Basecamp Explorer Kenya, the company that operates the (unbelievably beautiful) Basecamp Masai Mara safari ecolodge, is so much more than your average tourism company – and they take the concept of sustainable tourism to a whole different level. Apart from being uncompromisingly eco-friendly, their involvement with the local community is constant and extends way beyond the fact that they train and employ almost exclusively locals. Through the Basecamp Foundation, their not-for-profit organisation, they cooperate very intensely with the Masai community on a number or projects – training Masai women as solar engineers, creating and operating a self-administrating micro-finance group for local women, setting up a number of wildlife and nature conservation projects, funding a clinic and health centre in the nearby town of Talek: these are only very few examples of the many different ways in which they make a difference in the life of the local community. One of these projects is their involvement with the local school: the truly inspiring Talek Primary School!
Eric, our very sweet Masai trainee guide, took us over to the school on our first day at the Camp (it is just across the plain from the gate of Basecamp),
and David, the charismatic headteacher, very proudly showed us around and explained how the school works.
Created with the help of the Mama Zebra Foundation, and supported mainly by the Basecamp foundation, Talek Boarding School has about 500 day scholars from the neighbouring villages, as well as around 500 boarders that live too far away to walk to school every day. We immediately fell in love with the school, the truly kind staff and of course the watoto – the kids – and asked what we could do to help while we’re here. We were promptly recruited to teach english in 6th and 7th grade, were given two classes a day each, and have spent most of our mornings so far in the school, teaching,
playing games with the children,
and marking endless piles of homework
With the help of Basecamp, the work done in that little school in the middle of nowhere is amazing, and it is an incredibly inspiring thing to see how much they accomplish on their very limited means.
The children are impressively well behaved, and work so hard! All of the kids, even the smallest ones, learn and speak three languages – kiswahili, english, and their mother tongue (in this area, mainly masai). They have tons of homework, they help keep the school and their dorms clean and tidy, and they wash their uniforms themselves every day:
They are eager to learn, curious, cheeky, but at the same time they have great respect for their teachers, and a love and appreciation for education that is very moving – they know that going to school, and especially to a school like this one, is something that will change the course of their lives.
So they sing songs and recite poems about the importance of education, and take great pride in their school. They keep it neat and tidy, and they kept telling me, as they showed me around their dorm, how lucky they are to have the best school in the region:
They have so little, and yet they are the lucky ones – so many children here have no access to education. The children of Talek are in the capable hands of teachers that are doing their best to keep them safe and to help them live up to their potential. With the help of foundations like Basecamp, the school has created a safe and colourful environement: it is now a shady oasis on the vast empty plains of Talek.
Seeing the children so well looked after by the cheery staff, so contented and so playful, can make it easy to forget how precarious it all is. The school depends entirely on donations – whether it is school supplies, books, equipment, or simply financial donations, everything is welcome, and even the smaller contribution can make a big difference in these little lives. To give you an idea of how far very little can go: 4000 Kenyan shillings, the equivalent of about 40 €, will cover the boarding fees of a child for a whole semester. For less than 100 € per year, a child can go to school. Basecamp, apart from helping keep the school going and providing furniture, supplies and equipment, offers a certain number of scholarships for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school, and tries desperately to make sure that all of them have access to a good education – especially girls, who are traditionally kept at home and married off at a very young age. And we can all help – by sparing only such a minimal sum (harldy more than what some of us would spend on a single meal without even thinking twice about it), a child is given a chance at a care-free childhood and better future.
These smiling faces put us all to shame – they have so little, and yet they have so much happiness, love and pride in their hearts – let’s all help to keep it there!
Besides, how could anyone ever say no to that face ?