Reporter’s note: The horror that played out in a Nairobi mall has focused the world’s attention on Kenya. This week ABC 4 Utah is also focusing on Kenya, but for a very different reason. World of Difference, a non-profit foundation based in Utah, recently took an expedition to Kenya to build a school in a poor neighbor of Embakasi and work in Nairobi hospitals. The founders of World of Difference, Dr. Richard and Jodi Nielsen of Salem, have a track record of success in Kenya and were honored this year as “International Heroes” by the Utah Chapter of the American Red Cross. These reports are my first hand account of the work they do and the lives they change.
MAASAI MARA, Kenya (ABC 4 Utah) - Kenya remains a country rooted in ancient ways. The co-founder of World of Difference and leader of the recent humanitarian expedition from Utah, Dr. Richard Nielsen observed, “The Maasai people are a magnificent people. They’re doing things now that they’ve done for the last thousand years with very little change.”
Expedition team members witnessed that first hand on a visit to a tribal village just outside of the Maasai Mara game reserve.
The point of the visit was gain an appreciation for traditions that have largely remained unchanged for thousands of years.
Some Maasai villages are going with more modern construction, but the village visited by the team still has huts of mud surrounded by a fence of thorns from the Acacia tree.
Our guide, Simon explains, “At six, all the gates are closed.” That’s for the safety of all. Not only are members of the tribe to be inside the fence, but also their herds. Cows, goats and sheep are penned up in the center of the small village.
The Maasai life is marked by distinct divisions of responsibilities between men and women. Men herd and hunt. Women raise crops and children. Each new wife is also responsible for building the mud hut where she will raise their family.
The Maasai are also polygamists.
Here’s how it was explained to me: A man is eligible for marriage only when his herds have reached a certain number. Then, the parents of the man choose the first wife. As his herds continue to increase, he is allowed a second wife who is chosen by the first. Only when a Maasai man qualifies for a third wife does he get to pick for himself.
On the day of our visit, the Maasai women were dressed for Enkiama – a wedding – one of the most important of the tribe’s many rites of passage. All of those rites are an expression of renewed life for their ancient ways.