The story of Imara International begins with our Executive Director, Carol Erickson. From an early age, Carol was drawn to care for orphans.
When Carol was about 10, news broke in the United States about the gross mistreatment of orphans in what was then the USSR. In church, she watched a video of the Romanian orphanages and how babies were dying from lack of human touch. This broke her 10-year-old heart, and that day God whispered a dream in her heart that still echoes there today.
Promptly after the service, she asked her mom to put her on a plane to Romania. No orphaned baby should die due to lack of touch if Carol was available to hold her. (Of course, her mother did not send her to Romania!)
As an adult, Carol visited Kenya, the first of several mission trips, to a girls’ boarding school there. It was then she realized that God was calling her in another direction. “Often in Kenya,” said Carol, “young women do not have the opportunity to finish school. When this happens a cycle of poverty begins. They can’t get a job, they get pregnant, and they are forced to do what no one should have to do to stay alive. Due to lack of education and employable skills, these girls are destined to a life filled with abuse, violence and poverty. During my trips to Kenya I noticed a gap. What happens to these teenage girls and how can we help them?”
Thus the idea for Imara International was born. In Swahili, Imara means strong or resolute. Today with God’s help, Imara International is a home that gives teenage moms a chance to practice life and parenting skills, finish their education, learn vocational skills and build their faith. Their children are cared for and have access to proper nutrition and early learning and education.
In the fall of 2011, Carol Erickson and a small group of friends solidify plans for a mission in Africa. Carol travels to Nanyuki, Africa and determines the need to save teenage moms and their babies. A strategic plan is formed and the dream of Imara International comes to fruition.
By April, Imara has formed a Board of Directors and 501(c)3 status is granted. The 1st Annual Imara International Charity Golf Tournament is held.
Carol Erickson is commissioned at Messiah United Methodist Church, Plymouth, Minnesota. By June, Carol relocates to Nanyuki, Kenya. A rental house is acquired to accommodate up to 10 teen moms and their babies. Imara supporters travel to Africa to help set up the rescue home. By December, the first moms and babies arrive at Imara House.
2013 – 2014
Curriculum and studies provide noticeable progress for Imara students. Early-childhood development is in place for our infants and toddlers. The local community shows strong support, along with mission trip talent for vocational skills development.
A Capital Campaign is launched for purchase of the Imara Village acreage. The Village site becomes a working farm. Infrastructure and security are put in place.
2015 – 2016
Imara rolls out full Africa brand marketing to support key vocational skills development. Imara Cakes are a big hit and give Imara moms a chance to learn business development too. Imara Sewing and Imara Salon are two other growing skill areas. A generous donation of twelve computers from the National Cristina Foundation opens up great opportunities.
2017 – 2018
Imara supporters fund a deep water borehole (well) that provides clean, reliable water for the Village and those in the local area. Imara Golf and Galas continue to be successful ways that our supporters can catch up on Imara and be very generous with their support.
Imara House moves to larger quarters. Expanded space allows for more moms and babies, along with new classrooms for moms and a dedicated pre-kindergarten space. Two elementary children are attending school in Nanyuki. Imara is fully staffed and has a wealth of local volunteers and U.S. mission trip volunteers.
Imara students are enrolled in Hampton School, Nanyuki. A bus is been purchased for transportation for the increasing number of moms and children. There is now a dedicated Skills Center that focuses on baking, sewing and salon skills. Local business people and mission teams work to train, teach and counsel Imara moms. Imara students volunteer as Sunday school teachers, vacation bible school leaders and are doing mission work with the poor.
The year started off with a Christmas in January celebration and everyone back in school. By March COVID hit worldwide. The Kenyan government mandated that rescue homes return residents to their home towns and villages. Exceptions were made for Imara teens who were pregnant or who had no homes to which they could return. Operating with a reduced staff, Imara continued to provide support to the entire Imara family delivering life sustaining supplies, education materials, and personal support. While 2020 presented challenges, it also delivered many blessings. Five new moms and three beautiful babies were welcomed into the Imara family. Government restrictions were lifted in November allowing the girls to return.