Mara Bushtops, our last stop in Kenya, presented us with a meaningful way to conclude our journey. We delivered the supplies to their logistics operation based in Nairobi and they managed to have them arrive at camp during our stay.
My husband Scott and I saw firsthand on our trip to Tanzania in 2015 when we stayed at Serengeti Bushtops, the sister camp, the amazing commitment Claudia Stuart and the Bushtops team make to their staff and the communities where they operate. We were excited to once again have the opportunity to contribute to the meaningful work they do and the projects they support.
Having both been teachers in a previous life, we were invited once again to teach the lesson on animal classification that we taught at the school we visited in Tanzania. The school is a short distance from the camp. This sign greeted us on our arrival at the school and set the tone for our entire visit.
We arrived at Nkoilale Primary School with the suitcase of supplies and eager anticipation. Along with the school supplies, there were several soccer balls donated by a Nike employee. This universally enjoyed game, called football in Kenya, is prominent during recess.
First we met the headmaster Moses in his office and stored the supplies we brought. Then Moses escorted us to the classroom where we would teach the lesson.
The lesson involved giving a set of animal cards, made with photos Scott has taken across the globe, with the animal’s name and the continent and country the animal was from. After identifying common traits of mammals, the students were then asked to further classify mammals by type of diet. They sorted the cards by carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. Then we checked the groups to be sure they had done this correctly.
Next was going to the world map, which we brought, and finding the country and continent the animal was from.
Each child had this opportunity and many were quite eager to show off their map skills.
Our guide Charles and our spotter Stanley, who both accompanied us to the school, were great assets.
We found out that Stanley is a trustee of the school. He engaged the students in a lively discussion in Swahili about the importance of knowing your animals if you wanted to become a guide. We believe, in addition to being an amazing spotter, he is a natural teacher. We were impressed by the school tradition of having all the other students in the class clap when each student presented his or her work.
After the lesson was over, a group photo was taken on the school grounds.
Our one hour lesson, due to all the excitement and enthusiasm, had turned into a two hour lesson and the school day was ending. We said our goodbyes to the headmaster Moses and left knowing our lives were richer by having this opportunity to work with the students at the school.
As we left the grounds, this sign confirmed our deeply held belief and commitment to education.
Visiting a project and participating in a helpful way is often not possible. As a Pack for a Purpose traveler, the supplies you take will always be delivered to the project and they will make a Big Impact.
Mara Bushtops commitment to community is not exclusive to the school. They assist the community in many ways.
In discussion with village elders, Mara Bushtops has established protected areas, management plans and a Conservancy code of conduct. They lease and maintain the Conservancy in a way which balances cattle grazing needs with wildlife preservation. These farsighted efforts have enabled the Masai to maintain their traditions but expand beyond livestock herding, generating new income. Wildlife has benefited from more secure grazing and breeding areas, through greater numbers of predators and prey alike.
The rent they pay to the community for use of Mara Bushtops’ land helps maintain livelihoods, as does the employment they provide. Extra revenue from the Conservancy is used to fund community healthcare and education projects. They have also built a dam, providing water for livestock in the dry season.
Mara Bushtops is now one of only two camps in the Masai Mara to have a constructed wetland system in place, naturally turning waste water into clean water.
Scott and I choose to stay at accommodations that have a deep commitment to community. We hope all travelers will assess the practices of the places that they stay and not only take supplies but choose accommodations that give back in meaningful ways to their community.