What is your fondest memory from your time volunteering abroad with IVHQ?
My fondest memory was the first night we invited students to come for night school after we completed refurbishments on the library. It would be the first time that we turned the lights on at the school at night. To picture what I was seeing, imagine the silhouette of a strong, tall person walking in the distance toward you, draped in red, and that beautiful sunset over the Rift Valley behind them. The sky was purple and orange, and it rained earlier that day, so the air had that wet dirt smell. Giraffes were cruising around the valley, and the laughs of hyenas got louder as the sun set. It was beautiful. As it got darker, we turned on the lights. The smiles on everyone’s faces was priceless. The students looked at each other and smiled nervously, this was something new to all of them. Lakota and Helen were by my side when we did this. What a feeling. We celebrated that night after classes, cooking local food for all the students. Some students walked up to 2.5 hours that night just to learn for 3 hours…they then left at 11pm to go home...yep, walking 2.5 hours back.
Why should you be the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year?
Accepting this award on my own would not be fair. I have to give credit to two fellow volunteers who were by my side from the start of the project, Helen and Lakota. Aside from them, a lot of hands and donations went into starting Ewangan. So although I instigated the school, it’s only fair the credit gets shared if I am awarded with it.
In saying that though, I have invested a lot of time and energy into the school, both while I was there and since coming back to Perth. Turns out that the school is the first of its kind in Kenya and East Africa; The first Maasai Night School. Which means that herdsmen who traditionally look after cattle during the day, now have an opportunity to learn at night. The program has been so effective, news of the school has made international and local headlines, with communities all over Tanzania and Kenya keen to have a school in their villages. We are strategizing on ways to start more schools, in critical areas of Kenya and also Tanzania i.e. Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, in the hope that as nearby cities grow, the Maasai are educated enough to protect their land and culture.
What benefits will the award money have for your designated project?
All money won will go into buying a parcel of land which sits on a cliff overlooking the Rift Valley. We are currently operating on the land of a government school called Ol Maroroi, but hope to be on our own independent piece of land by mid next year. We also run fortnightly tours to the Maasailand, where IVHQ volunteers can experience real Maasai life, so the money will also go toward purchasing items for these outings, (which will pay for themselves through income received from the tours), and also pays local tour guides. In this sense, the money will essentially make the tours we offer self-sustainable.
What is your long-term vision for this project?
When I came back to Australia I gathered a select group of people who are exemplary in their fields, all young leaders. Together we are working toward charitable status in Australia, with the aim of getting Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) status in two (2) years. Together we came up with the following vision;
"At Ewangan, it is our vision to create an environment where all Maasai community members throughout East Africa have access to free educational resources; providing them with the skill sets they require to establish and sustain a strong economically viable community" – Vision Statement.
Western Australia hosts a significant number of mining companies which operate in East Africa, most of the profits come back to Australia and investors, and not to the locals. Australia gets its strength from mining. So can Kenya. Imagine what Kenya or any African country could be like if their mineral wealth stayed in their country. Could Ewangan produce future mining engineers? Nurses? Politicians? Doctors? I hope that our work at Ewangan can instigate this change. The long term plan is to foster the students’ education after primary school, into high school and then into University. I sit on a board for the WASMGA and represent the last 10 years of Mining Engineers globally from WASM... I hope that my connection to universities, politicians and the education sector of Australia, will bridge the gap for our students into attaining a world class university education in Australia one day. I don't believe that Ewangan will just change a community. With the support of the team in Perth, Industry, Politicians and Lakota on the ground in Kenya alongside our fine staff I genuinly belive we can change East Africa.
The schools (like Ol Maroroi) will run on solar and wind power, leaving the smallest environmental footprint. Having a broad range of specialists in Australia ready to offer their services for free will ensure that little money is spent on administration costs.