How it all started
Over eighty members of the Maasai village in Simanjiro had been waiting four hours for the ceremony to begin. Students, mothers, cousins, board members, and community members were dressed in their multicolored fabrics called shukas and colorful beaded jewelry decorating the women’s ears, necks and wrists.
As the Chairman of the Board and Elder of the community spoke, I felt the intensity and power of his words although I couldn’t understand his native tongue. Nasinyari, the executive director of the Namelok School whispered the English translation in my ear. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” All the months of hard work in preparation for this trip suddenly washed away. Every fear I had wondering if our efforts would pay off, all the worry knowing all of the sacrifices each volunteer had personally made to be in Africa, all of it immediately subsided.
I felt reassured in the idea to promote indigenous culture in education, and finally, it didn’t feel as though the mountain we were tackling was quite so daunting. It may be a concept not truly implemented in my lifetime, but my heart swelled with pride. I knew I would never be the same, and neither would any of the girls standing next to me.
It was only three months ago that eight New York women sat down in the same room together, all from various backgrounds with one common purpose: to give something positive back, somewhere in the world, with whatever talent we all had to offer. After searching a wide range of non profits, we settled on this one little village in Northern Tanzania, with a woman named Nasinyari, who had a passion for education and empowering women.
Maybe it was crazy. The other seven girls probably thought so. But standing there surrounded by acacia trees and goats in the dry African soil, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no where else in the world we should be.
It wasn’t all pretty. And definitely not as romantic as this one story implies. The work has been messy. Very. It was three of the girls first time traveling outside of the US, much less third world country traveling. Including me promising one of the girls there would be running water (fully knowing I could not deliver, but praying once she got here it wouldn’t matter-names will be omitted to protect the guilty). We had slept in mud dung huts (only after did I explain what dung was), when we could stomach no more goat, we had hid the pieces in our bras, we had traveled hours in micro buses on bumpy dirt roads and we had mastered using bushes as toilets. But for this one moment, as fleeting as they are, everything was as it should be.