Unlike most 10-year-olds in this country, Tom Corson grew up in a thatched-roof hut with dirt floor amid the indigenous people of Bolivia. He had to walk to the river every day to get water and then watch his parents boil it. His toys were sticks and rocks, and his passion from a young age was all about helping people.
Corson’s parents, Ken and Sarah, began teaching the locals how to sustain their communities, and Servants in Faith & Technology (SIFAT) was born. They wanted to establish something that would outlive them.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and Corson is the executive director of SIFAT. He still remembers his parents’ commitment.
“All I’m doing is continuing my parents’ mission,” he said. “When they noticed that many people were dying from simple things such as lack of clean water and malnutrition, they decided to help.”
SIFAT sits on a 175-acre campus near Lineville in Clay County. So far, people from 90 countries have come to learn how to improve lives back home with things like cooking stoves, water purification systems and other simple technologies.
“Everything we do is sustainable. Our hope is for indigenous folks around the world to provide for themselves,” Corson said.
Student groups come to SIFAT to learn the techniques, so they can teach them on trips to the developing world.
“Behind me is a bunch of students from UAB as well as other places, and they are learning how to do smokeless cookstoves,” Corson said. He said smokeless cookstoves are important because they use much less fuel, and smoke inhalation can cause serious health issues and even death in some developing countries.
SIFAT board member Art Stephenson, who retired as director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center after 50 years in the space program, has written a book titled “Out of the Blue.” In the book, Stephenson shares his faith journey.
“I wanted all the proceeds from my book to support SIFAT. It means so much to me to be involved with a group that focuses on helping people and improving their lives,” Stephenson said. “I lead a short-term mission trip to Ecuador every year, and I have seen first-hand the impact SIFAT has on lives down there and in other countries.”
Corson has a very clear idea of his purpose in life.
“Our people are always ready to do everything they can to support our work,” Corson said. “The reason I’m doing this is the passion and experiences we’ve had. Seeing how these things can help save the lives of people and their loved ones is what drives me every day.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.sifat.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].