MEET the MAASAI
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MEET OUR TEAM
About 1.2 million Maasai live in parts of Kenya and Tanzania once known as Maasailand. Most still live traditionally, as herders of goats, sheep, and especially cows.
The men once faced down lions, now they protect them. But they still herd cows, as is their tradition. The women still adorn themselves with unique beadwork.
Our sponsored students come from a village called Engong'Narok. It's located in a salt pan at the foot of Mt.Kilimanjaro, on the edge of Amboseli National Park.
Maasai women build circular homes from ashes, dung, sticks and mud. They feel like concrete or fiberglass, last for 7 years, and keep the inside comfortably cool.
A thorn bush fence surrounds the village for protection from wildlife. A second, inner fence surrounds the corral, where the livestock spend the night.
In Maasai culture, livestock are wealth, income, sustenance - and, in dire or celebratory times, meat.
Maasai culture can be highly patriarchal. Until our initiative, girls from the village were not sent to school after age 8.
Instead, young girls had their exterior genitalia removed (one of the worst kinds of FGM), in preparation for forced polygamous marriage to older men.
FGM is illegal now, but still occurs, especially in rural places. The cutting is done without pain mitigation. Sadly, unsterilized implements are used, and infections often occur.
Child brides become women with little personal freedom. Traditionally, their role is to bear as many children as possible. Some die in childbirth, others get fistulae, and many are left with serious emotional and physical problems.
All are illiterate, and unable to speak the main languages of Kenya (English and Swahili.) Many become young widows, with no means of support except selling beadwork to the occasional tourists.
Chief Benson Kelembu declared his intention to end FGM in Engong'Narok.
Our fund helped sponsor a community-wide celebration marking the END of the hideous practice - and the BEGINNING of education for Engong'Narok's girls.
Ending child marriage is harder.
Many fathers believe the only way to they can pay for their sons' education is by trading their daughters in marriage in exchange for cows!
The 9-year-old pictured here was scheduled for cutting and marriage in 2015. But our donors changed her fate.
She's in high school now. But that's her in the blue striped shirt, soon after she became a student. Thanks to our donors, every girl in the village now goes to school.
Here are some of our current high school students on school break. We currently have 56 girls enrolled, attending well-rated boarding schools within visiting distance of home. They are housed in sex-segregated dorms, watched over by matrons, where they are safe. They eat three meals a day, even when their families at home cannot.