula’s grandmother because they wanted Kabula’s body parts. Kabula was not able to go to school because of the danger.
Kabula’s grandmother told the priest of the trouble and he told her about Sister Helena’s center in Lamadi. Kabula and her grandmother were escorted to the Center by “Human Rights” people. Kabula now attends school and is a happy girl.
Mhindi lived in a remote village in Ngunga Busega region. Killers tried to enter the house and threatened the mother with sharp swords saying they would kill the mother and take the albino child away with them. The mother was very brave and made a lot of noise and scared the men away.
They left the area and she reported the incident to the village leader. She got three people to escort her to the Center for the child’s safety.