MEF through the generous support of its donors sponsors the education of many Maasai youth. Their stories are detailed below.
Maria (Nasikoi) Papaa Kingi
Maria is sponsored by the Caldwell/Dillaha/Kibler family.
Maria was born in 2008 in the village of Engaresero, Ngorongoro, Arusha, Tanzania. Nasikoi is her Maasai name but she was later baptized and named Maria by missionaries. Maria has had a challenging life. Her family is poor and uneducated. Maria was initially very fortunate and obtained a scholarship to enroll in a private primary boarding school in Loliondo through the efforts of Sister Angelica of Germany. After she started school, she was withdrawn by her father who objected to her education and wanted her at home to work with her mother. Among many tasks assigned to Maria, she was very good at selling the handicrafts that her mother produced for tourists. Since selling handicrafts was the family’s main source of income, Maria worked very hard day and night. She would walk from one tourist campsite to another, visit the waterfalls, Lake Natron, and other tourist sites to meet tourists and sell handicrafts. She was respected as one of the best sellers of handicrafts in the area by the age of eight.
As an 8-year-old Maasai girl, Maria faced the significant risks of early childhood marriage and female genital mutilation. In fact, she had allegedly already been sold for marriage to an older man by her father for three cows and was to be married in three years.
During the summer of 2016, Maria met Daphne, a 7-year-old from the US, who was traveling with a group of tourists (see photo). Maria and Daphne spent the next 24-hours together and became quick friends despite the lack of a common language. The rest of the tourist group was also quite taken by Maria.
Upon returning to the US, the group decided to see if they could somehow support Maria’s education. The group contacted various individuals and organizations in Tanzania to see if it would be possible to send Maria to a good boarding school. Everyone said no, that it was impossible. The group was then approached by Martha Olemisiko, who said she would try, and the rest is history.
Martha, with the assistance of her father-in-law (a local Maasai leader) and Luka Lekidi (a college student MEF also supports), tracked Maria down through a photo provided by the group and convinced her family and village to allow her to be educated. When they agreed, Maria moved to Arusha and is now living (essentially as a new daughter) with Martha and her family. The group was so impressed with Martha and her vision for helping other Maasai youth like Maria that they decided to form the Maasai Education Foundation to support Maasai education.
Through Martha’s efforts, Maria enrolled in the Arusha Meru International School in Arusha in pre-school (kindergarten) in September 2016. Because Arusha Meru school is an English language-based school and because Maria did not speak English, Maria attended school in the mornings and was tutored in English for three hours in the afternoon. Maria did well during her first semester and is quickly learning Swahili and English. She is also reported to be quite good in math.
August 2018 Update – In August of 2018, Maria traveled to the US with Martha and visited New York City, New Jersey and Virginia. She had a great time to say the least. She said her favorite things were learning to ride a bike, New York City, swimming and being with Daphne, her first American friend.
November 2018 Update. With tutoring in English Maria has done extremely well in school. In fact, she was able to skip 2nd grade and is now in 3rd grade and doing well. During 2018 and after two years of good nutrition, Maria entered puberty so instead of being 9, she is probably really 11 or 12. If she was still in her village, she would have probably undergone FGM, been married and possibly pregnant by now.
December 2019 Update. Maria continues to do well in school and has now skipped another grade and is in 5th grade.
February 2021 Update. Maria is now a 6th grader and was recently elected head student (student president) of the Arusha Meru International School lower school by her classmates. She is sponsored by the Caldwell/Dillaha family of Virginia and the Kibler Family of New Jersey.
Luka Kipainoi Mokoroi Lekide
Luka is sponsored by the Caldwell/Dillaha/Kibler family.
Luka Kipainoi Mokoroi Lekide completed a two-year diploma program in Business Administration at St. Augustine University and will start the 2nd year of his three-year Bachelor of Science program in Hospitality and Tourism Management in January 2020. Luka was born in 1994 in the village of Engaresro, Ngorongoro District, Tanzania. Engaresero is a Maasai village located on the southern side of the famous Lake Natron. Luka is the first child of his father’s third wife (of five) and he has 32 brothers and sisters.
Luka is an exceptional student. He studied hard in the local primary school and passed the national primary exams with sufficient marks to enable him to attend secondary school at Malambo and Loliondo as a boarding student. He then passed his ordinary secondary education exams and was admitted to and graduated from Mashariki High school in Kampala, Uganda in 2015. Luka’s education was supported financially by the Engaresero village, which saw him as one of its most promising young men, and a series of grants from the Community Based Organization.
After high school, Luka secured temporary employment with Moivaro Tented Lodge in Engaresero and worked as a receptionist and bartender for eight months and helped support his large family.
With the support of the Maasai Education Foundation and the Community Based Organization, Luka enrolled at St. Augustine University in Mwanza, Tanzania in September 2016. Originally Luka had hoped to study law, but was not admitted to the law program and pursued the diploma in Business Administration. His dream had been to pursue a law degree after completing the diploma program and to then return home to the Ngorongoro area where he would specialize in conflict resolution related to land disputes and gender violence within the Maasai community.
After completing his diploma program, Luka consulted with many friends and mentors and decided that he really wanted to be in the tourist industry because of better job prospects in the field. He started his three-year bachelors program in Hospitality and Tourism Management in September 2018.
February 2021 Update: Luka is in the final year of his 3-year bachelor degree program in hospitality and tourism at St. Augustine University. He is sponsored by the Caldwell/Dillaha family of Virginia and the Kibler family of New Jersey.