Changing life for the better
The Madison HS Interact Club makes a global connection and pledges to aid a Maasai girl for 2 years!
After hearing our story, the American students made short videos introducing themselves to the girls we sponsor. Thanks to our program director, Moses Saruni, the Maasai girls were able to respond, and share a bit about their lives.
With that as inspiration, the Madison High students organized a walkathon and campaign that has raised around $2,500! That's enough to pay for four years of high school for a Maasai girl, and 2 goats to add to the village women's herd.
It's heartening to know that young people are interested in another culture, and that they care enough about their less fortunate peers around the world. The Madison students are working very hard - and all to help another young life, while learning about the changing culture of the Maasai. THANK YOU, Madison students!
At Last - Clean Water!
Maasai Girls Fund paid for pipes to be laid and covered with concrete, connecting the village to a nearby borehole. Two 10,000 liter water tanks now store clean water inside the thorn fence - enough for people, livestock, and even nearby wildlife.
We are now preparing a grant proposal for Rotary International with the aim of digging a solar-powered well that can serve up to 5 of the 7 local villages with water pumped via buried pipe to their own holding tanks. The Maasai have told us that clean water access is the single most transformative thing we have done there.
Sun Flair Solar Cookers
We brought 2 "Sun Flair" solar cookers on our 2019 visit, and the Rotary Club of Newark, NJ, has funded two more, The women share the cookers, whch have proven to be time-saving, effective, and safer for lungs, eyes, and the environment!
We hope to provide one for each household in future. Donations have already come in for 5 more!
Solar cookers mean:
1. No need to walk long distances to forage for scarce wood. Every tree and bush that is not cut for cooking fires continues to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere;
2. Less smoke pollution inside villagers' huts, avoiding injuries to eyes and lungs.
Solar panels save time and provide light. We supplied the village with four, freeing hours spent walking to charge one of the few village cell phones.
In typical Maasai fashion, the villagers donated 2 of their panels to the local public school which had a single bulb for an entire dormitory.
String Lights to the Rescue!
We intended these solar lights for our friends' dark homes. But the community told us the lights were more useful when placed on the outer thorn fence, to keep hyenas and lions away at night. Since then, there have been NO incursions by predators for over two years!
Thanks to members of the Montclair, NJ Rotary Club, we provided a new set for the entire village. And we hope to soon provide lights for six neighboring villages as well.
The village asked for sanitation, so we funded materials for four outhouses -- their first ever. Outhouses cost $650 to build, and the Maasai villagers can always use more.
In 2018, when the Kenyan government forced Ngong'Narok village to relocate two miles away to a safer location, further from a wildlife corridor, we paid for the outhouses to be rebuilt, and their foundations relaid.
We moved the village kindergarten too, and the water tanks, which required re-laying the pipes to connect them back to the wellhead.
But at least our friends are in a safer location now.
Maasai are herders by tradition, with little experience growing crops. But with mega-droughts and floods made worse by climate change, herding has become a precarious lifestyle.
While preparing for our 2019 trip, the West Milford, NJ 4-H club (now Seed Solutions) gave us a large suitcase full of seeds.
Moses then found seven acres of farmland for rent at $170 per acre per year. By following the instructions on the packets, and with help from a water truck, the seeds grew, and the resulting crops provided food for the village for eight months!
We sent funds to grind and store the crops, and now our friends have a more varied diet and a stable food supply. They also have now inherited ownership of 20 acres, so no more rentals will be needed.
Lastly, we set up a program for all seven local villages, in which each family sells one goat when times are good, and puts the money into a joint bank account that can be used for food in times of need.
Since these initiatives were put into place, we've had no calls for donations for emergency food.
Small business for the Unmarried Women of the Village
Thanks to the Hanover, NJ Rotary Club, we bought 16 goats (13 females and 3 breeding males) for the widows and single women of Ngong’Narok. That total has now grown to 21 through other donations.
Goats provide food, and hopefully will become a business to build upon.
The women-owned herd is a first, but welcomed by everyone.
Each woman has pledged, a la Heifer Project, to donate the first female offspring of their goat to another single woman.
One goat costs $50, and vastly improves a single woman's life.
The women are now launching a second business, buying N95 masks in bulk in town, and selling them locally as singles.
They are happy with the results so far!
Repairing the Damage
When floods or stray elephants damage village infrastructure, our fund helps with repairs. The picture at left shows damage to the wellhead from the flooding of Dec. 2019.
Female Genital Mutilation often causes physical (as well as emotional) harm to girls. Among the worst outcomes are fistulae, which form when infection causes ulcers in the private parts. As pus from the ulcers drains, an unpleasant smell results, and these women are often shunned by the rest of the community.
Fortunately, fistulae can be fully repaired with a simple, safe surgery, provided free by the Fistula Foundation.
We are aware that several women in the villages we serve suffer from this condition. At the moment we've encountered some obstacles in the form of embarrassment over admitting the problem to others, in addition to fear of traveling and/or medical procedures. But we are working hard to help end this scourge of shame and harm.
We currently sponsor 48 girls in highly-rated boarding schools: 8 in high school ($600), the rest in elementary ($400).
They live in sex-segregated dorms watched over by matrons, eat three healthy meals a day, and learn English and Swahili, the main languages of Kenya, which Maasai normally do not speak.
Going forward, all Maasai Girls Fund elementary school graduates will attend Kimana High School, an excellent place to learn. This clip shows part of the campus, including the garden where students grow a large portion of food served.
Menstrual Pads Make A Difference
Many girls worldwide miss up to 25% of school days during menses, due to lack of underwear or pads, fear of bleeding and being shamed in school, and old taboos.
But thanks to a grant from the Denville, NJ Sunrise Rotary Club, our students - and their classmates - were provided with re-usable, washable menses kits containing 2 pairs of panties and 5 bio-degradeable pads.
The kits were handed out at a special "Girls Empowerment" event. Led by our representative Joyce Oletiptip, each girl had a the chance to voice her feelings, beliefs, and experiences about the monthly cycle.
We also bought the schools NIA "Girl Empowerment" comics, created by African women supported by the Gates Foundation.
About the boys
The boys in the village attend the local public school, which is walking distance from Ngong'Narok.
The problem is, there are 10 classrooms at the school, but the government only pays for 4 teachers! So the boys mostly sit in empty classrooms, and generally do not score well enough on standardized tests to attend high school.
We decided to do something for them until we are able to do more. So Moses organized an "END FGM" soccer tournament, and we got them nets, balls, and uniforms.
Now it's become a popular annual event with all the local villages.
COVID lockdown help
With no warning, the girls were sent home from school, upset about COVID and afraid of falling behind academically.
We helped provide PPE and educational materials, and gave our college students small stipends to tutor the younger children of the village - both boys and girls.