In July 2019, a group of Year 12 and Year 13 girls embarked on an adventure of a lifetime, a trip to Southern Kenya to experience the culture of remote villages and tribes.
Amber Soakell, now an NHSG Alumna, having completed her A Levels this Summer, gives us her moving account of the trip.
From arriving in the thriving city of Nairobi, to camping in the wilderness next to the Maasai Mara, the country offers so much to learn, see and do. Throughout our stay, we were introduced to people of the Maasai tribe and their varied lifestyles: girls and boys from local schools, the head teacher of our partnered school Hellen Nkuraiya, our guide John Blissett and the Maasai team who travelled with us throughout our stay. We were so grateful to be welcomed and immersed into their communities, take part in cultural activities and receive blessings from the tribe.
Upon meeting Hellen at the Enkiteng Lepa School (Purple Cow School), she told us the history of her school, why she set it up and how she plans to expand her community to help rescue children from greater distances to receive an education. The school motto “don’t exchange girls for cows, give them an education” is a primary focus for Hellen’s mission. Girls as young as nine are often exchanged for cows and livestock in an arranged marriage to a man who could potentially be three-to-four times her age, and is expected to stay at home and do housework. This therefore gives them restricted access to receive an education.
We were also informed about how girls manage their periods. Sanitary products used in Western countries are not readily available in rural areas, including Narok. It is therefore common for girls to miss a week of school to take care of themselves at home, often in an unsanitary manner. Hellen’s school is working on this issue by making reusable sanitary pads made from fabric. A pack can cost £3 and lasts up to two years. This option for girls gives them back a quarter of their education, keeping them on a level playing field with boys.
As well as being a Maasai pioneer for girls’ education, Hellen is an ambassador to remove the stigma around Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and prevent its act within the Maasai tribe. FGM is a painful procedure which is performed as part of ancient tradition, often to prepare the girl for an arranged marriage. The consequences of the procedure can be life-threatening and life-long as it is often carried out in unsanitary conditions without medicines or professional aftercare. Hearing of the brutal reality these young girls’ face, it became apparent what the hardest part about being a Maasai girl was inheriting her culture.
The life for girls and women in the Maasai tribe became the primary subject for our Kenyan video project as we felt it was vital to help Hellen in her mission to overcome these boundaries to create a better future for girls.
You can watch the video we created on YouTube via this link.
Another important community issue that we hope to spread awareness of, came to light around the campfire one night. One of our Maasai guides, Moses, told us of his objective to make his village financially independent. He explained the livelihood of both men and women in the village, how water was difficult to retrieve, and how the nearest primary school was miles away from the village, forcing children to walk in the dark from 5.00 a.m. to get there. The pivotal moment in the conversation that convinced us to act was learning about the tragic event of a child’s death on the way to school caused by wild elephants. This could have been prevented if the child had not been walking alone in the dark.
Since then, his community has built a local borehole to collect clean water, and opened a new school for the local children. Moses is currently setting up a campsite as a tourist destination to create revenue for the village. The stunning location, his welcoming team and his exceptional knowledge of the area will surely give him every success in his mission.
The trip opened our eyes to the true lifestyle within the Maasai community, and as a group we recognised that bringing attention to these issues could greatly benefit both Moses’ and Hellen’s communities. By making a video, we can hear the important messages and stories we discovered throughout the trip directly from the people who are trying to make a difference. We hope the video will inform people about what it’s like to live in Kenya, and how small acts of support can change someone’s life.