My visit to the Masai-Mara in Kenya in East Africa last summer opened my eyes to how precious water can be and how contamination and over usage of water is contributing to the decline of traditional cultures. Life cannot sustain without water. It makes up 71% of the Earth, which to most people might seem to be good news. However, only 2.5% of this is fresh water, out of which a mere 1% is available for human needs.
Our tour guide – Dan Tome – was from the Masai tribe and he drove me, my father and friend around the game reserve. He explained the Masai culture to us and I came to understand their way of life and their day-to-day routine. I also came to know the horrifying truth that a lot of children in recent years contracted typhoid and malaria, life-threatening water-borne diseases that’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that thrives in the contaminated and polluted Masai river due to high tourist activity. Because of this, the Masai tribe had to find alternative drinkable water from wells nearby.
One day, I asked the general manager of the Mara Leisure Camp, the hotel I was staying in, if I could contribute in anyway to the Masai tribes. I was surprised and delighted to find out about the hotel’s “Pack for a Purpose” initiative, where they encourage tourists from all over the world to help the local community by making a simple yet meaningful contribution such as giving free education in the local schools, or any other contributions they would like to make.
Standing at the porch of the resort, and contemplating on how to contribute, I saw two Masai women carrying empty jerry-cans towards the resort. I learned that these women walked four miles to fetch clean & treated water from the resort. Our Masai tour guide Dan Tome emphasized the importance of clean water for the Masai tribes, to keep them healthy and to keep the infant mortality rates low. He mentioned that if safe drinking water can be provided to the villages, the women will have more time to work and earn a proper living to send their children to schools. Therefore, I decided to contribute a few jerry-cans of safe drinking water to this Masai tribe.
It took a lot of energy and determination for Dan and I to transport two heavy plastic containers with safe drinking water by foot. It was an extremely difficult task but Dan Tome told me that this is not a big deal for Masai women since they do this every week. This made me realize how strong and determined they need to be for such basic necessities of life. As I entered the village, I was welcomed with smiles and laughter. I met the chief of the village who then received the jerry-cans and in return, they had organized a celebration for me in their village.
During their festivities, I felt honored that I got the chance to be immersed in the Masai culture and to be given the opportunity to spend a day in a fascinating and traditional African local community.
What I learned from this experience was that I wasn’t the one who helped them but instead, they were the ones who helped me connect and get such a rare insight of the hardships in the life of the Masai. As human beings, many of us are fortunate and blessed to have the simple necessities in life and it was really humbling to have a ‘One Day Back or More’ experience with the Masai tribes in their environment.