Fitting tribute to a charity champion

Carlotta Johnson
Carlotta Johnson
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AN African beat will sound out across Morpeth in tribute to a tireless fund-raiser.

Carlotta Johnson, who lived in Hepscott, was the driving force behind the Jitegemee school building project in Tanzania.

Originally from Milwaukee in the United States, she had gone to the African country as a nun to teach at a mission school.

When she fell ill with bilharzia she was taken for treatment at a nearby hospital, where she met Newcastle doctor Frank Johnson. The pair fell in love so the young nun left the convent, married her doctor and went on to have three children.

In 1976 the family moved to Hepscott, but never forgot their Tanzanian friends and on a trip to see her old students, who had become teachers, Mrs Johnson was asked to help them build a school.

With her sister Liz in America they set to work.

Over the next three years the pair organised a small band of helpers to raise tens of thousands of pounds and Mrs Johnson took on all manner of fund-raising schemes herself.

However, last year she began to run low on energy and in September a massive inoperable tumour was discovered in her lungs.

Sadly, she had just started chemotherapy when she died unexpectedly on November 25.

Thanks to Mrs Johnson’s efforts the school is half-built and now her friends and family are determined to raise the remaining £100,000 to complete the project in her memory.

A Jitegemee fund-raising evening will take place at Riverside Lodge in Morpeth tomorrow, with music from Afro-English drumming band Bombadinga and an auction of lots such as fishing days, lunch and African artefacts.

There will also be refreshments and a raffle.

One of the organisers, Maura Illingworth, said: “I got involved with the Jitegemee project because Carlotta asked me to help so I started doing market stalls with her. She did a lot more fund-raising on her own, cleaning houses and all sorts.

“We have done this kind of event twice before when Carlotta organised it so we are trying to get as many people there as we can as a tribute to her.

“We still have to raise about £100,000, which is a lot, and we want to do it as quickly as we can in Carlotta’s memory. It seems an impossible amount to raise, but we will get there.”

The event will begin at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £3 on the door.