“From Sticks to Bricks to Textbooks,” Outreach to Tanzania

elephants-at-amboseli-national-park-against-mount-kilimanjaro-781x520-83kb

Elephants and Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world! Photo by Amoghavarsha

It takes a village to raise a child. Yes. And it sometimes takes a group of outside caring people to support that village to raise that child!

Working with a Maasai Village in Tanzania

A wonderful community of people, many from Victoria, British Columbia, comprises such a caring group. And the village, which is situated in Tanzania on Maasai tribal land, now has a school, fresh water and great hope for the future!

Map of Tanzania-east-africa

A few years ago, Bob and Karen Schrey, from Victoria, were on holiday in Africa. They’d taken along a bunch of kids’ sports equipment and asked their safari leader, Clamian Kitesho, if he knew of kids who could benefit. He responded with,“I’ll take you to my ancestral village.” In that moment, little did they know that Destiny was in the works!

Shocked at the poverty, Bob and Karen returned home and suggested an outreach project to their spiritual community: “How about if we join forces with these people and support them to move forward with their lives?” Due to Bob and Karen Schrey’s initial vision, we have successfully fund-raised for this Maasai village to:

  • Buy a brick maker to build their own school
  • Buy student uniforms and supplies, school furniture, books, etc.
  • Attract dedicated, qualified Maasai teachers to come to this remote area
nashipay-school-maasai-tanzania

Photo by Andria Senini

Criteria for Student Admission

  • Children from the local area
  • More girls than boys
  • Children from the least advantaged families

Here’s a wonderful video to give you a real sense of the ongoing commitment we’ve taken on, one that is succeeding in contrast to other groups’ projects elsewhere. (Watch this video and see why.) It’s an exciting business, this assisting Maasai folk to create a sustainable future for themselves, one with far reaching implications!

Sticks to Bricks to Textbooks

What Now?

The school is growing and needs an addition. I and others from Victoria will be heading to Tanzania within two days to assist with this construction and with other things. I might find myself in the classroom, given I’m a retired teacher. No problem language-wise considering that, in addition to the local language, instruction is given in English. Talk about opening doors of opportunity for these kids in a country that counts on tourist revenue!

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together--Maasai proverb

Work and Fun in Tanzania

The villagers, I hear, are awaiting our arrival with great anticipation. Yes, we’ll work, but there’s lots of Maasai hospitality in store for us! Not only that, most of us will stay longer to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and travel on wildlife safaris in Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks. Apparently it will be the time of the “Great Migration,” so extra exciting!

Serengeti annual migration of 100,000's of wildebeest and zebra. Photo by: Stefan Swanepoel

Serengeti annual migration of 100,000’s of wildebeest and zebra. Photo by: Stefan Swanepoel

Zanzibar

I will stay longer still. I figure if I’m going to go all the way to east Africa, I’d better visit the beautiful little Spice Island called Zanzibar, just off the coast of Tanzania. Lots of history, I hear, plus some of the most gorgeous beaches anywhere!

Explorer Travel, an Atoll of the Zanzibar Archipelago, in the Western Indian Ocean

An atoll of the Zanzibar Archipelago, in the Western Indian Ocean. (Photo: Explorer Travel, www.big5.explorertravel.co.uk/Zanzibar.htm)

In Conclusion

100% of volunteers’ contributions go directly to the community project. If you’d like to come on a future trip or make a financial contribution, please contact Georgiana Graham at georgiana_graham@abilitysociety.org or call
1(403) 262-9445 ext. 0.

Now here’s a short video (2 1/2 minutes) that’s full of information. Not only that. It reveals the epitome of cute! ENJOY.

Maasai Friends 4 Good

I invite you to leave comments or questions below. Please do! And check the box to receive followup comments to receive my reply. 🙂

About the Author:

Ramona McKean is creating a "Bridge of Light" (aka “a Bridge of the Heart”) to promote cross-cultural appreciation and awareness. An author and speaker, she lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.

42 Comments

  1. Rebecca January 16, 2016 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Ramona,
    It’s going to be an awesome adventure, I’m so excited for you. Do they plan on putting in a well for fresh water closer to the school? I’ll keep you and your fellow travellers in my prayers. Stay safe, love you.

    • Ramona January 16, 2016 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Rebecca, and thank you! I don’t think a well is possible. When I’m there I’ll be able to see clearly how we assisted them in getting water. Something I did not include in the blog: The school is the only place in the whole village with electricity. It comes via a solar panel in the roof. From what I hear, the school provides quite the hub for the whole village, daytime and night!
      I promise to be careful, and I love you too! xo

  2. Rob January 17, 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Ciao Ramona,
    Looks like a very exciting, heart-giving adventure with lots of hard work along with the long travel. Your reward will be the unforgettable memories. I Watched “Sticks to Bricks to Textbooks.” The parents are happy and the kids have a greater opportunity for their future. Your group from Victoria are doing a great job, for a good cause. Ramona, whatever you end up doing with the Maasai people will be of great help. The kids and adults are going to love you.

    Are you going on any of the adventures Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire or Serengeti? The surrounding area looks wild, you may be fortunate (please not unfortunate) to cross path with some of the wild life that roam that area of the world. Being in a safe vehicle is advisable or out of harms way. Just be cautious of your surroundings at all times.

    Zanzibar, where you’ll be vacationing, looks beautiful, and you’re going to have the vacation of a life time. Hope you can really relax. A little trivia I came upon: “On the East African island of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, Farrokh Bulsara was born. Twenty-five years later in London, under the name of Freddie Mercury, he was fronting the now legendary rock group named Queen. Salutare da lontano Freddie!

    Ramona, have a Wonderful time and travel Safe. My prayers are with you and your companions for a safe and pleasant journey.

    Viaggi sicuri ~ Love You,
    Rob

    • Ramona January 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Rob,
      What a beautiful message! Thank you. A trip with unforgettable memories, I’m sure. You never know, I just may decide to return to Tanzania some day. I’ll be going on all the “adventures” you mentioned. I promise to be super careful. Viaggio securi! I have no intention of trying to pat a lion or anything else. The tour company, Warrior Trails, has been around for years and has an excellent reputation. I wouldn’t want it otherwise.

      I knew about Freddie Mercury’s coming from Zanzibar. Apparently people can visit the house where he lived, in Stone Town. I think it is near where I’m staying. Sure I’ll say hi to him, to his memory at least. (Love Queen!)

      Rob, anchi’o ti amo, molto.
      xo

  3. Rob Schwartz January 17, 2016 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    You are doing wonderful work in the world, Ramona! I hold you and your work in light.

    With love,
    Rob Schwartz

    • Ramona January 17, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      I love what you wrote, Rob. Thank you!

  4. Songhe January 20, 2016 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I like the proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Yes, only we human beings on this planet join hands, then we can get out of difficulties and create a better world.

    • Ramona February 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      I too really like this African quote. 🙂

  5. Ray January 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Ramona
    Very neat trip
    Love the idea of helping like that
    Keep us up to date on your blog
    Love ya have a great and safe trip

    • Ramona February 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Hey Ray,
      Thank you! Just got home last night and I believe it will be more than a week to recover from jet-lag. When I get my photos sorted out, I’ll write about this trip.
      🙂 Ramona

  6. Tommy January 21, 2016 at 7:07 am - Reply

    I was shocked to see the poverty like this in Africa, I always feel sad for their poor life. And I never learn why they being like this in the new world of nowadays. About the war? the politics?the barren area ,or other reasons? There’s an old Chinese saying: “Better to teach others how to fish than just to give them a fish.” I’d love to help out, and I prefer to teach them fishing, and I’ll be praying for them.
    You’re doing a great job,Ramona. I’m proud of you! Take care.

    • Ramona February 13, 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Tommy,
      The kids in the school we added a classroom to are certainly poor. There is so little food that they go to school with a little porridge in their tummies and eat and drink nothing again until they go home in the late afternoon, likely for some more porridge. I took money that friends donated and gave it to the school manager to apply where he felt it should best go. He said some would go for shoes and the rest towards a food program. There is a lot of need.

      Spending time with these dear Maasai friends in their boma was a true pleasure! I’ll never forget the beautiful light in their eyes and the generous spirit they radiated. We worked together, sang as we worked, and celebrated when the job was done! I look forward to returning.

      Thank you for writing, my friend,
      Ramona

  7. Xin Meng March 23, 2016 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Ramona, you did an amazing job as part of this voluntary effort to help these villagers in poverty. You have a beautiful heart! I’m sure what you did has had a great impact on the kid in the videos. You guys have given them hope! That’s definitely your destiny.

    Speaking of Serengeti, I think I once saw a video about the migration of wildebeest. It is quite a striking scene when these animals cross the river trying to avoid being attacked by alligators. (I may be wrong because I don’t remember clearly the location that the video features.)

    So you plan to go back to Tanzania sometime soon? If you are there, make sure you take the train to Zambia. Then tell us more about your experience there. 🙂

    • Ramona March 23, 2016 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Xin. Yes, I truly want to go back. Not this year, though, as a new grandchild is on the way, due this summer.

      Speaking of wildebeest, we saw 10’s–maybe 100’s–of thousands, as far as the eye can see in some areas of the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. I knew nothing about them before. I observed that they are skittish animals. Maybe “easily spooked” is a more accurate way of describing their behaviour. At least, that was my perception. They also have a different way of running, kind of sideways and forwards.

      Over the years, I’d heard many people say that a wildlife safari was at the top of their bucket lists. As for me, it wasn’t something I gave much thought to. Well, I sure had my eyes opened to myself! As we headed out the first day toward Tarangire National Park, I got excited like a little kid. The thought that kept resounding in my head was: “The dream I never knew I had is coming true!” Now I would recommend an African safari to just about anyone. Fabulous! I was very present, indeed, to the “Circle of Life.”

      Zambia train? Ah yes, you wrote a comment about that railway link between Tanzania and Zambia on my tribute to Chinese railway workers’ blog. 🙂 Yes, I want to take the train to Zambia. That would be amazing. I am so turned on to East Africa now! If I do take that train, I’ll be sure to let you know about it. Thanks so much!

  8. ikechi April 6, 2016 at 3:59 am - Reply

    Hi Ramona

    You are indeed an inspiration and the work you are doing in this community is just spot on. I could see the smiles and the light that you have shone on these children. Their lives will never remain the same and you have opened their eyes to great opportunities. Thanks for sharing.

    Take Care

    • Ramona McKean April 6, 2016 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      Ikechie, thank you for your kind comments. I have been one of many people who have taken work trips to this Maasai boma near Makayuni Village in Tanzania. What we are doing has truly inspired us and also inspired this entire Maasai community with very real hope for their future. I believe there must be many somewhat similar projects happening in African nations by wonderful caring people from elsewhere. I truly appreciate your taking the time, Ikechie, to leave a comment.

  9. Catarina May 2, 2016 at 4:28 am - Reply

    Every little bit helps and the more children in Africa that go to school the better. But unfortunately you have a lot of illiterate children, and adults for that matter, on the continent.

    The world has forgotten Africa and very little is done to improve conditions, even though many of the problems they face have been created by the former colonial powers. Many of the wars were actually “created” by the former colonial powers. Have worked a lot with African governments and another huge obstacle is corruption.

    Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, is probably the most intelligent person I have ever met. He has generated all kinds of intelligent ways for Africa to trade itself out of poverty. But for some reason, no matter what is tried in Africa it’s never a huge success.

    On top of everything else I teach asylum seekers Swedish and social/political science. Last week I had two new pupils who are illiterate. Guess from which part of the world they are from. Exactly, one from Somalia and one from Eritrea. Now they will learn how to read and write in the Latin alphabet.

    Something big really needs to be done to get Africa out of poverty. Every week thousands of economic migrants take boats from Africa, mainly Libya, to Europe. Many die and most of the ones who get here are not given asylum.

    Africa is, or at least should be, a scar on the conscience of the world. The sooner something is done to sort out the continent the better.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Catarina, thank you for sharing your views based on experience and insight. Coming home from Tanzania in February, I had a long layover in Nairobi. I was very glad to meet a woman from Gothenburg who’d been working for many years with several African countries. Her views were similar to yours. Like you, she works directly with refugees in Sweden, and like you, she obviously feels compassion. I appreciated being able to ask her questions about the great recent influx into Europe of people seeking asylum. There are no simple answers, and so-called isolated problems are not isolated. Education is key for both the people of Africa and for the people of the rest of the world. Not just head level (important) but also heart level. There’s a lot to be done.

  10. Mina Joshi May 2, 2016 at 5:04 am - Reply

    I was born in Kenya so am aware of the poverty in that part of the World and education is the best gift you can give to them. Some of those kids are smart and bright and will be the future leaders of Tanzania. I wish you all the best. Zanzibar is one place I would love to visit. It has so much history.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Mina, so you really understand. Yes, future leaders. The Maasai school I’m working with makes an effort to take in lots of girls. The school manager (a guy) told me: “Educate a girl, and you educate a family, a town, a country and the world.” As for Zanzibar, yes, a lot of history! Maybe I shall write a blog post on Zanzibar one of these days. 🙂

  11. Doreen Pendgracs May 2, 2016 at 5:38 am - Reply

    Such a wonderful story, Ramona. Thx so much for sharing it with us. And thanks for helping the Maasai community. I have encountered several people lately who have been involved in similar life-changing initiatives. I hope your trip goes well.

    And I love the proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Thx, also, for sharing that.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Our trip was phenomenal! And there are more planned. If anyone is even a little interested, I’d say: Definitely find out more! Here is one place to do so: Maasai Friends 4 Good! (In the picture, I’m kind of in the middle, at the back, with a white tee-shirt on and no hat.) 🙂 Fun, rewarding, and you’ll never be the same, all in a good way!

  12. Phoenicia May 2, 2016 at 8:16 am - Reply

    What a wonderful cause. Your works will impact greatly on the lives of these children.

    In the western world we can often take so much for granted. In developing countries children do not have the opportunities our children and family members do.

    It certainly does take a village to raise a child. We must take responsibility for the adults of tomorrow. If not us, then who?

  13. Sabrina Q. May 2, 2016 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Sounds like a very empowering trip for you and the children. It’s great to be able to help the children. They are the future after all. Stay safe.

  14. Ken Dowell May 2, 2016 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    What a great story. The photo of the kids standing in front of the school in their uniforms sort of says it all. Have a productive and enjoyable trip. Look forward to hearing of further progress.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Ken, I’ve been and it was fabulous! I will feature my trip–“voluntourism” at its best!–in an upcoming blog post. The building of additions to the school continues. As well, a men’s soccer team from Victoria is so inspired that they’re heading to this same place this coming November to build a piggery. It’s a part of the plan for sustainability. The projects are open to any good-hearted, willing-to-work people from anywhere, not just Canada. If you know anyone feeling unfulfilled and with available time, pass the word on, please. News here: Maasai Friends 4 Good . Thanks for your great comment!

  15. Erica May 2, 2016 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    How great to be part of a school. Giving education to the next generation is one of the best things. This really empowers the people to better their own lives. It takes a good heart to give so much. I’m sure the students really appreciate that others have worked so hard for their benefit so that they may improve their lives.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      Truly, Erica, the kids and their families are appreciative. They are all inspired and work hard with us on their behalf. It is 365 degrees rewarding!

  16. Donna Janke May 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    This post made me think of all the people who think there is nothing they can do to make a difference. Bob and Karen Schrey have proved that sentiment to be wrong. Yes they engaged a larger helping group, but none of it would have happened if they hadn’t tried in the first place. Great story.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      How true, Donna. Sometimes I look at Karen and Bob and say, “Just look at what you two have started!” I believe we can all make a difference. Doing so is what gives our lives the deepest of meaning.

  17. lenie May 3, 2016 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Ramona, I love those children – “Thank you, Thank you” – how absolutely marvelous. The whole thing, like teaching how to build bricks and do carpentry are lifelong skills they will be able to use forever. Getting the Masaai people involved in building the school instead of doing it for them gives them pride of ownership. Oh Ramona, there is so much right about this outreach program and the people involved – on both ends – are just amazing. And I could truthfully steal those kids, Thanks so much for this uplifting post.

    • Ramona McKean May 3, 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Lenie, how dear you are! Thank you for your enthusiastic comment. You write: “there is so much right about this outreach program and the people involved – on both ends – that are just amazing.” True. Way-back-when, about 4 years ago, when Bob and Karen first met their safari guide Clamian, who could have guessed what would transpire? At that time, they asked, “What do you people need/want the most?” The answer: “A brick maker. We want to build a school.” Now there’s a K-3 school! Long term plans, among other things, include a K-12 boarding school for both Maasai and others. This will happen, I have no doubt. Sustainability is key and is in the works. I could say so much more but I’ll save it till I write a blog post on my own trip to the Nashipay Maasai School, near Makayuni, Tanzania.

      • lenie May 5, 2016 at 5:29 am - Reply

        Ramona, I am looking forward to reading more posts about your trip to the Masaai school. God bless you on your travels, the work you do is wonderful.

  18. Marquita Herald May 3, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    What a wonderful story Ramona. There are so many ways people can make a positive difference in the world and it’s encouraging to see people such as Karen, Bob and yourself reaching out and helping to improve the lives of others. Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Ramona McKean May 3, 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Thank you for the acknowledgement, Marquita. There are many more than Bob, Karen and I. What is so exciting is the inspiration permeating every aspect of the project by everyone involved, and others too! For example, before I left, three friends were separately so moved by my upcoming trip that they reached into their pockets, pulled out their wallets and said, “Here, this is all the cash I have, but please give it where you see fit.” I had not asked or suggested that anyone give me anything. The total was something like $170 CAD. Upon arrival, I asked where the greatest need might be, separate from the building project. The answer: “a food program and some shoes for kids.” Perfect.
      In my response to Lenie’s comment, you may notice that I share some other aspects the entire enterprise that are exceptional and even more inspiring. 🙂

  19. Chinwe May 4, 2016 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Oh wow! What an awesome story Ramona. Well done and thank you so much for sharing this with us. You just made my afternoon. Those kids are gorgeous! We looking forward to more, please keep us updated

    • Ramona McKean May 4, 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Chin We,
      I’m so glad you found my post. Via twitter maybe? I will happily keep you updated. This month I will have more news that I’ll post.
      Btw, I love your website. 🙂 http://abstractfriday.com/
      Have a great day!
      Ramona

  20. William Rusho May 6, 2016 at 8:41 am - Reply

    This is a great post. I enjoy reading about people and places from around the globe. I do hope that places like this, and the people, do not disappear. Globalization makes the world smaller, but it squeezes out the uniqueness of others, making everyone a cookie cutter consumer, just generic like everyone else.

    • Ramona McKean May 6, 2016 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks, William. I saw lots of what I’d call uniqueness, at least to my eyes. I loved watching the people, their dress and their ways. The ones who seemed “generic” to me were the guys trying to sell their wares to foreigners. Similar to many other places.

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