Piper Shores Resident John Thompson Honored with MBE Award From King Charles III for Outstanding Service to Masiphumelele, South Africa

In December, 85-year-old John Thompson and his wife Carol were overwhelmed with emotion as they received a long-awaited award that marked a significant moment in their lives. Residents of Piper Shores, the couple dedicated 25 years to founding and building Masicorp, a nonprofit organization in Masiphumelele, South Africa. Their tireless efforts have been recognized with the prestigious MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) award. King Charles III of the United Kingdom nominated and appointed John Thompson as an Ordinary Member of the Civil Division of the British Empire, adding a profound accolade to their remarkable journey. 

“We received this mysterious phone call from the United Kingdom a little over a year ago asking, ‘Would you be pleased to receive this honor on December 31, 2022? If you would like to think about it and take the time…’ It only took three seconds after that to say we are honored and accepted,” said Carol Thompson. 

John was born in 1938 and grew up in England, and Carol was born and raised outside of Cape Town, South Africa. The two were married in 1963, and moved to New York for John’s job. In 1999, Carol and John Thompson founded Masicorp, a nonprofit that has evolved from a small startup in a 50,000 person township into a dynamic organization with 70 staff members. Over the years, Masicorp has significantly impacted the community of Masiphumelele in South Africa. The nonprofit has constructed five daycare centers, a youth center, a library, 23 houses, and initiated 35 active projects and programs. The organization focuses on providing education and resources to uplift the Masi community, aiming to create opportunities and a pathway out of poverty. 

“It’s part of the honor code of Britain,” said John Thompson. “It’s an honor to people who do service in their community and a very large commonwealth, to be honored and awarded by the King.”

“When we received notice of the award, the first people we notified were our friends and family because they are the ones who truly share in this achievement,” said Carol Thompson. “From the very beginning of our fundraising efforts, John and I reached out to everyone we knew. This award isn’t just for us; it’s a recognition of the collective effort of our entire community.”

“In our Christmas letter this year with a photo of John holding the award, we made it clear that this acknowledgement extends to everyone who has contributed to fundraising, donated money, visited South Africa, devoted their time, and helped overcome challenges. It’s a celebration of a vast, interconnected family of friends and donors who have played a vital role in our journey,” continued Carol. 

Carol explains that over a dozen individuals took the initiative to write to the King, nominating both John and her for their impactful work. This thorough process typically spans a year or more, with the British Embassy meticulously sifting through hundreds and thousands of applications. The extensive procedure includes in-depth background work, involving conversations with family members and friends to gather comprehensive insights. 

“We asked the British Ambassador when we could tell our children, and they already knew about it!” said Carol. “They had to be part of this effort, to give them more background information. They were just as excited for us to find out the news, and finally they didn’t have to keep this a secret anymore.”

The Impact of John and Carol’s Nonprofit, Masicorp

The journey of Masicorp took shape after Carol and John learned about Masiphumelele, following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. They encountered an ambitious woman running a makeshift daycare center, and realizing the community lacked education and resource support, the couple asked about her dreams. The woman expressed a desire for a proper school with inside plumbing. Recognizing the historical lack of education for black people in South Africa, the Thompsons understood the need to address this gap. 

Masicorp’s primary focus has been to provide educational opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and contribute to the creation of a black middle class. Carol and John have dedicated their efforts to fundraising and personal contributions. Now in its 25th year of operations, John and Carol couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished, finding value in the numerous success stories and lives they’ve impacted. 

Carol says the entire British population sees this news, and it’s published twice each year in the London Gazette on December 31st and again in June with a huge celebration. Unfortunately, due to John’s health, the couple was unable to make the June celebration and only received the actual award this past December.

“When we retired, we stumbled into a journey of actually helping people,” said John. “It began with building houses, and, truth be told, we ran out of money. It’s been a constant evolution, figuring out how we can be useful to others on this planet who lack the means to fully participate in life. And remarkably, it’s worked.”

John joins another member from Masicorp to receive the MBE award, and John’s grandfather also received the award back in 1917 for the first World War. 

“In this journey we have created a good life for many people, and that’s what we encourage other retirees to do. If you can help someone, and make a difference, do it. The beauty is that anyone can do this!” said John.