Great Grads Doing Great Things Stories About Making a Difference
I married in 1984, and moved to New Jersey. I was an executive assistant at American Express Bank in New York City working for a leader who was responsible for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Once again, my languages came in handy as I interacted with clients in many countries. I took a few years off when my daughter was born in 1989, and returned to the same position a few years later where I stayed for many years.
Later, I moved to Homefirst, a nonprofit organization in New Jersey that provides emergency shelter, transitional, and supportive housing to the homeless population.
In 2010, I received my Teaching as a Second Language Certification and started teaching English as a Second Language part-time.
While on safari in Samburu, Kenya in August 2012, I visited a tribal village called Namayiana in Archer's Post, Samburu County. I was the sole visitor that morning and enjoyed singing and dancing by the Samburu tribe members in their colourful attire and beaded jewelry who invited me to dance with them. Oh what fun!
A warrior offered to take pictures and I'm so glad he did because I would have taken very few, as I was totally engaged with the people. When I returned to the lodge, I excitedly showed the pictures to Samuel Siriria Leadismo, the assistant restaurant captain. He pointed to his sister, brother, and other family members and friends in the pictures and said, "This is my village. This is where I grew up."
I was confused because he was wearing a uniform. Samuel is educated and studies restaurant and hotel management. He told me very interesting things about his tribe - the Samburu tribe. The main diet consists of three things: milk, meat, and blood.
This is how Pastoralist Child Foundation was founded. Pastoralists are semi-nomadic people in the Northern Rift Valley of Kenya whose livelihood is dependent upon the herding of goats, cattle, and camels. Our story illustrates how two seemingly unconnected people came together to make the world a better place.
Pastoralist Child Foundation works to eradicate female genital mutilation and forced early marriages in Samburu and Maasai Mara, Kenya.
We also provide financial scholarships to female secondary school students attending boarding schools. We currently sponsor nine girls.
Pastoralist Child Foundation provides workshops for groups of 60 girls aged 12-17 to attend four-day overnight camps during school holidays in April, August, and December. These three months are called "cutting season" when girls are at a very high risk for female genital mutilation.
The workshop curriculum covers the harmful effects of female genital mutilation, forced early marriage, teen pregnancy, sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, child rights, self-esteem, self-confidence, and the importance of formal education.
Pastoralist Child Foundation has saved 400 girls from genital mutilation. Thanks to a grant from UNICEF Kenya, we've been able to replicate the workshops for boys, women, men, and elders in remote tribal villages. Pastoralist Child Foundation is introducing alernative rites of passage to replace female genital mutilation.
Pastoralist Child Foundation held a festive, public alternative rite of passage ceremony for 200 girls who graduated from three educational workshops in 2015. The celebration was even attended by male elders and village chiefs who agreed that female genital mutilation should be abandoned.
This stamp of approval in a highly patriarchal society lets us know we're making positive strides.
The icing on the cake was when the Women's Committee of Namayiana Village - the village I first visited in August 2012 - announced that the village has collectively agreed to abandon the practice of female genital mutilation.
The decision was made as a result of our workshops.
The women also told us that they've seen a significant decline of female genital mutilation in nearby villages. Pastoralist Child Foundation was instrumental in eradicating a 2,500-year-old tradition!