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“Melody stays in School” - Women of the Masai tribe in Kenya

OP work in Kenya. A teen girl who is breaking from tribal customs and working toward a career. Read Transcript


In a small tribal village in Masai, Kenya,

a 14-year-old girl has a dream to be a doctor.

There are lots of odds against her-- tradition, family

history, poverty.

It's a Masai tribal custom for girls

her age to drop out of school and marry.

Their life becomes about cooking, cleaning, making dung

mud huts, raising children.

Melody is one of 12 siblings and the only girl still in school.

Her sisters dropped out and are now married with children.

Melody's mother Nielipo struggles to survive.

Her husband has 12 wives all together,

and he has pretty much abandoned her-- a single mom raising

the remaining four children.

Nielipo graciously invited us into her home--

a hut made from cow dung and mud which she made herself.

It's quite nice inside, but extremely small.

A main area about five by five feet

serves as the kitchen and living area.

A small stone stove takes up most of the floor space,

and I imagine it's difficult to keep

the children from getting burned when there are hot coals.

On her shelves were a few green onion shoots, a few potatoes,

and a small bag of cornmeal, probably

the staple of their diet.

There are three sleeping areas, but two of the beds

serve also as seating in the main area.

And of course, no running water or bathroom facilities.

It's always a humbling experience

to see how people live in extreme poverty.

Nielipo makes beautiful jewelry, and her only income

is to sell it to tourists.

Many people come to see the Messiah people dance

and they buy their beautiful beadwork,

but the competition is very strong

as all the ladies in the village make jewelry and all flock

around any potential buyers.

Nielipo gave us one of her intricately beaded necklaces,

her way of saying thank you for the educational opportunities

we've offered her daughter.

Melody is the first girl in her large family line with a desire

to stay in school.

And while the odds are against her, things are looking up.

Orphan's Promise recently built a new classroom

for the children because on our first visit,

we saw all the kids were crowded into a tiny one-room church.

Teachers were instructing different age groups

in each corner.

It was chaos.

We immediately recognized another need-- water.

We're told getting water from the closest stream

is about a six to eight hour walk, and the risk of lion

and elephant attacks.

Conditions are significantly better

since Orphan's Promise drilled a water well.

Our team that had traveled here a year ago

warned us the village smelled terrible

because the huts are made of cow dung, the people don't bathe,

and the flies are menacing.

When you leave the village, the smell stays on your clothes,

they said.

But now, the opposite is true.

The air is fresher, the flies have diminished,

and the children are clean.

They are healthier and less prone to disease,

such as eye infections that are caused by flies.

Water can alleviate a lot of issues.

Another noticeable change was the growing school population.

We were there to dedicate a new classroom building,

but it was already overcrowded with children.

That day we drew up plans to add another classroom, which

has since been completed.

Children walk a long distance for quality education.

Despite all these children, only a handful are older girls.

Melody has a lot to overcome.

She probably doesn't know what it

will take to become a doctor, but she

has seen so much sickness and death around her

that she wants to make a change.

I think that's a noble idea.

Who gives kids the vision to dream about stuff like this?

I think in Melody's case, it's headmistress Charity,

who is also educated and wants the girls to do more

with their lives.

The teachers here believe in Melody,

and sometimes that's what it takes.

Melody has a dream, and now she has the support

to make it come true.

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