How a nurse from Waterlooville set up Hope and Soul, a charity helping children in Tanzania

​By her own admission, Hope Prosser was “quite a materialistic person” before she went to Tanzania for the first time.
Hope Prosser with two sisters the charity has helped support at the orphanageHope Prosser with two sisters the charity has helped support at the orphanage
Hope Prosser with two sisters the charity has helped support at the orphanage

It was while studying nursing that Hope arranged a 'personal development placement' to the west African nation of Tanzania as part of her degree.

She went with a friend and fellow student to an orphanage for three weeks, but the trip was to change her life.

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"Before I went I was quite a materialistic person,” says Hope, from Waterlooville, “I can say that because of the things I used to own – the handbags, the make-up and wanting the best of the best of clothing and things like that.

Hope Prosser with Mama Nora and her two daughtersHope Prosser with Mama Nora and her two daughters
Hope Prosser with Mama Nora and her two daughters

“When I knew that I was going on this trip I had this impression that I was going to make an impact on the kids and they would learn from me, and their lives would be enriched by having someone visit them from another country and they had things to learn from me.

“But actually what happened was the total opposite. It’s often said by people who go out there but they completely changed my way of thinking.

“It's not everybody, but they’re mostly happy and content with very little. And when a child of under five can teach you that, when we live in a culture that is just not content with anything, well...”

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Hope is currently back at her parents’ home in Waterlooville for a brief stay, but she has been living in Arusha, a city of about 600,000, since October 2020.

After graduating, Hope became a staff nurse at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, but she couldn’t escape what she’d experienced in Tanzania and so set up her own charity, Hope and Soul in 2017 and eventually moved to Africa full-time in October 2020.

The former Cowplain Secondary School and South Down College student now oversees a sponsorship scheme for more than 120 children to help them through their education. The charity operates out of an office with a small team of local employees. They have also built two houses for families in need, renovated school classrooms, built a school kitchen, provided medical equipment for a local hospital and helped empower women with small business set ups.

One example of a family the charity has helped is Mama Nora and her two daughter (pictured). “They’re a family living in absolute poverty,” says Hope, “and she's got a lot of complex health needs so we've been supporting the girls through their schooling and we rent a home for her – and we set up a small business for her so she's now helping herself.”

Wanting to make a lasting change

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Looking back at that first visit Hope recalls: “There was a child there who was just over a year old, but he didn't have nappies because his family couldn't afford them. He would constantly be messing himself, and this was a huge shock to me. I was completely naive going out there that people couldn't afford to buy things like nappies. We bought him some washable nappies, something they could reuse and reuse and it made a huge difference.

“When I came home, I thought those nappies cost me £3, or something like that, and it's made an impact for him, but what can I do that will return what they've done to my heart?

“I started speaking to family and friends about my experience. The orphanage didn't have a wall surrounding the facility and they needed it for security – the kids could just leave the front door and run out into the main street, so they needed one built and that was my first project.

“It cost about £300, but that's such a tangible amount that provided something so big. And that's kind of how it started. I couldn't get those kids out of my mind and how they'd made me change the way I look at life and then I wanted to see how I could actually make a difference.

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"My three weeks there didn't make a difference, but I wanted to see how sustainably I could make a long-term difference, so that's where this came from.”

While it’s not exactly what she trained for, Hope has always been interested in a role in caring.

“I guess you could say that it's always been in my heart. Going into an orphanage was something that I'd always wanted to do, I just hadn't realised how much of an impact it would have.

“My wanting to care, it was so medical-focused from when I was little that I remember being on a school trip and wanting to be the one who held the first aid kit – not that anyone needed anything more than a plaster, but I wanted that responsibility to carry it and provide help if needed.”

Since moving out there, Hope lives in a modest bungalow.

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“The transition of going out there for trips versus living out there was a big difference. You could always take a suitcase of supplies with you, but you run out of certain things –you have to learn to live without them. I was completely pushed out of another comfort zone.

“It was just under two years before I came back to the UK for the first time after going out there, but I love it. I feel more at home there than I do in the UK now.

"I rent a bungalow, and it has to be safe and secure because people know I am an outsider and they will see value in the things in my house even though it's not of any real value, but it is a nice house – I have access to running water and electricity!

“We still have lots of power cuts. Since about September of last year they've been having power cuts of about eight hours almost daily in Arusha. I don't have a generator or anything, so I live with that as well.

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"They're such a resilient people. I still get so wound up by the power cuts, but they just get on with it.”

The day-to-day for Hope and Soul

When back in Tanzania running the charity Hope says “every day is different.”

“Most of what we do would probably be called field work – we’re going out to do family visits, going to schools to check on the progress of children. There might be someone who needs to go to hospital, so as a charity we support the medical costs of that, we go and meet mums at the hospital. There's normally something new that arises each day.”

The charity relies on its sponsors to help its youngsters.

“We have a lot of very dedicated sponsors – either they sponsor a child, or they give one-off gifts, but everything is getting so much harder at the moment for everyone, and we really do appreciate that.

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“Sometimes it can be easier for people to drop out of sponsorship if they don't have that personal connection, but we really pride ourselves on sharing updates to sponsors about how their child is doing and sending photo updates, and hoping to make the connections stronger.”

And the charity aims to expand with an ambitious new project.

“We're hoping to open our own daycare this year. Last year we were supporting a local daycare that's already established, improving the quality of their facilities and the services they provided. The outcomes for the children are really apparent – not only to help the children but it also gives the parents time to go out and work and help themselves.

“We'll be providing high-quality daycare services, but they'll be at a really low cost, so there’s still a responsibility for the parents but they are really going to benefit from it.”

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