Since 2003, John Curtin has been helping a Kenyan Maasai community of Olepolos by bringing a troupe of Warriors to perform in the UK yearly. Since 2009, he has run the annual tour with a fellow arts professional from Scotland, Jim Wilkie. Money from the performances covers tour expenses and goes to the Warriors and their families, UK venues and UK tour organisers. At the performances, many people asked how they could help the Maasai. This UK charity was formed to give an avenue for this assistance.
How are the Charity and Warriors connected?
In the words of Tajeu Minisa, the Warriors’ leader:
The tour is for our families, the Charity for our community.
The Maasai charity was set-up to help relieve the effects of poverty in the Osiligi Warriors’ community and in the wider Maasai area. The Charity is separate from the Warriors’ tour, but has earned directly and indirectly from it and works closely with the Warriors to identify and resolve community needs.
100% of any money given to the charity goes to support these community projects.
Education is the most important weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.
In the area we work, the Maasai and other tribes are desperate for a good education but the local schools are very poor. Although primary education in Kenya is compulsory, it is not free. Even state schools have many extra charges that are beyond the very poor Maasai. This results in many children never attending school. We have built this school in rural Olepolos to:
Provide an education to children who would not otherwise go to school.
Provide an excellent Primary education as a stepping stone to Secondary and Tertiary education in the hope that many qualified professionals will return to help their area.
All the 155 children who attend the school have UK sponsors. See here for the sponsorship scheme. Each year, we add one more class of 25 children, so once finished, the school will give an excellent education to around 300 children.
This school is unusual in that it has fully qualified excellent teachers (we had to build teachers’ houses to attract them), electricity, water, a kitchen, books, 18 computers, broadband internet and many teaching aids. All items we take for granted in the West but sadly lacking in most Kenyan schools. It even has a website.
School Projects during 2015:
Each year, we raise funds to build one more classroom. The school now has 7 classrooms and during 2016 we will build 2 more.
The school solar electricity system needs upgrading to allow for more computers, the satellite broadband and the clinic.
More children means more food for the mid-day meal so we wish to double the size of the school’s vegetable growing patch. The school’s bore-hole makes all this possible.
Many of the children are orphans. We want to build an orphanage to support them.
Exceptional teachers wanted.
For January 2016, we will require one more P1 qualified teacher. If you think you have the qualities required for a modern high performing school, please see here for more information.
The benefits of clean water are obvious; less disease and in some cases death. In the Maasai areas, dirty drinking water is the norm. It is the women and young girls’ role to fetch the water. A typical water container is 20L (20 Kgms) and this may be carried up to 7-8 miles each way, or 14-16 miles total. A girl who has the job of fetching water from 7 miles away will not have any time to attend school. There is a high correlation between closeness of water and school attendance for girls.
Osiligi’s intention, as a clean water charity, is to provide a network of clean springs, boreholes or wells fitted with hand pumps.
So far we have:
A/ Built a well and hand pump to serve a small community.
B/ Built a solar-powered bore-hole to supply Osiligi Obaya Primary school and the surrounding community.
C/ Repaired a number of broken hand pumps installed, but left, by other clean water charities.
Repairing broken pumps
During 2015, we will continue to repair other charity’s broken wells and pumps. To be eligible for a repair, the community has to contribute £40, assign a caretaker to attend a training course, raise money for future repairs and agree to quarterly phone calls to check that the pump is still working. The object of the project to keep pumps working for the next 10 years, not just until the next breakdown. Each repair costs around £400 -£800, depending upon the severity of the repair.
Last year, we brought back to life 7 broken hand pumps. These serve about 400 – 800 people. During 2015 we intend to repair a further 50 hand pumps. The project is getting bigger each year!
Turning sunlight into water
The charity’s biggest clean water project is the building of this solar powered bore-hole at Osiligi Obaya school. The bore-hole is 160m deep (500′) and 4,000-12,000 litre are pumped each day just using the power of the sun. The bore-hole supplies the school and local community. The greatest need for water is during the hot, sunny dry season; the time when the solar powered pump gives the greatest water. This bore-hole has allowed the school to grow about half its food for the children’s mid day lunch. More details on the bore-hole project here.
Sponsor a Maasai child in Kenya, Africa through primary education
Comments from sponsors who support a child in Kenya:
“Thanks for the letter from Gabriel. It’s all so very humbling.”
“My children (aged 16 and 13) really are learning so much about the Maasai culture through our association with the charity. It has encouraged them to seek out more information on Kenya and to really think about the issues of social inequality. In a way, you are helping to educate them and all the other families who sponsor children to attend the school, which is really quite something.”
In this Maasai area of Kenya, everyone is very poor, so we have to be careful that we chose the very poor over the poor. Children are selected on a needs basis. Orphans or children from a single mother are automatically considered and next, children from parents where neither have a job. These children would not go to school without this sponsorship. Most of the sponsored children attend the Osiligi Obaya school (the school built by the Charity) but some attend other schools. Currently, 3 of our sponsors have continued to support their sponsored child at secondary schools.
Sponsorship is £16 per month, which covers school fees, books, a mid day school meal for the child and a milky tea. The child’s family pays all other expenses such as uniform, although the charity will cover these in cases of extreme hardship. We also ask the child’s family to pay £2 per month to the school as their contribution to the school’s running cost. Again, this is omitted in the case of extreme hardship.
The children make regular contact by writing or drawing pictures. In Kenya, all school teaching is in English so the letters are in English from about age 8 and they give an interesting insight into the Maasai culture and lifestyle. The younger children keep in contact through drawing and school work. The new school has email, so the older children will use this for contact. We take photos or videos each time we visit (every 3 months or so), meet the headteacher and inform sponsors on attendance and progress.
How is the sponsorship money used?
100% is used to support the children by paying their school fees. Nothing is deducted for any UK expenses (unlike most other charities) as we are a 100% charity. At school, the children receive a mid morning snack and lunch. For many of the poorer children, this is the only solid food they will receive during the day. During the school holidays and at weekends, they will only have milk from their family’s cattle. Some sponsors are eligible for gift aid and any surplus received from this is used for providing uniform for the poorest children and improving the school to provide a better education for all.
New sponsors required
Each January, 25 new children start at the school. These children would not attend school without sponsorship. If you would like to becoming a sponsor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will provide further details. We now have enough sponsors for the January 2015 intake, but we are making a list already for potential sponsors for 2016. Sponsoring a Kenyan child really does make a difference to their lives. See the facebook page for the latest pictures of the new school and comments from other sponsors.
Most of our new sponsors are friends and relatives of existing sponsors, so I guess we are doing something right!
Why build an orphanage/safe-house in 2015?
Because we work with the poorest of the poor, many of the children at the Osiligi Obaya school are orphans or from very difficult backgrounds. There is no government safety net in Kenya to support such children.
The life expectancy in Kenya is low (61 years) and life expectancy for the Maasai is even lower at less than 50 years. Each year a few of our school children become orphans or lose 1 parent.
A small orphanage at the school will support such children to allow them to receive an education and be cared for.
It will also act as a safe house for girls from our school under threat of female genital mutilation or cutting. See our newsletter to read what we are doing to prevent FGM.
The orphanage will cater for up to 28 children; approximately 10 boys and 18 girls. All the children will be from the area and most will be educated at Osiligi Obaya school. It will be their home 24/7 apart from their time at school. It will also have accommodation for the ‘housekeeper’ who will look after the children.
The cost to keep a child at the orphanage will be roughly the same as the school fees. We will cover this cost by having two UK sponsors for each child in the orphanage /safe-house, or a sponsor paying twice the amount if they prefer.
The cost and time-scales
The orphanage should be ready for the start of the next school year in January 2016, so building work needs to start around August 2015.
The building cost is around £40,000, including the toilets, showers and clothes washing areas plus a further £4000 for the solar electricity, beds and other furniture.
£44,000 is a lot for one donor, so we are looking for a number of interested parties to come together to cover this cost. If you would like to help, please send a cheque (made out to Osiligi Charity Projects) and gift aid form if possible to Elwell House, West Buckland, Barnstaple, EX32 0SW, or use the Virgin link below to donate by card or PayPal.
(Above photo – one of the local Maasai puts his cow into the school grounds during the day to keep her separated from her calf. We have learnt to expect the unexpected at the school)
The Charity is only 5 years old, but we have already seen some great improvements around Olepolos Kenya through working with our partners in the Maasai community. Now, 155 of the poorest children are receiving an excellent education at the school we built, there are 2 sources of clean water, a health clinic, and we have repaired 7 broken hand pumps. During 2015, we are launching 2 new programmes: an orphanage come safe house and a project to turn sunlight into food.
Our school meals are looking a whole lot greener. We are growing enough onions, kale, spinach, beetroot and peppers to feed 165 children and staff twice a week. That’s no mean achievement for novice gardeners. The success of the school project plus some money from a donor for agriculture and water projects has started what might turn out to be a life saving new venture – the turning of sunlight into food (via electricity and water).
Local land owners are donating 5 separate plots of 1 acre. On each plot, we will supply a solar powered borehole and split the 1 acre into 50 allotments for use by the poorest in the community. The water will irrigate the allotments and be sold to the local community. The money raised will pay for the bore-hole maintenance. The mothers will be able to feed their families with what they grow and maybe even sell the surplus at the market. It is potentially lifesaving because drought (happening so often) means there is often no food here whatsoever.
The Clinic is up and running. Over 1000 school children have been de-wormed. Two community health workers aged 21 have been walking long distances to evaluate health. Men are often out or away with their animals so it’s the women and children who are checked. They have diagnosed 3 cases of diabetes, now being treated and have dressed a serious dog bite. Ringworm next please! Every child at school seems to have it as we see when their hair is shaved. School rule: hair must be plaited close to the head or shaved.
Picture a teacher straddling a pit toilet, showing 25 new four year olds how to use a toilet. Starting school is always scary but even more so when the school is so different from your mud hut home. Around 60% of the huts have no access to a toilet so the children come to school not knowing what to do. Oh the joys of being a teacher. We cannot remember writing that in the job description.
We are often asked about FGM (female genital mutilation), a pre-marriage ritual across Africa from around age 13. Until now we have not needed a policy because all our school girls have been young. Since Kenyan law banned FGM it has ceased in many urban areas and it has diminished in rural areas. At our school, we are aiming for zero FGM. To protect our girls we will be using a multi-pronged approach:
We will be teaching girls to know their rights and to give them confidence.
We will ask AMREF, a charity with much experience and success of working with the Maasai, to hold a forum for parents to educate them on the risks and the law.
We will tell parents that if any girl undergoes FGM, the school will inform the police.
We will tell parents that if any girl is subject to FGM we will expel their son from school. This is tough but anyone wanting early marriage for their daughters is not serious about education.
Finally we will build a safe house and orphanage at the school for any girl in our care at risk. We will start fundraising for this project soon to have it built before next year. Our oldest girl is aged 11.
We want zero FGM at our school and hope that the spin-off will be greatly diminished FGM in the wider community.
Our solar powered bore-hole is under siege. We built it for the school and the surrounding community. However, the 2 bore-holes in the closest town of Kisamis are both broken due to bad maintenance and poor management, so people come to us by foot, bike, bring donkeys or send a motorbike taxi to collect water. We sell water for about 3p for 20 litres. This covers the maintenance cost of the bore-hole.
We are always happy when a sponsor meets their sponsor child. Eric had a wonderful visit meeting Siamanta. We don’t know who was most lost for words or most shy but they soon got on like a house on fire. She invited Eric to her hut to meet the family and share tea.
Eric will be taking some of the burden off Roger by managing the pump repairs project. We hope to repair around 50 broken hand pumps over the next 12 months.
If any sponsor would like to visit their child, there is now some good ‘Western style’ accommodation close to the school. Just speak with us.
We are a UK charity, working on projects in the Maasai areas of Kenya to help relieve poverty. Helping Kenya and Africa help itself and not changing the culture are our key objectives.
We are a team of volunteers with no salaries or costs. Our guarantee is that 100% of monies we receive go to Kenya. Nothing is used for any UK expenses. This year, our big charity project is to raise funds for building an orphanage at the school for the many orphans in the area.
(click on the links above for more information on the projects)
Why was the charity started?
The charity was started to help the Osiligi Maasai Warriors’ community in Southern Kenya. Most of the Charity’s projects are in the 100 square miles around the Warriors’ community, but some, such as the pump repair project are across Kenya. The Warriors tour the UK yearly performing their songs and tribal ceremonies.