In 2015, I came to Tanzania on a one-year contract working with the NGO, Maasai Partners (Ngorongoro Community Network). But after that one year, I wasn't ready to say goodbye, and so I stayed another year. After that year, it turned out it still wasn't the right time for me to leave, and I stayed another year...
April 2018 will mark the end of my third year here in Tanzania and it is beyond bittersweet to think about leaving behind the place I've come to call home. In this time, I've been fortunate enough to have a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including living on the edge of (and working in) a UNESCO World Heritage Site, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, and snorkeling off the coast of Zanzibar (and seeing real-life Nemo and Dory), just to name a few!
While that's all noteworthy and fun to shout about, no experience has been comparable to, or as unique as, being able to work and spend time with the Maasai communities in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA).
For those who don’t know, the Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe indigenous to northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, along the Great Rift Valley. Life centers around cattle, which is typically the primary source of food and ‘income’ for a family, although very traditional Maasai communities are still not fully-fledged cash economies.
As with many indigenous populations, they face challenges in land rights and marginalization. While Tanzanian Maasai, in general, are heavily marginalized, facing barriers in accessing social services such as health care and education, the challenges of our target population—Maasai living inside a conservation area—are even greater due to government restrictions and extremely rural living.
Furthermore, changes in the climate have seriously compounded the stresses on the community, making it difficult to even meet basic needs. Since I have been here, severe drought has caused food shortages and widespread losses among herds—the mainstay of Maasai life.
I have been fortunate to spend time with the Maasai community we work with and this has been the highlight of my entire experience in Tanzania, more than anything else. For as long as I live, I will never forget this time period in my life, and the unique experiences I’ve been privileged to have-- most notably, witnessing my coworker, Mbekure, and his age set move up in life, becoming Senior Elders in a very traditional ceremony that takes place only every 15-20 years.
So as I begin to think about leaving and saying goodbye, I want to do something to give back to the community that’s given me so much. I am dedicating this marathon to the people that have welcomed me in and with whom I've shared this truly life-changing experience.
Please help me to say goodbye in a meaningful way, with a donation to Maasai Partners that will support the community projects on the ground. (To read more about the work of the organization, visit http://www.maasaipartners.org/our-work/.) And please share with friends and family, so the word about our work and the community can spread!
(Thank you in Maa)