We work with the Maasai community on the eastern edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, in collaboration with local teachers and community members. We focus on the villages of Talek and Aitong and surrounding rural area (map). This community is pastoral, with many families living a traditional way of life herding cattle. It is also one of the most wildlife-rich regions of the world. Our approach is a blend of education, grassroots conservation, and community empowerment.
We are registered in Kenya as the community-based nonprofit OliveSeed Kenya Trust. Amos Kipeen, local leader and native of Aitong, is the on-site director.
Our goal is to help teachers. We've been working with Mara Girls Leadership School in Talek since 2017, on their library, conservation club, and related programs. In late 2020, while the students were home during COVID we delivered Solar Home Libraries to their families. Mara Girls remains an important partner of ours.
In late 2020, we launched a new program developing Learning Resource Centers for public schools in the area, combining libraries with other supportive resources. The first project was at Talek Primary School.
COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT SPACES
The more we do, the more we see the interconnected nature of everything and realize that our approach must be holistic. We believe in resources like high-quality libraries and media centers, and we see grassroots community centers as transformational spaces for locally led development and empowerment. Imagine a space where everything comes together: meetings, skills training, conservation, workshops, tree planting, recycling, wifi... Places like this are so rare.
In 2020, we renovated and enhanced the Mara Discovery & Community Empowerment Centre in Aitong, the only such center in the region. In 2022, we hope to develop a second community center, building upon our learnings from Mara Discovery.
Renovating the Mara Discovery & Community Empowerment Centre
The Mara Discovery & Community Empowerment Centre (MDC) in Aitong has been a well-loved resource since 2009 for families throughout the region — providing job and life skills training, conservation education for youth, recycling, a venue for community meetings, IT resources, and many other services not found elsewhere. The patrons, employees, and volunteers are all local Maasai. MDC is largely self-sustaining through the services it provides.
The center was in need of a little TLC. Thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club of Woodside / Portola Valley (California) and a few private donations, we funded the renovation of the center in 2020: patching and painting every surface inside and out, upgrading the IT, repairing the recycling center, landscaping the grounds, and much more. We added a Wildlife & Children's Library, which was the #1 request from patrons, and it's now the first public library in the region. The wildlife materials will be valuable to the many students, tour guides, conservation leaders, and researchers in the area. We also added a Tree Nursery, which is already providing seedlings for tree plantings and enhancing after-school nature training for students.