A world of good: Part 5 - giving drink to the thirsty

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

jOHN tENNY
John Tenny, Executive Director of Orant Charities (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

PART 5: GIVING DRINK TO THE THIRSTY

Orant Charities was founded by Seth Morgan and Michael Tenny, members of Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton and St. Mark Parish in Argyle, respectively.

Its board of directors comprises Denton-area Catholics. 

Most of its funding originates within the Diocese of Fort Worth.

But John Tenny, the executive director of Orant Charities, is quick to point out that this charity is not Texan. The nonprofit is a local/international partnership, and he defines local as the boots-on-the-ground, 53-person field staff of Malawians. The international is the cowboy-boots-wearing Texans who provide fundraising and management advice.

Orant Charities came into existence about 15 years ago. After a study to determine where money and manpower would make the biggest impact, the charity focused on one of the poorest communities on earth, a community of about 36,000 in central Malawi. 

By concentrating on a small geographic area, they can respond to a broad spectrum of needs and “touch people multiple times,” said Tenny, the son of the co-founder. Health care, education, clean water, business micro-loans, farming cooperatives — their programs make impacts across all ages and stages of life in this community of subsistence farmers.

Orant began operations in Malawi by opening a health clinic, then added a mobile health clinic. Between them both, tens of thousands of patients, mostly children, receive medical treatment annually.

Health care is closely associated with clean water. Each year, Orant has drilled and repaired an increasing number of water wells. In 2020, the nonprofit drilled 14 new wells and repaired almost 100 others. 

In Malawi, free education stops after eighth grade, and Orant provides scholarships for impoverished students, mostly girls, to continue their education through high school. This year, three recent graduates will attend a university, thanks to Orant funding.

Each year, Malawians endure a hungry season from November until the March harvest. Orant educates farmers on best farming practices, including irrigation and fertilizer, and provides loans for fertilizer and seed.

Another economic boost is the micro-loan program for women with small businesses. The program targets women, who are more likely to spend profits on family, according to Tenny.

Orant has an unlikely tool in its quest to assist the least of these. “I would say one of the big improvements we have had is using data to track everything,” said Tenny.  

For example, frequent repairs to a specific water well may indicate excessive use, and a second well in that area may be needed. 

Orant will soon launch electronic medical records in its clinic — the first in Malawi. Tenny is “extremely excited” about its potential.

He explained, “It allows you to treat patients better, and on another level it allows us to understand what are the needs based on the areas…. It will give us so much more data understanding of how to improve people’s lives.”

 

link to PART 4: SEEKING GOD AND TRUTH

link to PART 6: WELCOMING THE STRANGER

 

John Tenny

Orant Charities was founded by Seth Morgan and Michael Tenny, members of Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton and St. Mark Parish in Argyle, respectively.

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