Empowering Kenya's Maasai

Carolyn Tague has been drawn to Africa since her childhood, and she finally had the chance to visit the continent in 2005 while volunteering at a Tanzanian orphanage. On a return visit in 2007, she traveled to the Lemong’o village in rural Kenya, where despite the tough conditions they live in, the Maasai people were so welcoming that Tague became determined to work with them to help them improve their lives.

Tague ’85 Edu, who taught special education in Pennsylvania and Alaska for more than 30 years, began visiting Lemong’o every summer and working with the community to prioritize their needs, from health and nutrition to education and employment. The tribe was dealing with years of severe drought, which had devastated its pastoral economy; malnourished children were too weak to walk to school. Tague officially launched her nonprofit, The Lemong’o Project, in 2011, and she has raised $225,000 since. The organization finances medical clinics, teacher salaries, and 10,000 school lunches each month. Thanks to the support, primary school enrollment has jumped from 225 kids to 500, and Tague says she’s now focused on establishing a scholarship fund so children can move on to secondary school. “They’re my family at this point,” Tague says.

Due to climate change and rising concerns over land rights, access to education—and learning how to adapt—are a priority. “The people of Lemong’o realize they have to adjust,” says Tague, “because their way of living is changing.” She has also organized a co-op of 100 Maasai women to create beaded jewelry and baskets that are sold in the U.S. The proceeds directly benefit the village. “We’ve empowered the women to set a fair-trade price and to value their time,” she says. —Amy Strauss Downey ’04 Lib