WELCOME TO NGONG'NAROK VILLAGE
Good people. Unique culture.
Meet the Maasai.
NVC Tours and Travel now includes a visit to the girls at school, and their home village as part of their amazing Kenyan tours.
The 2022 visit was unforgettable, a warm, positive inter-cultural meeting!
2023 trips are are being planned now
You may have read about the Maasai in National Geographic - how they’ve maintained their culture in a changing world… how the men once faced down lions, and the women adorn themselves with unique, colorful beadwork...
About 1.2 million Maasai live in parts of Kenya and Tanzania, known as Maasailand. They're one of few remaining tribes that still live traditionaly, as herders.
In 2012, while on safari, we visited a Maasai village near Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
In 2012, driving over the salt pan at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we pulled up to "the middle of nowhere" and were met by local chief Kelembu. He led us through a gap in a circular thorn fence that ringed his village.
The village was circular, rimmed with round, hand-made huts, constructed by women from ashes, dung, sticks and mud.
To the touch they were like concrete or fiberglas.
A second, inner fence surrounded a corral, where livestock spent the night.
In traditional Maasai culture, livestock are wealth, income, and - in dire or celebratory times , only meat.
In the inner circle people, men on one side, women on the othe,. stood in a crescent. The men began a jumping contest while the women chanted and sang. They soon pulled us into the line to join them.
Maasai people are welcoming. The tour was fascinating. And we couldn't ignore their harsh living conditions.
Over 500 people depended on one barely functional pump, which produced only a trickle of clean water!
There was no sanitation nor electricity. Only Chief Kelembu and kindergarten teacher, Moses Saruni, had phones, which they had to walk miles to charge.
Little girls and women spent hours each day gathering firewood ...
Inside their huts, cooking fires caused damage to eyes and lungs of the very young or old.
The children were well-behaved. They happy called out the alphabet in Maa, and English.
We bought some beadwork, but left determined to do more.
Back home, we sent school supplies f or the small on-site kindergarten.They never arrived. But we kept in touch with Moses and Kelembu by tech.
Over the next two years, no rain fell, in what became a 6-year drought. When the hand-pump dried up, people were forced to drink from the nearby swamp, where dangerous wildlife also gathered.
Food was scarce. Moses sent photos of bony livestock, too thin to sell.
To help, we sent small amounts of money via Western Union every few months.
Our new Maasai friends never asked us for help. But they did send thanks and pictures of the food they bought with the money we sent.
Back home a neighbor introduced us to Maasai chief Joseph and Cecelia Tipanko who were in the US to speak against FGM at the U.N.
They told us that by tradition, upon menses, Maasai girls under went full genital removal (FGM), in preparation for forced marriage to an older man as a child bride.
Sadly, FGM though largely illegal, still occurs, even "advanced" nations.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
In remote rural places like Ngong'Narok, girls are often cut with unsterilized implements.
A Maasai girl’s father receives few cows for his daughter, who then spends her life as a third or fourth wife. Her main job is to produce babies.
Child brides lose their personal freedom; some die in childbirth, some get fistulae, and others are left with infections and serious on-going health problems.
Moses confirmed the harsh truth - that female cutting and child marriage were ongoing in Ngong’Narok.
We asked Chief Tipanko to visit the village and speak with the chief about ending female cutting and child marriage
Kelembu, a father of young girls, quickly declared his willingness to end FGM. He authorized a community wide celebration to commemorate the end of the practice in the village - forever.
But he explained that ending child marriage would be harder. Many fathers believed the only way to pay for their sons' education was to sell their daughters.
We offered to school fees, and he found 5 fathers willing to send their daughters to school. A Rotary Club helped us to pay.
The girls went off to private boarding schools selected by the Chief, Moses, and village mothers here and in Kenya, and we waited nervously for their return home for school break...
The transformation was striking! Within two days, every girl in the village wanted to go to school!
We had happily sent five,but 21 was above our capacity. So, we appealed to the Pequannock Valley Rotary Club,which helped us financially, and encouraged us to form a 501c3 charity.
With that, the Maasai Girls Fund was born, and we found ourselves on a journey we had never imagined!
(The girls' shaved heads symbolize new beginnings. The ties denote their special status as students.)
As of 2023 we have 49 girls in school, including 12 in high school, and even 2 teacher college graduates - who are now married to young men of their choice!
But there's more....!
Check out the OUR VILLAGE PROJECTS page to see what we've been doing for the girls' home villages...
On-site Program Director
Chief Angirri Kelembu, (seen here with his first wife, Nataa)
Avery and Paul Mantell, co-founders (seen here with one of the first two Teache,r's College graduates.)
OUR NEWEST PARTNER!
Stephanie Willeke joined the team and sponsored 9 girl our initiative expanded to a second village - Natamuse!
Working with teacher Luka Sante and Chief Nasareu Lebakuli, they also provided a water catchment system, emergency food village a car, eand other improvements .