We Lit up a Masai Village!
When I made plans to take solar lights to a small village school in the Transmara region in Kenya, Africa, I did not know what to expect.
I had met Kimeli Wilson Naiyomah, a Masai warrior, earlier in the summer. Kimeli was working with the company SunPower Solar to get solar panels for his childhood school in the village of Enoosaen in the heart of Masai land. However, Kimeli was concerned that even though the children would have light in the school they would still have to read by the light of smoky and hazardous kerosene lamps in the evenings. The Masai are forming settlements such as Enoosaen so that they can have a more stable lifestyle. They continue to cultivate cows, goats, and sheep but are also adapting to agriculture and grow corn and sugarcane. One Million Lights is thrilled to have the opportunity to help the Masai children of Enoosaen!
I traveled to make the initial distribution myself. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the elders, mothers, children, and council members of the region. They were dressed in traditional Masai attire featuring vibrant colors and intricate beadwork.
We were entertained with songs, dances and a graduation ceremony for Masai warriors while we feasted on goat meat. The US Ambassador for Kenya graced the occasion and turned on the switch for the solar panel installation for Emprukel School. At the same time, we made an initial distribution of 200 solar lights to the women and children.
The next night, after sun down, all the villagers came out at 8:00pm at night with their solar lamps and lit up the entire valley!
Kimeli’s story is an inspiration. After studying under a ‘tree school’ and struggling through his childhood, Kimeli was well aware of the challenges faced by these children. Kimeli himself had worked hard to get a good education despite his conditions. He was fortunate enough to get a sponsor who sent him to America for higher education. In the US during the events of 9/11, he was deeply moved and felt that he had to do something to show his gratitude and empathy for a country that had provided him with the opportunity of a lifetime. He returned to his village and after consultation with his elders, the Masai made a donation of 14 cows for America. Cows are everything to a Masai. A cow is almost a currency in and of itself, providing food, milk and many other benefits for the Masai. The symbolic gesture of 14 cows was not lost and the International Rotary Club recognized Kimeli with their annual peace prize. Kimeli later published a children’s book titled 14 Cows for America (www.14cowsforamerica.com). He has just won a scholarship for higher education in Australia and recently graduated from Stanford with a Masters degree.
One Million Lights’ plans to continue to make future distributions in the Transmara region of Kenya, so that all of the children attending the newly electrified school can have clean, solar light at home. Help us send lights to our new Masai friends by donating here.