My recent trip to Kenya was filled with joy and gratitude for the work that has been done there as a result of your donations. Allan McDonald, one of our board members, accompanied me.
We arrived in Nairobi on January 21st and were greeted warmly by my friend Naftali, who was waiting at the airport. We were told that the drought had taken its toll on the people and the animals, but that there had been a few days of rain. Rain is always seen as a blessing there. After two days of rest in Nairobi, we were driven to the Maasai Mara along the Rift Valley. We continued to engage in conversations about the land issues and political changes. As we had heard, the land in most areas had been partitioned and fenced and many people had sold their land to feed their families and pay school fees for their children.
Jackson and Wilson, the Maasai warriors who are working with us to support the work of our foundation, met with us and shared details about the plans for our visit. They had arranged meetings for us and visits to the communities. They drove us for many hours, along bumpy roads with frequent animal crossings, to remote communities where we met people who had benefited from our donations. We talked with elders and were met by hundreds of people dancing and singing, celebrating the gift of water from the wells that had been installed. We were also able to visit the clinic that had been made available for the people and experience their joy and gratitude for the gift of health. The women and men, who now are so proud to have their own small businesses, greeted us with excitement and hope for the future.
At each step along the way, we were met by groups of women, men and children dancing, and singing, and welcoming us with open hearts. They were particularly proud of the new well and solar panel that draws clean water up 160 meters to the surface, thereby providing clean drinking water for 5,000 people, as well as cattle and visiting wild animals. Water is life, particularly in this time of extremely lengthy drought. The people there are praying for more rain; however we did not have the heart to say that climate change is expected to last. We know that our two wells will be lifelines for them.
We watched women and children fill large yellow jerry cans with water. They carried them on their backs with ropes around their foreheads that balanced their heavy loads. Some had donkeys with them that carried more jerry cans for the journey of 5 to 10 kilometers (3-6 miles) to their homes. High school girls gracefully carried cans of water home after school. I tried to pick one up - it weighed almost 50 pounds! I wouldn't be of much help in fetching water there.
Next we traveled to the community clinic, where we were, again, met by hundreds of community members, dancing, singing and speaking words of gratitude. Thanks to you, we were able to bring much-needed medical supplies.
They opened the full suitcase we brought like delighted children at Christmas. We talked with the doctor and the herbal healer, who each live on site. We found that they do not have their own quarters. The doctor rolls out his bedding at night to sleep in the clinic
and only goes home to see his family once a month. The healer sleeps with his supplies, behind a stick fence. We appreciate those of you who pay their salaries, i.e. $450 per month for the doctor and $50 per month for the healer. We hope to be able to provide better living conditions for them in the future.
The clinic is now lit by a solar panel that was paid for by one of you. Now people can come at night when medical care is needed. The women met with us with words of appreciation. They explained that they hope to have a private area to deliver babies when there are challenging situations that require medical care.
While we were there,four women got up from the group and ran toward a woman's home who was delivering a baby. We also had a chance to hold twins who were born under difficult circumstances.
Their mother had been bleeding profusely and had to be taken to a hospital in Narok, more than two hours away. Four warriors accompanied her. There was no blood available for her at the hospital, but, after a delay, they allowed the warriors to give their blood, so that the mother and the babies survived. Holding those infants was one of the highlights of my trip.
When we visited the clinic we also met the mother of Benjamin. He was a young man who had been volunteering at the clinic and wanted to go to nursing school. Two of you offered to pay for a scholarship for him, however he died suddenly in the arms of our doctor and no one was able to explain why. Now his younger brother, Jeremy, hopes to follow in his footsteps and go to college to serve his community as a nurse or a teacher.
After going to the clinic, Wilson escorted us to the market, where we met with the women we have supported. They were proudly selling beautiful vegetables and grain from large sacks. They have been able to manage their businesses successfully and make good use of the $50 they each received from you. They are now able to purchase goods wholesale, instead of paying a broker, and then sell at the open marketplace. This allows them to pay for their children's needs, be prepared to continue their businesses and, most remarkably, pay the $50 forward to other women after five months. The women with established businesses take the initiative to train the next group of women to participate in that empowering process. It was an honor to join them at the market and carry their gratitude back to those of you who supported them.
Lastly, Jackson and Wilson arranged for us to meet with the elders from five distant areas who had been appointed to serve on government-established land committees. Our purpose in meeting with them was to increase their awareness of the long term consequences of selling land and the potential of losing their community-based culture, as we have seen with the indigenous people of the US and Canada. The Maasai people live in interconnected communities where people readily care for one another, share what they have, and rely on the wisdom of the elders as they face challenges. Now that their land is partitioned by the government, their way of living as a community is disrupted by miles of fences, separating families. Animals are not able to roam freely, and people are disconnected. The elders who met with us were appreciative of our observations and concerns and began to problem-solve with us. They committed to work together to raise awareness for other Maasai communities, in order to protect their way of life.
This trip was a profound experience, filled with poignant moments, joy and heartfelt gratitude. We carried you in our hearts and minds. The people there spoke your names, knowing that you had changed their lives forever. We returned home with our souls full of gratitude that we had been able to bring your generosity to these proud and wise people. We also came home with a list of priorities for our future endeavors and hope that, together with you, we can continue this work. Please let me know if you would like to participate in any of these projects.
Expand the clinic with a private maternity wing for labor and delivery ($2,400 needed)
Build living quarters for the doctor ($8,000 needed)
Build traditional manyatta home for the natural healer, with storage and consultation space ($400 contributed)
Pipe the water from the wells so that women and children do not have to carry water such long distances; the people are now digging the trench for this to minimize the cost so that donations can go directly to the fees for the engineer and for the piping ($1,000 needed)
Provide more women with support to start and maintain their marketplace businesses ($50 needed for each women)
Provide men with support to begin agrovet businesses ($50 needed for each man)
It is an honor to have carried your generosity into the lives of this community. I am learning more about the strong values of the Maasai people, and look forward to sharing what I have learned with you.
With genuine appreciation,