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Carroll County woman helps build better homes in Africa as ‘a way of giving back’

Deborah McCarty, a financial associate at the Gillis Falls Group of Thrivant Financial in Mt. Airy, recently returned from a mission trip, working to provide housing in Malawi. While there, she purchased the hand-carved wooden chicken souvenir she is holding, since Malawi is a country whose wealth is often associated with the number of chickens each family owns.
Deborah McCarty, a financial associate at the Gillis Falls Group of Thrivant Financial in Mt. Airy, recently returned from a mission trip, working to provide housing in Malawi. While there, she purchased the hand-carved wooden chicken souvenir she is holding, since Malawi is a country whose wealth is often associated with the number of chickens each family owns. (Doug Kapustin / Carroll County Times)

A Mount Airy-based financial company gave a Taylorsville woman the opportunity to lend a helping hand to less fortunate families in Africa.

Deborah McCarty, a financial professional through the Mount Airy-based Gillis Falls group of Thrivent, worked alongside her team members and volunteers from other Thrivent groups to build homes for three families that have been impacted by the AIDS epidemic in Salima, Malawi.

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“There’s a great need for just appropriate housing compared to Western standards because the AIDS epidemic is still quite apparent in Africa, we sometimes forget here,” McCarty said. “The main reason we went this time was we were building three homes and the homes, it’s a dirt floor, but it’s a brick building with a roof. Because they have a very severe rainy season.”

Thrivent volunteers (McCarty on the far right) pose in front of one of the homes they built with the future Malawi resident.
Thrivent volunteers (McCarty on the far right) pose in front of one of the homes they built with the future Malawi resident. (Courtesy Photo)

One of the people McCarty helped was a mother who said she was HIV positive and lost her husband to AIDS.

McCarty went on the trip, from June 20 to July 1, as part of the Habitat and Thrivent Worldwide program, a partnership between Thrivent Financial and Habitat for Humanity International, according to a Thrivent news release.

Deborah McCarty, with husband Greg, worked alongside her team members and volunteers through her company to build homes for three families that have been impacted by the AIDS epidemic in Salima, Malawi.
Deborah McCarty, with husband Greg, worked alongside her team members and volunteers through her company to build homes for three families that have been impacted by the AIDS epidemic in Salima, Malawi. (Courtesy photo)

“Thrivent is a financial organization; we’ve been around since 1902. We are what’s considered a fraternal. We operate within the faith community and our goal is to help people be wise with their money so that they can live more generously,” McCarty said. “Habitat for Humanity is to provide affordable and decent housing to those that don’t have it.”

According to McCarty, Thrivent is the largest non-governmental sponsor of Habitat for Humanity and their partnership has been in place for 25 years.

“In Malawi, poverty is prevalent and about four out of five families live in substandard homes with little hope of ever being able to afford a decent house. A typical village hut is built of mud bricks with a dirt floor and grass-thatched roof, which requires frequent repairs," according to a Habitat for Humanity International news release. “These conditions put the families at high risk of all kinds of diseases with leaky roofs making the house damp and mud floors attracting insects. There are about 1.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi out of a population of 18.57 million and approximately 21,000 new units are needed every year for the next 10 years to meet housing demand – this far exceeds supply.”

The goal of the trip was to provide the homes, but it was also to provide better living arrangements for the children of the families.

“In establishing decent housing, now, there’s still no electricity, there’s still no running water, but they are at least dry,” McCarty said. “The moms’ biggest concern, it generally is to keep their schoolwork dry.”

The conditions of the homes are usually poor due to the problems caused by the AIDS epidemic there, according to McCarty.

“The children that are now living in these homes are AIDS orphans. You’ve got the generation that would be working, possibly to provide, and they’re gone," McCarty said. "So, these kids only have these grannies that will take care of them. But they’re not earning a living, so they end up in sub-optimal situations.”

This is the third international trip that McCarty has done. She said she just wants to give back.

"God has blessed me greatly, greatly in living in this country, but what I do as a profession and as a way to other people,” she said. “Just a way of giving back, sharing His love.”

McCarty said she plans to attend more trips like this one to continue to help people.

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