Tammy Darmel Moore sits down with Life in the Overflow Magazine and shares how a trip to Africa changed her life and the lives of others thousands of miles away.
A queen in her own right, Tammy Darmel Moore is a woman led by her plight and passion for her people, her community, and humanity. She was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, a military-brat in her own words, she doesn’t really remember much of the extensive military travel as a child. Whether it’s Meals on Wheels or serving the Cancer Society board in the Southeast for 10 years, Tammy has always had the heart to give back.
Fulfilling a dream to travel and see the world after her children were adults, soon after her youngest had graduated from college, in less than 3 years Tammy would see 4 continents and 29 countries. Her travels to Africa were intentionally saved for the year 2019.
“Ethiopia is literally the only place out of all the places I’ve visited where I’ve taken my shoes off as soon as I got off the plane because I wanted the soles of my feet to touch the ground.” -Tammy Darmel Moore
“I wanted to go to Africa the way that I wanted to do it. There’s this methodology to it. I wanted to go in the year of 2019, The Year of Return”, she continued, “People would say, well what difference does it make? It makes a big difference. This trip was personal for me. So, when I got the opportunity to go to Ethiopia in 2019, that was like a double bonus, because Ethiopia is the beginning of all mankind, the beginning of civilization, the original Africa. Now we know the Africa that has been diced up into 54 countries, but Ethiopia is the original and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.” Out of all the continents and countries that Tammy has traveled to, she expresses her respect for the original Africa. “Ethiopia is literally the only place out of all the places I’ve visited where I’ve taken my shoes off as soon as I got off the plane because I wanted the soles of my feet to touch the ground.”
Upon her arrival in Ethiopia, it was important for Tammy to visit the places that were off the grid and outside of the tourist locations. For her, it wasn’t about sitting by the poolside with an umbrella drink taking selfies, but really getting to know the locals, how they lived and get their perspective. She admits that when she met the people she was in awe and fell in love with them and the country. Likewise, for the locals who expressed that they were used to seeing blonde hair and blue eyes, they were equally in awe to see people from another part of the world that looked like them.
She ate with them, had conversations and formed relationships with them that continue until this day. For 3 days she remained in a remote area, in what we would called the bush, with no running water or electricity. Utilizing the sun to tell the time of day or realizing it was morning by the roosters crowing, Although she acknowledges the realness of hunger, sickness, and disease throughout the continent, Tammy saw a happy people living life in their element not burdened with the woes of life that we deal with on a daily basis in the western world. “They’re free,” Tammy says and then repeats it, “They’re free.” Reflecting on children splashing in every mud puddle that they could find, “They’re having the time of their lives”.
“While I was there in the bush, I met a young girl, she probably was about 13 years old. I had on a pair of black Nike Airmax, she had on shoes but her feet were protruding a little bit in one of the shoes. She was walking me back to the van and she says, “May I have your shoes? Your shoes,” as she was pointing down to my feet. I tell her that I can’t give her my shoes, because I didn’t have another pair with me. We had to walk about 5 miles out of the bush to get to the guy with the van. I felt bad. My closet at home is literally falling in with stuff. I have plenty of shoes. When I got back to the states, that weighed heavily on me. I had to tell a child ‘no’; not for a candy bar, not to a soda, but to a pair of shoes. We all need shoes. It’s bigger than having on something stylish. I started making arrangements to go back to that same village for my birthday the following year in February 2020. I wanted to give these shoes to the little girl that asked me for them. I cleaned them for her, put them in a bag and down in a box.”
"I tell them, while in the bush I saw more footprints than shoes.” - Tammy Darmel Moore
An invitation to return to Ethiopia in February 2020, was not able to be fulfilled due to COVID-19 sweeping the world, so Tammy got to work with collecting shoes, making the best out of the shut down and her quarantine time. Considering, that by the time the quarantine was over she could have more shoes for the little girl and others in the village as well. With no traditional marketing of her idea or social media advertising, while quarantined to her home using nothing but text messaging and phone calls - in two weeks, Tammy had collected over 100 pairs of gently used, new or like new pairs of shoes. “Me collecting shoes, turned into me forming an organization called, Footprints in Africa. People ask, why the name? I tell them, while in the bush I saw more footprints than shoes.” Footprints in Africa has currently partnered with Lale Labuko, an Southwest Ethiopian tribesman and humanitarian, to form an initiative for the aid of the ‘mingi’ children of the Kara tribe by the Omo River. Mingi is a bizarre, taboo concept that children borne out of wedlock, a twin or those who have teeth that come in from the top before the bottom. Those children are sacrificed and slaughtered as a part of their generational culture and belief that they would bring famine or a curse.
Labuko has become an advocate and has provided a home for these outcast mingi children. To date he has about 52 children. Footprints in Africa has collaborated with Lale Labuko, providing much needed healthcare, food and clothing by sponsoring a child for $37/month. “My background is in business development. It’s not unlikely to take something little and make it something. I thrive on challenges. I bring out my best work when I’m under the gun. It always comes out better than what I could have expected. I’m led by my spirit, even if I don’t know the end result. You don’t have to see it, just trust that incubator. I like to be led by the Spirit.” When asked how Covid-19 has affected the organization and it’s mission, Tammy responded, “Although our organization was established during Covid-19, our foundation was built on something that’s very uncommon, and it goes back to who we are as a people, it all aligns. I wasn’t detoured, because of it, if anything I was provoked. If there was no other time, this was the time to get it done. As far as travels, because Covid has extended far beyond time expected, I haven’t been able to do certain things, like take a group back to Ethiopia. That would be our annual trip. I’ve chosen Ethiopia because it’s the beginning Now, there are other areas that are more civilized and more 21st century. I think in order for us to really have a true sense of our people, Africa, it really needs to start in Ethiopia, the beginning.”
“They don’t have room to dream, so I wanted to provide a gateway so that they can actually dream.” - Tammy Darmel Moore
Footprints in Africa also serves other countries. In Senegal and Gambia, Igniting Dreams initiative was started because of a local rap artist and tourist worker named Lamin. After meeting him and learning about his dream, Tammy helped Lamin by sowing a monetary seed for studio time, wardrobe and video production. Since the encounter and the release of his music, Lamin has had several shows. ‘They don’t have room to dream, so I wanted to provide a gateway so that they can actually dream.” Through Igniting Dreams, Footprints in Africa sponsors artist talent cards in both countries. Since then, Footprints in Africa has added another Igniting Dreams recipient from Nigeria to their roster and awarded a grant for higher education last year.
Footprints in Africa also carries authentic products and jewelry from all over Africa. Tammy started a project called Life Gardens. She sponsors 12 school gardens that the children work in. She was told that 12 gardens would feed 1500 people three meals a day. In 90 days, a miracle happened in the land that reminded Tammy of the story of Jesus feeding the people with 3 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Tammy and Footprints in Africa had sponsored 7 gardens. Just 2 of the gardens fed well over 1,000 people. Today, the Life Garden project is feeding well over 4,000 souls several meals a day. Life Gardens has also become a small business for many who are able to grow food in surplus before the cold season and sell it to businesses or other people. Attendance at the schools has also increased, with knowing that they have food to eat while there. “When we do things we want to make sure that not only is it impactful, but it should also be sustainable. You don’t want to do something just for fluff, but we want to do things that long after we’ve put our footprints in Africa and gone, that whatever we’ve done, is still going, still thriving and makeing a difference,” Tammy explains. After discovering almost 20 years ago her African ancestry of the Hausa/Ticar people, Tammy had plans for dual citizenship in Africa. The trip to scout out the land after The Year of Return trip didn’t happen due to Covid-19. Tammy hopes to take a group with her back to Ethiopia and Kenya soon. She says she just wants to walk through the gardens, see the children and meet those whose lives she is changing from a continent away. Learn more about Footprints in Africa at www.footprintsinafrica.org