MGEF Students Arrive for Term 3 Supplies
Back to School
As fall arrives, I wanted to share with you some of my adventures from my most recent trip to Kenya in early September. I strategically planned this visit so that I would be at the MGEF-Kajiado office in Kenya when all our scholarship students checked in to pick up their Term 3 school fees and supplies. For days, the office was abuzz with scholars of all ages. Everyone was excited to go back to school and finish up the last term of the school year. Many of the girls enthusiastically told me about their progress in school and their future dreams. Like students all over the world, as they progress through school, they learn more about their interests and strengths. It is such an honor and a delight for me to watch them identify careers that they are truly passionate about.
During my visit, a group of 19 students who all go to a local boarding school called AIC Primary, came to the MGEF-Kajiado office. AIC is a great friend to MGEF. It is not only a primary boarding school, but also a rescue center. Many of our students cannot go home during the holidays due to violence or threat of female genital cutting (FGC) and early forced marriage. AIC helps keep our MGEF students safe by allowing those enrolled at AIC, and some enrolled at other schools, to spend their holidays together as a family of MGEF sisters.
When our scholarship students from AIC Primary School came to the MGEF-Kajiado office, a tall shy girl came along with them. She was dressed in well worn clothes and seemed frightened. After about an hour, a teacher arrived and spoke to Lucy, MGEF-Kajiado’s Managing Director. Lucy called me over to meet the 11 year old girl whose name was Faith. Faith had a story that truly touched my heart.
Faith comes from a very poor polygamist family of 21 children and had never gone to school. She has 10 brothers and 10 sisters. Her mother is one of three wives and has three boys as well as Faith and her sister. Her younger brother was severely handicapped with cerebral palsy and Faith was assigned at an early age to take care of him. Her mother took Faith’s little brother to a rescue center that takes care of handicapped children. The rescue center is also a school, although Faith’s brother was not able to attend classes due to the severity of his illness. Faith’s mother sent her along to be his caretaker (but not to go to school). The first grade teacher at this school felt sorry for Faith and noticed she was interested to learn, so she would often sneak the bright little girl into her class. During the school year, Faith’s brother took a turn for the worse and sadly passed away. After his passing, however, the first grade teacher refused to send her home because without the job of taking care of her brother, she knew Faith would be quickly married off. Faith’s presence, however, had to be hidden from the school principal who would send her home because no one was paying her school fees. With the help of a few other teachers, the first grade teacher bought Faith a school uniform and continued to sneak Faith into her class. To stay undiscovered during the school day, Faith could not go to breakfast, lunch or recess. The other children would combine their food and bring it to her for lunch and the teacher would bring her something from home for breakfast. The first grade teacher also got permission from AIC Primary School to allow Faith to sleep there at nights. After classes, Faith would sneak out and walk to AIC, about 0.5 km away, to spend the night. While at AIC, Faith met our MGEF students. Upon learning that AIC’s MGEF students were coming to the office to get their supplies and also visit with the US Executive Director, the teacher arranged to bring Faith at the same time to tell us her story and fill out a scholarship application.
The first grade teacher emphasized to me and MGEF’s Managing Director that Faith is eager to learn and very bright. Upon hearing her story and reviewing her application, MGEF accepted Faith as our newest scholarship recipient. Faith’s eyes swelled with tears when she learned she would become an MGEF student. She hugged me and would not let go.
Rescuing girls like Faith and giving them the opportunity to become educated and ultimately economically self-sufficient is truly what MGEF is about and why I love this job. Faith now attends AIC Primary as a regular boarding student and is all smiles.
Chief Felix’s Donation
In early 2019, a young progressive Maasai chief named Felix from Namanga Division arrived at the MGEF-Kajaido office with a little girl named Vivian. Felix is a proponent of education for Maasai girls and boys. He had found Vivian herding a group of goats along the side of the road. He asked why she was not in school, since he knew she had attended and graduated from primary school. Vivian said that her parents could not afford secondary school fees. Vivian comes from a polygamist family with nine children. Her parents are not employed and cannot read or write. They rely on a few goats and sheep to survive.
Felix went to meet with Vivian’s parents who told him that she did very well in school, but that they could barely put food on the table much less send her to secondary school. Felix had heard of MGEF and brought Vivian with him on the 1 ½ hour journey to the MGEF office. There he helped her fill out a scholarship application, after which MGEF accepted Vivian as a scholarship recipient. For the first time in years, she now goes to school without fear of being sent home due to lack of school fees. She is in Form 1 at Kimana Secondary School.
Felix was so touched by MGEF’s response to Vivian’s plight that he went home to his family and spoke with them about our organization. He then returned to the office to inform us that his family has agreed to donate 5 acres of land to MGEF, in thanks for the work we do on behalf of Maasai girls and the broader community. Felix’s generosity and dedication to education is deeply admirable. He embodies the positive change that is occurring among educated Maasai men and women as they work to further educate their community and help their community rise out of poverty.
Visiting a Maasai Village
During the second week of my trip, Marilyn (one of our sponsors), her husband Scott and her friend Gloria came to see MGEF-Kajiado in action and to visit Marilyn’s student, Grace. What a wonderful group they were, eager to learn about the Maasai and experience this culture to the fullest in two days. As you can imagine, it was a busy two days.
First our wonderful Maasai friend and supporter, Chief Felix, offered to take our guests to a boma , which is a Maasai family home that often consists of many family members and huts. For example, when a son gets married, he will bring his wife to the family boma and build a manyatta (a small hut) for them to live in and raise their family. The size of a boma can vary greatly as it depends on the number of sons who have chosen to stay and live a traditional life. This boma was in Felix’s ward of Namanga. He drove us along a winding dusty road far out into the country. It was beautiful, though very dry due to the drought. We stopped briefly at a trough fed by a water tower that the community had built for Maasai in the area to bring their cattle to drink, and met some Maasai herdsmen there. At the nearby boma, we received a very warm and appreciative welcome for the small staples that we brought, such as sugar and flour. With pride, the family members showed us their individual manyattas (homes) and the enclosures where they keep their livestock at night. Though it was a short visit, our visitors got a true glimpse into their lives.
After our visit to the boma, we drove to Felix’s house where we met his family and had lunch. Of course many of his neighbors joined us to meet the visitors from far away. They were just as fascinated with us and our culture as we were with theirs. Chief Felix is a well-educated man. When asked why he returned to his home area rather than choosing a more modern life in Nairobi, he replied that he loves his people and wants to retain his beautiful culture, while at the same time working to change some of the old traditions that are detrimental to the health and well-being of the Maasai community.
The next day, our group visited Marilyn’s student, Grace, at her school. Though Grace is shy, Marilyn seemed to create an instant bond with her. We also visited Grace’s mother in her modest little home. She welcomed us with open arms and served hot tea as we chatted. She does not speak English, so all was translated by Lucy, though her gratitude needed no translation.
It is always amazing when I visit MGEF-Kajiado, to witness all of the successes and the determination of our wonderful scholars, and also the deep commitment of many Maasai, like Faith’s first grade teacher and Chief Felix, who give of themselves to help the Maasai community. Added to this is the generosity of our sponsors, such as Gloria, who after hearing Faith’s story on the way to the boma is now sponsoring her education. Imagine that someone, who does not know them and who lives far away, can come into their lives and change their futures for the better.
Thank you so much for your support.
New MGEF Student Faith
Chief Felix Presents Five Acres to MGEF
Visit to a Local Boma
Grace Meets Her Sponsor