Jessie Mackay and Talmage “Tally” Brandy have been going to Africa for years helping the village women to provide for their families and send their children to school.
While teaching at a primary school in Africa in 2008, the dean of the school, Moses Matonya, invited Mackay to his home village of Ikowa, Tanzania to stay with his mother. After accepting the invitation, Mackay found herself in a mud hut in a village with no running water.
Mackay learned that due to draught, the village men were unable to farm like they once had. This drove many men to abandon their families or turn to alcohol – leaving their wives to support the families and care for the children.
It was at this moment Mackay knew she needed to do something to help.
Tally Brandy was a deacon at an Episcopal church when she decided to go to South Africa on sabbatical. After seeing the village women in distress, Brandy asked them what they would do if they had $500. Their answer was that they would purchase piglets.
Since farming in the village does not provide a decent source of income, the African women agreed that if they were able to raise pigs they would be able to support their families.
Mackay and Brandy gave the women $500 as a loan to use for one year. There were nine groups of women with a total of forty-five women. Each group was able to have two piglets.
“They built pens and did all the work,” Brandy said.
Mackay and Brandy decided to start a non-profit organization to support these women. They called it Karimu which means “benevolence” or “to give back.”
The two ladies explained Karimu to St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal in Seven Lakes which donated $600 in support of the cause.
The following year, Mackay and Brandy went back to the village to collect the loan and check up on the African women. They were met with drums, singing, completed progress reports, and the $500 that had been loaned.
“They were able to sell piglets and get [the loan money] back the following year,” Mackay explained.
Pleased with the success of the African women, Mackay and Brandy asked them to keep the $500 and gave them the additional $600 from St. Mary Magdalene.
“Now you go out and form new groups,” the ladies instructed.
The groups of women took the funds and made loans to women of neighboring villages so that they might also purchase piglets.
“Groups loan to other groups; it grows exponentially,” Mackay said. “Each year we add more money to the pot.”
“The women who started this sent their children to school and put rooves on their houses,” Brandy said.
While schooling in African villages is free of charge, the children are required to wear uniforms and have books.
“These pigs made it possible for them to receive education…,” Brandy said. “Women in education might save Africa.”
The children who were able to go to school years ago as a result of Karimu are now young adults entering university and nursing school.
“They are the future,” Mackay said.
Karimu has gone from supporting forty-five women to about three thousand women in a matter of about ten years.
Mackay and Brandy continue to raise funds for Karimu and make regular trips to Africa to oversee it.
“We get all kinds of donations from $10,000 to $80,000,” Brandy said. “The money they give is going straight to where it is needed.”
Today, Karimu has expanded into breeding goats as well as pigs, providing milk as well as meat.
The best part of being involved with this outreach is hearing the stories of how Karimu has benefitted young women and their families.
One story that made an impression on Brandy was about a young woman whose husband had passed away.
“[She said,] ‘If it had not been for these pigs, my son and I wouldn’t have made it’,” Brandy explained.
“They are now able to meet basic needs,” Mackay said.
One woman was able to use the money she raised from the pigs to purchase cement. She used the cement to make bricks by hand to sell for building.
Mackay and Brandy are currently working to raise funds to purchase solar power kits called “fireflies” for the homes in the villages. Their Nigerian friend, James Obi, who works for the American Engineering Group International is helping them to get the fireflies. Each firefly kit costs $200 and may service two homes.
Typically when light is needed, a kerosene lamp is lit to provide light for children to study. Children breathe in the fumes of the kerosene as they work.
Despite the fact that the African villagers have so little, it’s their attitude that has made an impact on Mackay and Brandy.
“When there’s a catastrophe [in the United States,] people come together…,” Mackay said. “That feeling we have here is there all the time.”
“We’ve come to love it so much [there,]” Brandy said. “We almost cry when we leave.”
The women pay their own fare when they travel to visit the village, allowing the raised funds to go directly to the villagers instead of to travel expenses. They plan on making the trip again in 2019.
Local churches that have supported Karimu include St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Sanford, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury.
For more information about Karimu, call Jessie Mackay at (910) 783-5599. To make a donation to Karimu, visit www.karimutanzania.com to make a donation with PayPal. Checks may be sent to the Karimu Treasurer Bill Rose at 514 East New Jersey Ave., Southern Pines, NC 28387.