SPRINGDALE – Justina Thompson, a Springdale resident who has worked as a licensed cosmetologist for 34 years, wants to make the world, as well as her clients, more beautiful.
Thompson stays on the move while wearing many hats as an entrepreneur, wife and mother. She runs her own home-based hair salon called Transformation International Hair Designs and even bakes tasty treats as another business venture.
Thompson is a “doer” who is unafraid to tackle more demanding tasks, such as combating poverty in another country. She makes time to dedicate herself to missionary work and supporting the needs of the underserved through her nonprofit called Global Mission Society.
For the last five years, the missionary at heart has helped individuals in the small West African country of Gambia by collecting and shipping essential items collected from several affiliated U.S. churches, customers and friends. On March 25, she hopes to raise funds to support those shipping efforts through a benefit gospel concert and fashion show featuring The Sensational Nightingales and Sassy Seniors. It will be held at Cantebury Hall, located at 3125 Ritchie Rd. in Forestville. Traditional African dresses, children’s pantsuits and loofahs will also be sold at the event.
Shipping items is costly. The items’ trip begins in Baltimore, where they are placed in a container that is shipped to the Glory Baptist Church in Gambia, using a ferry, port and driver. And for this reason, Thompson needs more grassroots support to give people who live in a well-known village a hand up.
“Our current mission is we’re raising funds for a 20-foot container so we can send over medical supplies, educational supplies, clothing… whatever they need,” Thompson said. “Household goods, mini-solar lamps to help them with lighting – stuff like that. They just need everything, so that’s what we’re trying to send over.
“We’re striving to improve the quality of life – clean water systems, solar energy, agriculture, basic healthcare, education, and community development in the Gambia. We want to do it globally, but we’re concentrating right now in Africa.”
Thompson visited Gambia in 2016 where she started a women’s craft group after taking supplies and fabric to creative African women. She brought the clothing that the Gambian women made back to the U.S. and helps the ladies sell the items to provide stipends and generate opportunities to earn income to assist them in taking care of their children. It also allows them to purchase personal hygiene items and small medical supplies.
Thompson feels there is a potential opportunity for more business owners in Prince George’s County to sell these kinds of African crafts in their local establishments.
Joan Stevens, a county resident and the International Missions Project Lead at Antioch Baptist Church of Upper Marlboro, has also personally traveled to Gambia, as part of a mission trip with the church. She will serve as the emcee for the March 25 program, while other church members will be models for the fashion show.
Stevens said Rev. Tyrone Petty and the church’s congregation assisted Thompson in 2015 when everything from computers and televisions to bookcases and furniture was donated and shipped to Juffureh using money raised from church fundraisers.
Stevens said that reaching back to help links African-Americans with their ancestry.
“Well, I think that we have to reach out to our brothers and sisters from Africa, because basically, we are descendants of the African people. We were brought here from Africa,” Stevens said. “So I think that we can give to others here in this country, but we should also give to our brothers and sisters that are in need over in Africa, and it’s all parts of Africa that they have a need. And when I went over there, I saw that they really have a need in the village.”
Stevens and Thompson both said that children in Gambian cities like Juffureh and Jeshwang are excited whenever items arrive from the U.S. She added that medical supplies are greatly needed, and Juffureh is still without many modern conveniences. Thompson and her supporters are chipping away at this challenge by doing what they can to help.