Tami Devine was born on the floor of a mud hut in “in the remotest jungle village that you can think of” in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Her father abandoned the family and four earlier children did not survive, so it was just Tami and her mom. Tami’s mother had elephantiasis in her foot, yet walked miles walked miles every day to plant and harvest groundnuts (our equivalent to peanuts) and every Sunday to church, which was run by missionaries.
On a trip to a neighboring village when Tami was six years old, her mother “started getting sicker,” Tami says. “I remember my mother dying in the middle of the night. I remember calling her and she wouldn’t wake up. I just remember curling up next to her anyway, even though she wouldn’t respond to me.”
About a month after Tami’s mother died, her uncles took her to the missionaries, the Kimble family. That evening they asked Tami if she would like to live with them.
“I gave a little speech about how I would very much like to stay with them. At the time, I don’t think I really understood what it meant. I just knew I was out of that bad situation and into a better situation.
“I was always a little tentative, a little hesitant in those first couple of years about my place with them and my role with them—I don’t think I completely understood that they had decided that I was their family.” Here in the video, Tami’s voice cracks. “And, that they loved me and that they would take care of me from that moment on.”
The Kimble’s missionary stint was eventually completed and they were headed back to the States. Because of the complications with adopting, they had to leave Tami behind. “Mom,” Tami says, “always gets tears in her eyes; we’re all such crybabies when we talk about our story.”
“Dad came to me and said, ‘You are our daughter and we love you. And, even though you have to stay behind for a little while, we’re going to come get you, we’re going to get you, you’re going to make it to the U.S., or I’m going to come back and get you myself.'”
“The truth of it is that it didn’t have to be me. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of kids like this all over the world, many in Sierra Leone, West Africa, who could have been the one that was adopted by missionaries…and brought to a place of opportunity and to a place of things that me as a little girl in the village could never have even dreamed about because I had no clue that (they) existed.
“It didn’t have to be me. But for some reason it was. What am I supposed to do with that? Sometimes it’s really overwhelming. What can I do except good, except work hard, to try to pay back even a fraction that?
“I choose to do good and to help other people because other people helped me.”
Tami plans to continue helping others through IMTC (International Media Training Center) and the upcoming morning show Crown City News (CCN) Sunrise.
“The t.v. station here in Pasadena has asked us to produce a daily, one-hour morning show for Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley,” she says. “We’re going to include that element of training through the morning show.” They are going to have students in high school and college, and even the unemployed who may always have had a hankering to try television, to come in and learn the ins and outs of t.v. news and production.
People who have trained with CCN (established in 2004) include Darsha Philips who is now a KABC reporter and Anthony Smilkovich who’s a producer at Fox 11 News Los Angeles. Smilkovich says, “At CCN, I learned to shoot and edit video…(and) write stories for the web. I learned all these things at CCN, Crown City News, and I’m glad I did because they’ve helped me here at my job at Fox Eleven.”
Tracey Leong, reporter and anchor at KRCR News Channel 7, Redding, California: “Crown City News was a great place for me to learn everything from how to report to how to find stories, and I had a great mentor and role model (in) Tami. She really helped me learn what I needed to be successful in this industry. And, I think that any investment in Crown City News program is a benefit to the community and to journalists starting out.”
Brian Loftus, 8 News Now, Las Vegas, Nevada: “I’m delighted to hear that CCN is going to have a live, local, daily morning show. I work on one of those at 8 News Now in Las Vegas. This experience is a result of some of the training I got at CCN. I was able to learn how to anchor—anchored my first time there with Tami—report, and also write. It was a terrific experience.
“In fact, the three months I worked there led to my demo reel which got me my first job…and then I joined the crew at CBS Las Vegas Channel Eight. I credit CCN with a lot of the success I’ve been able to achieve in the past five or six years. I think Tami and her team do an amazing job and I wish them all the best with their great morning show. I look forward when in L.A. to tuning in, so please give them all the support (you) can and thank you, CCN, for all that you did for me.”
CCN Sunrise, live from Pasadena, will be from 7 to 8 a.m., Monday through Sunday. It will air live on Arroyo Channel 32 in Pasadena, then also on AT&T Uverse and online. Hosts will be Paulo Alejandria and Sehnita Joshua Mattison.
A Kickstarter campaign is available to contribute to the success of this endeavor. Take a look: Kickstarter.com/projects/ccnsunrise.