I left Los Angeles days ago. Twelve hours flying to London, another eleven flying to Nairobi, 4 hours sleep and then up again at 5am to make an 8am Air Kenya flight to Samburu which would take another hour and a half. As we leave the skyscrapers and traffic of the developing world behind, Mt. Kenya emerges on the horizon. Another half hour and the earth begins to turn a deep red that I’ve see in the American west and Hawaii. Are those giraffe below us? Yes, they are. Five years, approximately 30 hours and I am finally here, in Samburu.
The Kalama Airstrip in Samburu.
As we approach the airstrip I can see Lucas waving up at me. I can’t believe I am finally here. Lucas informs us that there is a change of plans. The well drilling rig has a broken part. Someone has been dispatched to Nairobi to get a replacement. (If only we knew, we could have brought it.) We will wait another day for the well drill to begin. In the meantime, we are off to visit the Ntilal #1 Well and to meet the people of that community.
As we head off the main road, we are struck by the magnificent landscape and the bluest sky above. We proceed through the red dirt until we see a huge tree with a protective ring of dried thorny twigs around it. Lucas pulls over and tells me this “structure” is why he works for TSP. We get out of the car and enter the nursery school, the first of its kind in these parts. The students had all gone home for the day but their chalkboard told us that they had classes today. The date on the upper right read 10/20/2015 followed by multiplication tables. It wasn’t hard to imagine their smiling faces on the hand cobbled benches under the shade of the beautiful tree above. Nearby was a 3 walled structure that was their kitchen, also a byproduct of the TSP water. Considering less than 5% of Samburu are literate, this school was proof that TSP is engaged in life changing work for everyone in this community.
In about 5 minutes, we approach the Ntilal #1 well where we find about a dozen children of various ages pumping water and washing clothes. Our presence was quite the surprise and a foreign, white lady was quite alien to them. Lucas explained that we were here from The Samburu Project and wanted to talk about water. It took a little while to break the ice with the shy, curious toddlers but a few high fives and we had started a game. Shortly we could see the women of the community approaching with their gerry-cans. Their brightly patterned kangas and beautiful beaded jewelry announced their presence. Mama Sarah, who seemed to be the oldest in this group was surprisingly gregarious. She has 9 children and was eager to hug me tightly and thank me for the water. I didn’t have to ask how the water has changed her life, it flowed out of her. She no longer had to walk miles and miles for water. This water is good, doesn’t make her sick. She can tend to her animals and her children now go to school. Life is good, thanks to us at The Samburu Project. Sarah wanted to send her greetings to Bob, my fellow board member and all the other people who helped drill this well. She told the story of sleeping at the well site when the rig pulled up in 2013. Staying there and praying until the clean water came out of the earth. Along with other ladies in this group, she broke into song and dance, as is the Samburu way to celebrate and say thank you.
Mama Sarah in profile on left with members of the Ntilal #1 Well Community.
Sarah emphatically wanted me to know how greatly they appreciate EVERYTHING we are doing for them. I was so overcome that I fought back tears of joy. I have been telling any and everyone who would listen for 5 years about the work TSP is doing here and now, for the first time, I am seeing our work with my own eyes and feeling in my heart the connection with these ladies. It took a while to remember that I was also here to do a job..ask questions! Right! I ask Sarah and the other ladies if any of them had experiences with wild animals. Yes! They replied, elephants were here this morning, you can see their footprints, droppings and the damage to the fence they made. When they saw the elephants this morning, they were scared and stayed in their homes until the elephants wandered off. They had already had a community meeting early in the afternoon to hatch a plan to repair the fence. The well is their lifeline, they will not stand for it being in jeopardy of being destroyed by more elephants!
We took more photos and chatted through Lucas and an interpreter George. These ladies have a sister community that is desperate for a well and lobbied Lucas to help. By now the children were comfortable, wanting to touch my skin and red nails. One little girl kissed my hand before running off giggling. Is that a camel in the distance? We said our good-byes not before hoping we see each other again. Whew! There you have it. A day in the life of the Ntilal #1 well community, elephants in the morning and a curly-haired white lady with red nails in the afternoon. Life sure is full of surprises – for us all! Stay tuned for more stories from Samburu.
You can see video from this well community visit on The Samburu Project’s Facebook page: