To start our homestay with a bang, we were greeted by our host, Jonathan, on a main road, and then proceeded to walk 50 minutes with our huge backpacks and daypacks to arrive at our home for the next week. We arrived at his home, where his family greeted us with smiles and open arms. We had to split up into a group of eight that stayed at Jonathan’s house and a group of six that stayed at Jonathan’s uncle, William’s, house. The houses were very short walk apart, so everyone spent time at both.
Jonathan’s family includes his wife, son, daughter, and his two nieces. Their names are Eunice, Moses, Susan, Milka, and Mercy, respectively. Jonathan himself is only 24, Eunice is 22, Moses is 4, Susan is 4 months, Milka is 11, and Mercy is 7. When we first arrived, the family was pretty shy, but over the week they became very comfortable with us and their amazing personalities became more present.
One of Jonathan’s biggest projects is the safe house that we went to for three days during our week. The safe house’s mission is to protect local Maasai girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and early forced marriage (EFM). Currently, about 75 girls stay there during the school year, but when we went there were only about 20 girls there because of Christmas break. Jonathan sponsors many of the girls there in their education, and he provided them with water tanks that pull water from a river about 10 miles away. That was another of Jonathan’s projects, supplying the community with water so they wouldn’t have to walk miles and miles for it. With grants he received from the United States, he has had multiple water tanks installed in the community, including the one at the safe house. It has really impacted them in a very positive way.
On Monday, we went to the safe house for the first time, where we greeted the girls that were there. We heard speeches from the head matron mother, one of the owners, Jonathan, and three girls that told us about their experiences. It was eye opening to hear about what has happened to some of them and how they were saved from going through harder experiences. We learned about how the government was involved, and how they are trying to educate the parents of the girls they saved so that they could still be involved in their family life. The government of Kenya has made FGM illegal, but it is still practiced because it is such a huge part of the Maasai tradition. Throughout the three days that we spent at the safe house, we built a planter box that spells out the word LOVE, and we played games with the girls as well as learning how to cook chapati (a flatbread that is a staple in Africa). We learned a lot, and the experience was one we won’t soon forget.
The rest of the week we spent with our families. We celebrated Halloween with them, and taught all of the kids how to trick or treat! They also sang for us, and we all enjoyed candy that we bought at the store before we arrived. It was a very unique Halloween, but memorable and extremely fun. We also celebrated Erin’s birthday on the last full day of our stay, and for the occasion, they slaughtered a sheep with help from everyone. It was wild, and some of us (myself) could not watch that particular event. However, the day was still very fun, and Eunice dressed Erin up in the traditional Maasai outfit, complete with the beaded jewelry and headdress. Everyone dressed up, and it was also a very unique celebration that we all enjoyed.
Overall, the week was a great success, with many memorable moments and learning experiences. We got to experience the culture fully, and we created relationships with a family that was extremely kind and welcoming to us. We learned about a big problem facing young girls, and we got to see how the community was trying to combat it. All in all, the week was incredible and many of us hope that we will eventually get to go back and see the families again.