Cynthia Corogin recently spoke to the Kiwanis Club about her trip to Kenya and Tanzania, a dream of hers since watching Tarzan on TV at age 10. Corogin explained, although she felt sure it would be an adventure of a lifetime, she didn’t realize how the Maasai people would capture her heart.
The village Corogin is working with is located high above the Rift Valley on an escarpment in the Maasai Mara which is in the southwest part of Kenya. A typical Maasai village is like a large, extended family. Traditionally, a village is enclosed in a circle. The inner circle is a pen where the animals stay at night, circling that is outdoor living area. Outward from that circle are the individual homes, or boma. The outer circle is fenced, made of rocks and sticks (sometimes wire) to keep wild animals out.
Corogin explained the Maasai history is thousands of years old. Their culture is beautifully simple; it is faith-based and reflects a sense of happiness. They respect life, their elders, their way of life and the world around them from the rain to the wild animals. The Maasai clothing is bright and colorful, predominately red (blood), white (milk) and blue (meat), which reflects their basic diet.
Those who come to the Mara on safari enjoy excellent animalsightings. They not only take home unforgettable memories of the “bush” and the Maasai village, but they also can bring home delightful beadwork by the Maasai women. The money from the beadwork is used to help send their children to school.
The Enkereri (which means viewpoint) Village is nurtured by African Mission Services, which has just completed a dam in Mara West which will provide water for cattle, sheep and goats. When there is insufficient rainfall, which is frequent in this part of Africa, the Maasai women walk more than three miles to get fresh water to bring home. Their location is far from the usual safari routes (in the Rift Valley) which makes selling their beadwork difficult. If you do purchase beautiful beadwork, you will hear “ashe oleng,” which means “God’s Blessings.”
Interestingly, Corogin explained there is no electricity. There aren’t televisions, appliances and such. Oddly, cellphones are common and powered by solar power, and generators are used as support to charge the cellphones. While tour operators willing to travel this far are told it is $30 US to enter a village, often the village does not receive all of this $30 from the guide. He provides a small portion to the village and keeps the larger share.
Finding a reputable guide is important. Corogin asked her guide if there was somethingshe could do for a Maasai school she visited in Tanzania. With 300 students, there was an enormous shortage of school books and exercise books. Upon the advice of her guide, Corogin was amazed that $60 US was able to purchase 900 workbooks! The guide went shopping after she left Africa, and delivered the exercise books to the school within 10 days.
Corogin’s heart was touched by the students and the Maasai women. Her work with them is not done. She had a box of their beadwork sent back home for approximately $300 US. She has sold some of the pieces and returns the proceeds to the village women. A necklace was sold to Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala after the presentation. A photo of Fiala wearing this piece was sent back to the Maasai village with great reception. The village was pleased to have a “high government official” donning their beadwork. Corogin will continue her quest to help, as the relationship she has developed is very personal. They have given her a name, Naretisho, one who cares and brings happiness.
If you would like more information on an upcoming mission trip to the Maasai Mara, contact Africa Mission Services of USA at 423-987-2275, AfricaMissionServices@gmail.com or their website at www.AfricaMissionsServices.com. For information on beadwork and to hear some fascinating stories, contact Corogin at 239-963-5561.