The Small Things Announces First Round of Funding from Happy Family Brands to Start Construction on Children’s Village

Village to Provide Family-Style Support and Housing for Orphaned Children in Nkoaranga, Tanzania and Surrounding Areas

East Haven, CT and Nkoaranga, TZ March 20th, 2014 – The Small Things (TST), a non-profit organization to support children and families in Nkoaranga, Tanzania is moving forward with an ambitious plan to build a children’s village for orphaned and abandoned children, between the ages of 5-18 in the Nkoaranga area. The first phase of construction will be underwritten by a major grant from Shazi Visram and her family, as well as from her New York City based company, Happy Family Brands. The village will be named in honor of Shazi’s father, Amir Visram, in memory of his dedication to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Tanzania.

“The Small Things is delighted to announce a partnership with the Visram family and Happy Family Brands,” says Bekka Ross Russell, TST founder and Executive Director. “Thanks to their incredible vision and kindness, we will soon be able to begin work on the Happy Family Children’s Village in honor and memory of Shazi’s father, Amir Visram, a Tanzanian native who brought his family to America for a chance at a better life. Building a children’s village, to hold ultimately up to 100 children in our first location, is a huge task and we expected it would take as long as a decade to get started. Thanks to the Visram family and Happy Family’s generosity, we are able to start the planning right away. This was a possibility that seemed beyond our wildest dreams, but now the children leaving Nkoaranga Orphanage will soon have a permanent home. Family is what we are all about – keeping biological ones together when possible, and creating the closest substitute we can, when it’s not. We are thrilled that the Nkoaranga family is expanding!”

Thanks to proceeds from a recent online auction, as well as a grant from the Branford CT-based Seedlings Foundation, the organization has purchased nearly 4 acres of land in Nkoaranga which will be the future site of the Happy Family Children’s Village.

With this round of funding, The Children’s Village will be able to expand its pilot program, which allows some of the orphanage’s five and six year olds, who would otherwise be sent to boarding school, to live in a local family-style house, staffed by around-the-clock “Mamas” and a live-in helper. By expanding this program, The Children’s Village will take this approach to a whole new level, enabling all of the current and future Nkoaranga Orphanage children, to live in similar homes. The children currently living in the pilot house, go to a high quality local day school and are able to remain deeply embedded in their community. The organization will also be expanding its outreach program to keep children in biological or foster families, whenever possible.

“I believe that all children deserve to be happy and oftentimes that starts with the little things, like access to nutritious food and a proper education,” says Shazi Visram, founder, CEO and Chief Mom of Happy Family. “I founded my company upon these principals and I remain committed and passionate about issues surrounding raising happy, healthy children. My family, together with my company, Happy Family intends to support and nurture these young lives, and ultimately help them unleash their fullest potentials.”

TST’s long term vision is approaching the plight of vulnerable children and families in a more holistic way – through the combined work of Nkoaranga Orphanage, Happy Family Children’s Village, and its Community Outreach program. Some key goals are:

  • To care for abandoned babies and homeless children;
  • To provide family-style homes that are clean and loving and education in high quality local day school, for those children that cannot return to their families;
  • To provide education, business development and support to those families that wish to reclaim their children.
  • To provide day care, high quality preschool, tuition assistance, food subsidies, adoption support, and other forms of outreach support to families in the community, with the goal of keeping children in families whenever possible.

The Small Things

The Small Things was founded in 2011 by Bekka Ross Russell, her family and a group of dedicated volunteers who had spent time at the Nkoaranga Orphanage, which houses up to 30 children, newborn to five years. The children have all lost mothers, and many lack fathers or other relatives who could step in, or their extended family is incapacitated by poverty. TST has partnered for several years with the local staff and management of Nkoaranga Orphanage, as well as other organizations, to improve child care. The mission of The Small Things is to provide comprehensive assistance for orphaned or vulnerable children and their families in Nkoaranga Orphanage and Hospital/Usa River, Tanzania, not only in moments of crisis, but with thoughtful and long term plans. Working with the local community, TST aims to educate and assist our clients, primarily women and children, in becoming contributing, healthy, active citizens impacting their country and our world. For further information, see: