Philips Family in Maasailand ~ July 13, 2012

I hope this posting finds you all happy, healthy, and enjoying your summer break!  Can't believe it's already mid-July, but also thankful that I'll be coming home soon!
The Phillips family has just finished their time in wonderful Maasailand before heading off for Switzerland to finish up their world tour! I think I can speak for them when I say they had an unforgettable adventure spending time with Mama Shiela and the beautiful kids of Ronesa!  It's amazing how attached you get to these beautiful Maasai people and saying goodbye is always a tougher on the heart-strings than you expected.  Erik, Missy, Allison, and Lindsey brought with them the gift of music!  They taught the children how to play their very own recorders.  It was hilarious watching them manipulate these strange new "lollipops," but heartwarming also to see their smiles when learning something very new.  They have never seen or heard such instruments and even the teachers were very intent on learning how to play, especially so that they can continue teaching the kids long after we are gone.  Attached to each flute was a tag with their name on it and a very special message from our friends back home who donated their funds to purchase the flutes.  What a gift you have all given to them, but more importantly, you've encouraged them to learn and reminded them how much they are valued.  THAT is priceless, given the circumstances of many of our students at Ronesa. Thank you so much Phillips family for your time, efforts, love, and talents you so graciously shared with the Maasai children and community.  I know they will never forget you and now you too have your own stories to share about Shaffer'sister school in Africa!
Of the 50 children at Ronesa, there are 18 of them who we consider to be very "distressed children."  Many of them come from Polygamist familie,s and due to the sheer size, they are often neglected or go hungry. Others come from single-family homes where often their mother is not much older than they are, had been raped, and subsequently are on their own raising their child(ren). Such is the case with Mishel, a 4 year old at Ronesa.  I visited her grandmother's home to see what her living conditions were like.  While sipping Chai in her boma I had to fight the tears as she explained to me that she had to secretly send her 15 year old daughter, (mother of Mishel) away to secondary school to protect her from being sold into marriage by her father for more goats and cows. She is very behind on paying for the fees, but thankfully the school has agreed to keep the girl there for now because they know what will happen to her if she returns to her mother's home.  The grandmother's  beadwork is the only source of income she has to not only keep her daughter safe, but to also raise her granddaughter.  Twice she had to walk away from me to regain her composure as it is inappropriate to cry in public. Sadly, this is a pretty typical story, but there is hope out there also as children are being educated!  With education comes knowledge!  With knowledge comes empowerment! With empowerment, comes change! They have a long ways to go, but already the girls are learning to stand up for themselves, despite the severe costs.........many are fighting for a better life and they are not alone!
The rest of the pictures are from our very "Special Occasion."  This is a day the Rosesa community set aside to honor and thank everyone from Shaffer for supporting their school and loving them from the other side of the world.  While this event was overwhelming, humbling, and over the top, it is very apparent that this is what they do when they want to show their appreciation and love for their dear Mzungus! (white-faced people) The 11 hour event started with an "invitation," to watch the 5 goats being slaughtered. While disturbing at first, it was actually very fascinating to see how they use every part of the goat is used. They even feed the liver to the mother of the goat slaughtered as a token of thanks. It was actually an honor to witness such an event as Mzungus are normally not allowed that close to Maasai men in their glory! We were just thankful they didn't ask us to drink the blood with them! Phew!
At the event, I was presented with a traditional Maasai dress and expected to wear it........really?! I was sure to thank them during my speech for not laughing at my whiteness while trying to look Maasai.  It was clear that they appreciated my wearing it and only further solidified my(our) acceptance as part of their community.  We took the time to pass out shoes, uniforms, and bags to the students. They in turn,  amazed their parents with their ENGLISH poetry and drama which took first place at their recent Maasai Trade show!  This is pretty amazing given that it's their 3rd language that they are learning. A pastor was invited to give a message, a famous Kenyan singer came up to entertain us with a few amazing songs, maasai woman and children danced in our honor, long lines of Maasai adorned us with jewelry, we planted several trees around the compound, and the countless speeches given made us laugh at how much Kenyans love to talk.  They even recognized all the in-laws and people in the audience who had come to the event besides the parents and many of them went forward to "just greet the people with something to say." It was hilarious!
So, I am once again in Nairobi after escorting the Phillips family and will head back up to Maasailand tomorrow for my final days there.  I look forward to wrapping up this amazing adventure, prepare for my return home, and will hope once again to return next summer with another adventurous group of people from home! Just puttin' it out there............hint, hint?!
Love, hugs, and blessings!
Julie