Makoko's leap of faith pays dividends for himself and his Tanzanian town
Seventeen years ago, Daniel Makoko took a leap of faith and traveled from his native country of Tanzania to Kinston,. It was a leap that has paid off for him and his family, but also for his native village of Toloha, his home he has not forgotten.
“When I was growing up in Tanzania, my friends, family, and I often dreamed of what it would be like to come to the United States,” Makoko wrote in a 2005 article in The Javelin, LCC’s student newspaper.
His dream came true when he won the Diversity Visa Lottery from the National Visa Center.
“I had the chance to continue from education,” he wrote. “Instantly, I became a minor sort of celebrity in my village. Some thought the story was too good to be true.”
After confirmation from the American Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, Makoko started making plans to come to the United States. He left his family behind with plans to bring them to Kinston as soon as possible.
A friend of his who lived in Kinston assisted him in making the journey to Charlotte by way of New York where his friend arranged for someone to pick him up at the airport and get him safely on a bus bound for Kinston.
“I didn’t know how to make a phone call,” he recalled. “I didn’t have a cell phone. It was definitely a culture shock. I remember the man who met me in Charlotte took me to McDonald’s to eat. I couldn’t eat all of the meal and tried to return it at the counter. The man said ‘we do not do that here. This is your food.’
“So when he threw the food away, it hurt my feelings to waste it.”
Makoko enrolled at LCC in the fall of 2002 with plans of transferring to ECU. He also had a vision to help his village in Tanzania by starting a health clinic, providing clean water and establishing a school to help educate his village.
Six years later, his wife and son joined Makoko in Kinston. While things were improving in life, Makoko never forgot the people in his village.
“I went back in 2009 and talked to the people. I saw the village was dry, women were struggling because they had to walk eight hours to find clean water.”
He continued, “So my priorities changed and the water project because first. It took two to three years to get people to talk with me seriously, but my friend, Burt Rudolph who is an engineer, and his son, Perry, and their friend, Joshua Spear traveled with me to Tanzania to see for themselves the need. They met with the people. We spent two weeks surveying. When we came back, we shared the story. It was infectious.”
In 2013, the group raised $50,000 through the Community Council of Arts.
“What a blessing and encouragement,” he said. “It started there. It took us a year and a half to finish the water project at my village. It was transforming. They have clean water, they grow their own vegetables to eat, and they have toilet facilities.”
Fast forward to 2018 when Makoko recently came back to LCC to renew his passport. He said his life has changed dramatically since coming to Kinston in 2001. He transferred from LCC to Pitt Community College and then transferred to ECU where he earned his bachelor’s degree in public health. He later earned his master’s degree at the University of New England.
Makoko is currently employed at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. He and his wife, Cristina have three sons: 18, 9, and 3 years old. His wife also came to LCC to learn English. While his life changed, his vision remained steady.
“My vision has come true. We started and finished a kindergarten three years ago in my village. The dream team started the water project and it continues. I started a non-profit organization for the health clinic we hope to have. My father died in 2009 on the way to a hospital that was eight hours away. It is important that no one else dies because they do not have healthcare close by.”
Makoko said he has a branch of the nonprofit organization in Germany as well.
“The kindergarten and part of the toilet facility were made possible from the Germany branch,” he said
Reflecting back over the article he wrote in the school paper 14 years ago, he said those words hold true today. At the time, he wrote, “Everything has been working out so well for me because I am lucky. I have lots of thanks to give to LCC instructors and staff, not to mention the kind man who gave me bus fare to get to Kinston in the first place.
“Many people here have been helping make my dream come true without even realizing it. But not everyone, I remember is so lucky.”
For more information about the nonprofit organization or if interested in donating to the healthcare project, contact Makoko at 252-268-6348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be made online through the non-profit organization website at www.tolohavillage.org.