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Volunteering in the Maasai Mara

The idea I had in doing the blog was to write about life here in the Maasai Mara and so, it is not just animals that live here. Apart from looking after our guests and going out into the reserve to spend time with the animals there are other things going on. Sometimes even visitors come here to do other things, in addition to going out on game drives.

Currently we have two visitors staying with us, Fred and Tijda from the Netherlands. They have certain skills that they are willing to share with the Local Maasai. Tijda is a physiotherapist and wanted to put her skills to use to help local people, so she volunteered her services, free of charge, to the local hospital. We spoke to the doctor at the local hospital, and he organized a clinic so that people who needed treatment could come. The clinic ran for a week and during this time many people, including mothers with young children turned up, often travelling long distances to get this help. Tijda met with the doctor and the team she would be working with, which consisted of a nurse and a physiotherapist that had been sent to our village from Narok for the week. Fred volunteered his wide ranging skills at the local primary school.

Every morning at 8.30am we would drive Fred and Tijda down to the hospital and school and pick them up again at around 4pm so they both did a full day’s work.

After the first day at the hospital Tijda had assessed how the team treated the patients and had a few suggestions as to how they might improve things. Since there is no equipment available for them to use and many of the patients were children, she had the idea of making a few simple objects with things lying around that would hopefully engage the child in their exercises.

They made use of some surgical gloves by blowing them up like a balloon, these were soft to the touch and were used for the children to squeeze, they took a small length of plastic water pipe and hung bottle tops and other small items from it to get the children to focus and reach for them, there was a plastic bottle with a few stones inside that made a noise when it was shaken and bits of soft plastic that made a noise when scrunched up, also they made a roll out of 2 spare leg braces that was stuffed with plaster of paris, this was used for support on the stomach when trying to crawl. All the ‘equipment was stored in a cardboard box at the end of the day, labelled occupational therapy tools. Some of the children she worked with were very handicapped but even so after a short period of time she started to notice small differences, things they had achieved, one boy was even laughing by the end of the week.

 

Meanwhile Fred was engaging with the children, they put him with classes two and three that is 7- to 8-year-olds. He jumped straight in and taught them English and Maths, did the marking and other tasks that teachers need to do. It was funny to think that a Dutch person was teaching English to Maasai children!

Not all the activities were carried out in the classroom, there was also time for sports, where he showed the children the importance of warming up exercises, there was football, or at least the Maasai version of football where everyone chases after the ball which inevitably ends in a sort of scrum. Then there was a bit of volleyball and some running. Fred was challenged to a race by a girl in which he came a not so close second, however at 70 years of age there is no shame in that. He also attempted to explain why plastics were He also attempted to explain why plastics were bad for the environment and why they shouldn’t be thrown into the streets or the bush, but this was an uphill struggle. At the end of lessons, he even entertained the children by playing some Maasai music, which he had on his ipad and attempting to do Maasai dancing with them. Needless to say, they loved Fred teaching them and he also got on very well with the teaching staff.

Both Fred and Tijda thoroughly enjoyed their week working with the Maasai, and the clinic was such a success that they plan on returning next year to do it again. Now they have time for a few game drives and nature walks before returning home to the Netherlands.

3 replies on “Volunteering in the Maasai Mara”

Absolutely brilliant, what a great idea to help out this way. It puts it all into perspective the remoteness of the area, we take for granted having hospital equipment but the Maasai can’t do that. To show them how to do makeshift equipment is a step in the right direction for the Maasai at least. What an amazing couple these people are. Hopefully they come back again next year and maybe more volunteers might come forward and give there skills and services to the area. Thank you Marie for keeping us all in the picture again.

Many people just talk, its nice to see that this Dutch couple put words into action. If the world had more people like them it would be a better place. You do make a difference.

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