Tag Archives: women

Samburu Stories: Laresoro Community Well, Yasin’s Story.


Yasin Lekomon lives just 200 meters from the Laresoro well.  At 36, Yasin has seven children. The oldest, 20, is now a shepherd taking care of the family goats, far from here. The others are in the school, except for her 3 year old who does not separate from her.

“Before we had to walk very far to get dirty and dark water, like a soup of clay, that we collected with a lot of patience, and we carry back to our house. We spent practically all day working to get the water”. Now she comes to the well each morning, and collects as much water as she needs, for the family and also for the cattle.  “I go to sleep peacefully every night.  I know that tomorrow I will get up and I will have water. Before  the well, sometimes, I could not sleep wondering if I was going to be able to collect enough water the next day. “

20140616_Samburu_Laresoro_017 (Mamen Saura's conflicted copy 2017-05-08)

The life of Yasin and all the families living in this area and even the families that have settled here after the opening of the well, has changed radically.  From spending almost all daylight hours busy getting and transporting water, the women can now experience the incredible feeling of being able to dedicate the day to other activities, take care of their children, play with them; cook without being in a hurry and having meals that are more tasty and healthy; meet in the shade of the trees to chat with other women while they make their wonderful necklaces of beads.   Yasin tells me, blushing, as if she felt guilty to admit it, “to rest for a few moments when the sun is at its highest in the sky and makes breathing difficult.”  All that, before the well, was simply impossible.

Yasin 2

Drinking water without limits and without fear of contracting diseases. This is, undoubtedly, the main advantage of the well, but it is by no means the only one. The health of these communities has undergone a huge qualitative leap: the incidence of diarrhea, cholera and other serious diseases that were common before has dropped dramatically, and the toilet and cleaning habits have changed radically.  Yasin does not have a doubt about it and tells me that one of the things she likes most about life “after the well” is to be able to wash the clothes and enjoy its beautiful and bright colors. Before our clothes had only one color, the brown color of the earth.”


The well has made me happy, and the only thing I would like is to get more wells drilled in the area. Many, many people from the area come here once they find out about this well, and sometimes we are too many to collect water. The next well should be on the other side of the river.”  It is then that I realize that the immense road of fine dusty sand passing by the Laresoro well is the bed of a dry river.

Stay tuned for more Samburu Stories as we introduce you to other families in the Laresoro well community who benefit from clean water because of The Samburu Project and donors like you.


This Samburu Story was written by Cristina Saura samburuSTORIES_logo_gray

and features photographs by Mamen Saura.

Go to http://www.thesamburuproject.org to read more

Samburu Stories and join the global TSP family to

provide clean water to families in Samburu, Kenya.  

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Samburu Stories: Laresoro Community Well

20140616_Samburu_Laresoro_070After driving about 30 minutes from Archers Post we arrived at the well of the Laresoro Community, our first visit. From the sand, under the shade of the acacias, a wide pipe emerges. On one side a lever to pump, on the other the pipe, and at its feet a small ditch. Here is the miracle of water. The well serves numerous communities in the surrounding area; many women and children are waiting for us, smiling and welcoming. They greet us affectionately with the Maa salutation, “sopa,” in a festive atmosphere. The women sing and dance to give us a warm welcome and their children, suspicious at the first instance, stare at us hiding behind the cheerful clothes of their mothers, clinging to their kangas. 

20140616_Samburu_Laresoro_046 (Mamen Saura's conflicted copy 2017-05-08)

This well serves a community of about 1,500 people. Women who previously used to walk up to 8 hours a day to get the water essential to be able to subsist, have, for the last three years, access to clean water in abundance, walking now between 5 and 30 minutes. This is the case of Lingoine Lekoloi, a petite woman, with a smile so sweet that it’s impossible to not smile back while you listen to her, wants to talk to me.   She is here with her little one Mbaa, a 4 year old boy and the youngest of 5 siblings. While Mbaa pushes his toy, a roadrunner with rudimentary wheels made by his older brother with acacia twigs, Lingoine tells me that she comes twice every day, once at dawn and again at dusk to fill a 15-liter bottle. “I am extremely happy with the well. It has provided so much relief.” Drinking water without limits and without fear of contracting diseases is, undoubtedly, the main advantage of the well but it is by no means the only one. The health of the community has undergone a huge qualitative leap – the incidence of diarrhea, cholera and other serious diseases that were common before has dropped dramatically, and the toilet and cleaning habits have changed radically.

20140616_Samburu_Laresoro_052 (Mamen Saura's conflicted copy 2017-05-08)

I ask her to tell me her daily routines. The first thing she does in the morning is to bathe her children and prepare them to go to school, after that she serves breakfast (milk or tea) to the family and goes to fetch firewood, cleans her hut, and goes to the well to wash. She prepares the food, ”rests” a little while she works with the color beads. Then she takes care of the cattle off-spring, review the boma’s fence and return to the well one more time for water. By then it will be around six o’clock in the evening, when men return with the animals. Then she milks the goats and offers the milk to the whole family, collects the cattle and stores the excess milk after she sterilizes and flavors it with burnt branches (an ancestral technique that, she explains, keeps the milk in good condition for up to five days).  Lingoine’s story makes me think of the universal multitasking ability of women and suddenly I need to explain that, despite all the distances that separate us, I find great similarities between our lives … she laughs.


Stay tuned for more Samburu Stories as we introduce you to other families in the Laresoro well community who benefit from clean water because of The Samburu Project and donors like you.


This Samburu Story was written by Cristina Saura samburuSTORIES_logo_gray
and features photographs by Mamen Saura.
Go to http://www.thesamburuproject.org to read more
Samburu Stories and join the global TSP family to
provide clean water to families in Samburu, Kenya.  

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How a year flies by.

I recently returned from New York where I visited The Art Show, an annual art event that has been a big part of my life for the past twenty years!  It was this same time, one year ago I left the art world (or so I thought) to become the Executive Director of The Samburu Project.  I handed out brochures to art world friends and everyone wished me luck.  I came back to LA and dove straight into TSP’s Walk for Water.  I can’t believe how fast that year flew by.  It’s been action-packed!

Visiting The Art Show a year later, my colleagues and collector friends all wanted to know how it was going and asked me to tell them about Kenya.  In short, it’s going great!  I’ve had plenty of challenges learning about the non profit sector (that’s what the non profit people say – “sector”), meeting the TSP donors, trying to learn all the names of the Kenyan villages like Lendadapoi and Lokunlyani, learning all about well drilling, well parts, water systems, water jargon, WASH terminology and the like.  I’ve had to learn a zillion new names of donors, volunteers, interns, vendors, in between learning how to write a grant and deal with the world’s slowest internet in the world’s tiniest office.  I couldn’t have made it through without Kiki who’s been there by my side through it all and the many angels that have been guiding me when I needed some guidance.

A year flies by when you are learning a new job.  If you followed this blog and/or our social media at all you’d know a little bit of what’s been going on around this water cooler.  What you might not know is there have been a lot of people who have helped steer TSP through this transition year. I am grateful for a wonderful board and staff in California and Kenya, and friends, donors and supporters, volunteers who I have met along the way. 

After the 2016 walk we re-branded the organization, launched a new website, procured funding for 9 more wells and repaired a few that needed some TLC.  I traveled to Kenya twice, visited 53 wells and met lots of Kenyans. Whew!

Now it’s time for the Walk for Water again.  Last year we raised $55,000 at the walk.  We did this by growing the event from our original Hermosa walk and 1 satellite walk in Stamford to an event that included 8 additional satellite walks from San Francisco to Atlanta to New York City – so many friends joined the TSP team!  We are all working very hard to make sure the 2017 walk is even better and bigger.  I think we can get there with your help.  This year we have 13 total walks, including one that is scheduled for Nairobi in July. That will be a first!

I’ve taken a lot of my art world friends and colleagues on this journey with me.  I’ve also met a lot of new friends in the US and Kenya who believe in our common humanity and that access to clean water is a human right.  I want to thank you all for supporting the mission of The Samburu Project and let you know that you are all very important to the success of our small but mighty organization.

It’s Spring, we just celebrated Earth Day, let’s all get out in this beautiful world, wherever you are and join me on Sunday, April 30 to Walk for Water.  If you can’t walk, please consider making a donation. All donations make a big impact in Samburu.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.



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MEET IRIS SCHNEIDER, Journalist and former Los Angeles Times photographer



Mpaayon Loboitangu and Iris

I met Iris when she attended the 2015 Splash Bash. She was quite impressed with the work we are doing in Samburu and later approached me about the possibility of visiting Kenya on an upcoming trip.  We kept the conversation going over several months until earlier this spring we put the wheels in motion to travel to Samburu together this summer.  Iris has wanted to do a story on African women for a very long time.  Naturally,  I am thrilled that through TSP her life long dream came true.  (Personally, I was thrilled to have her on our team. I don’t often travel with a journalist.) Together we shared some amazing experiences in Kenya. Here is just a taste.


Iris stayed with me for a week in Samburu, visiting village after village, talking to hundreds of women about their lives, what it is like to be born into the Samburu tribe, their culture, their rituals, their beliefs and their dreams for themselves and their children. We both received quite an education.


Fertility is a point of much pride for the Samburu people. It is quite common for women to forego formal education and marry as young as possible so as to start bearing children. A common conversation starter is, “how many children do you have?” When speaking to women at the Lolgerdad well community, we asked if they had any desire or need to learn to read.  At first they said they could never attend school because it was too late, they couldn’t sit in a classroom with their own children.  When then asked, if they would want to learn if they had a special class, just for them, they resoundingly said, YES!  Mpaayon immediately told us, “I would at least like to know how to write my name.”  That simple request started a name writing session that lasted for quite some time. Turned out that everyone wanted to know how to write their name. We found a willing teacher in the crowd by the name of Rose Paula.  She helped us translate and the name writing began!


Mpaayon Loboitangu writing her name for the first time with assistance from Rose Paula and Jackie.

We’ve heard that Rose has continued her classes with the women of the Lolgerdad village. They’ve borrowed the chalkboard from the local school and are practicing their new skills that way.  They are holding classes three times a week.  TSP has plans to expand their thirst for knowledge when we launch the Samburu Sisters program later this year. 


Iris spent the day, from sun-up to sun-down with the ladies of the Ntilal well community. They generously invited her into their huts. She collected firewood with the women there, witnessed the slaughter of a goat and yes – walked for water with them. Stay tuned for future articles about her time in Samburu and a possible book later in the year. 

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“Kristen, this is Africa. Isn’t it cool?”


Ladies singing in the pick up

Yes…we finally made it to Samburu and saw some wells today!

The truck is fine. Something must have been dragging from the undercarriage last night, but miraculously by this morning it was gone. Big sigh of relief!

One of the great gifts The Samburu Project has to offer the people of Samburu is a ride in the back of the truck, with all the thanks going to those who donated to our Truck Campaign! Today there was a constant flow of people jumping in and out of the pick-up as we drove through the bush. The ladies pictured to the left joined us at the end of a very long, hot day and were so happy for the ride that they broke out in song. It was delightful!


Singing & dancing on the way to the well

One of the benefits of people riding with us is that it is a perfect opportunity for community development. It’s a no pressure environment to ask questions about what’s happening in a community and for those that have a well, how it is working, what issues have arisen and what difference clean water makes in their lives. A few of the ladies pictured to the right live in the Nairisha 2 Well community. Exhibited by their singing, the incredible dancing that we did on the way to the well and the hundreds of times I heard “Ashe Oleng” (thank you in Samburu), their gratitude was overflowing. It’s these moments that make the challenges I face in my work more than worth it.

So, we visited four wells today in Sere Olipi and Ndonyo Wasin. Being that I am somewhat of a Samburu-phile, this was super exciting as I have yet to travel to these areas. The Samburu Project expanded into Sere Olipi in 2011 and then Ndoyo Wasin in 2012. Nothing like getting some more of the Samburu East road under my belt…and it’s a lot of road.

Road to Ndonyo Wasin

Road to Ndonyo Wasin

Our first stop was Ndonyo Wasin and it truly felt like driving to the end of the earth. Albeit beautiful, it was a long, hot and bumpy road. We arrived at the well to find two children there taking water for themselves and their animals. Nenderua (11-year old girl) and Leipua (9-year old boy) are typical Samburu kids; sweet, giggly, shy, and very, very curious. The Nesesiai Well was drilled at the end of 2012. It was clear that they were excited about the well and that it had changed their lives drastically. They have yet to go to school as there is no primary school close to their home.

Nenderua & Leipua

Nenderua & Leipua

After I said goodbye to my new friends and started to make my way up the hill to the truck, they started yelling. They wanted to see the pictures I took of them…OF COURSE. I must be rusty if I didn’t offer to show the kids their photos! I’m so glad they mustered up the courage to ask. Nothing better than watching Samburu children look at pictures of themselves!

We made our way back over the long, dusty road to Sere Olipi. There, we visited three wells: Sere Olipi Trading Centre, Sere Olipi Primary School and Nairisha 2. The wells in Sere Olipi were all bustling. Prior to The Samburu Project drilliing in 2011, Sere Olipi had never seen a hand pump before. Many of the people in town drank water from a dam about 5 kms away. The dam’s water is very salty and causes diarrhea. Between the Primary School and the Trading Centre wells, the 5,000 people in the whole town are quenching their thirst!

I had a lovely conversation with Winnie who teaches Standard 6 English and Standard 4 Math. She has been teaching at Sere Olipi Primary School for five years. She said that prior to the well, water was the biggest challenge she faced at the school. After long days teaching she would have to walk far to get drinking water. Washing her clothes was nearly impossible because it required walking 5 kms to and fro. Beyond her personal challenges, she spoke of the relief the well has given to the girls she teaches. Because personal hygiene is such a challenge in the absence of water, many girls were inconsistent with their school attendance. With water, they can now focus on their studies without interruption.

Teacher Winnie & her students

Teacher Winnie & her students

Night began to fall so we had to cut out of Sere Olipi before visiting our last two wells: Nolkapur & Nairisha 1. I was so exhausted that I dozed off on the way back to Archer’s Post only to be awakened to a BIG giraffe walking across the road. Lucas laughed at my reaction and said; “Kristen, this is Africa. Isn’t it cool?”



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Happy Mother’s Day!

Good morning and Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful moms! I want to do a special shout out to my amazing mom who has showed me the meaning of sacrificial love and devotion. Mom, I miss you and am sad I can’t share this day with you but if anything, traveling to Kenya by myself has taught me to appreciate both you and dad infinitely more and I can’t wait to come home and embrace you.

I thought that it being Mother’s Day and all, it would appropriate to write about the women in Samburu. Granted, most of the people we talk to at the wells have been men so far but I have encountered many beautiful Samburu mamas and have learned so much from them already.

Let’s start off with Jennifer, Lucas’s younger sister, who has been cooking for me since I got into Wamba. To say that the food is scrumptious would be an understatement. I must say, I was a little nervous about eating African food for three weeks because of my weak stomach and because I’ve really never had African food. However, my first bite into the goat & potato stew on Thursday night erased away all of my trepidation. Oddly enough, it reminded me of one of my family’s favorite dishes, ox tail stew, which made me feel right at home.

For breakfast I have had a egg omelets with tomato and amazing pancakes that taste like a hybrid of crepes & green onion pancakes without the green onions. Writing about it makes me crave another, good thing I have one more left! For lunchtime and dinnertime (they always bring me so much that my lunch time meal is enough for dinner and a small snack) Jennifer has whipped up some goat soup (similar to the stew) and some kind of vegetable dish. In addition, Jennifer has been really kind to boil water for me every morning since I was warned not to drink the tap water here (though the well water looks so refreshing!). Today, she made me chai tea. To be honest, I never liked chai tea but while we were in the Wildabeest camp, I took a sip of Lucas’ tea, to which he added milk and sugar, and it is AMAZING! It remind me of Hong Kong milk tea, or for  people that like boba, the milk tea that is in boba drinks. It is absolutely delicious.

As Lucas and I went around to five wells yesterday, we heard the same story over and over again: it is the women who used to walk up to 10 km each day in search of water for their family. It is the women who would have to endure this burden and those that were pregnant at the time would have miscarriages due to the distance they had to walk and the load they were forced to carry. While the entire community benefits from having a well nearby, it is the women who benefit tremendously. Women now have time to pursue economic endeavors like go to town to sell their beads and jewelry, trade livestock, and start their own garden. While all of these are profound changes and should not be overlooked, the following answer to the question “What do people do during the time saved (of not having to go far distances to fetch water)?” really moved me. At Lentanai/Ntepes Well, one of the elders said that now women can have quality time with their husband and with their children; before, women would have to leave very early in the morning (around 6 AM) in search of water and would return in the afternoon (around 3 PM), exhausted from the long journey. Now, women have time to bond with their family and really be present. To me, having been raised by a mother who dedicated her life for the well being of her children and sacrificed so much to raise us, I know the importance of this change; not only must it mean a lot to the mother to be able to play a more active role in maintaining her household but I can only imagine the positive impact it has on the children.

After we talked to the elder man from Lentani/Ntepes Well, we walked over to a nearby tree where some of the women were resting, waiting for us. There, I had the chance to hear how a well close to their home has transformed their lives. Ellen Lenamarker said that before it was difficult for the elder women to find enough water for their survival; instead they would languish in their homes. We talked with them for a while and before we left, Ellen pulled out a beautiful bracelet and presented it to me as a gift. These women have very little yet they are so generous; they went on to say, that they had just learned that morning I was coming and if they had known before then, they would have brought more gifts. Their willingness to share their possessions with me really touched and moved me. To say it was a bit of a struggle to fit the bracelet on my hand would definitely be accurate. At first glance I thought that was no way I could fit my big hand into such a small opening but after a lot of twisting and pushing, Ellen and I were able to get it past my palm and it is sitting very snuggly on my wrist. Lucas said he will show me how to take it off with soap and water though I am afraid if I take it off, I may never be able to put it on again!

Lastly, I have noticed just how strong the Samburu women are, both physically and mentally. When we were sitting on a fallen tree branch talking to the elder man, a few women walked past us including one who was carrying an enormous load around her head. Lucas also noticed her and after talking to her for a short while found out that she was carrying charcoal to sell in town (as an energy source).

I asked him just how heavy he thought that load was and asked if it was heavier than the heavy luggage I had brought to Kenya (which at the time of arrival was about 50 pounds). Lucas said it was probably double that weight which meant the woman was carrying around 100 pounds on her back!!! I can’t even begin to imagine how heavy that might be. It must take a lot of mental and physical strength to be able to carry this load for a few miles; the thought of carrying that makes me wince at the inevitable strain. It’s things like this that really puts everything into perspective. By this time, I had been carrying my backpack which probably weighed around 10 pounds around for a few hours and I had finally set it next to me. After realizing just how heavy her load was, I was resolved never to complain about how heavy my bag was. Though Lucas has been doing everything in his power to make sure I do not have to walk long distances in the sun, I will not complain if we have to walk even farther distances than what we walked yesterday. If these women can do it for every day of their life, I can put aside all my comfort and do it for three weeks.

So far during my time here in Wamba, I have witnessed women who will dedicate their lives to better the Samburu community at large, who will cook for complete strangers, and who will do whatever it takes to sustain their families. To me, these women are the epitome of strength and devotion. To all the mothers around the world who will do anything to make this world a better place for their children!

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