Graeme and Candy

Land & Life sat down with some of our supporters, Graeme and Candy Smith, who are the General Managers at Elewana’s Tortilis Camp in Amboseli. They have taken on a personal responsibility – not simply supporting Land & Life as part of Elewana’s corporate role, but a personal sponsorship of one of the students at the local primary school Kosencha Lemaiyan.
Kosencha has had a rough ride, and now hopefully with the help of Graeme and Candy and the support of the Head teacher at the school, she will be able to complete her education and then go on to give back to this remote community, supporting her own family in her own way.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
We are both originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, and we have travelled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, Middle East, Far East, Australia and USA, spending the last 7 years managing various safari lodges throughout Tanzania. We arrived in May 2017 in Amboseli from Ruaha NP in Southern Tanzania.as new General Managers of EewanaTortilis Camp , Amboseli, Kenya. Both of us are very passionate about wildlife and conservation and and are excited to take over such an amazing lodge in such a fantastic location
Since you arrived in Amboseli, what have you felt has been the biggest challenge facing the local community?
The biggest challenges to the Maasai community since we arrived has undoubtedly been the drought, which had lasted for approximately 3 years until the rains arrived this year. A a lot of their culture revolves around their livestock so the poor condition or death of the cattle has proven hugely stressful and extremely damaging for the community. People have been forced to make very hard choices about how and where to spend what little resource they have, and often this has heart-wrenching results. We have come to understand the financial challenges of supporting, feeding and educating their families, not to mention maintaining their culture and heritage in an increasingly modern world, and feel great empathy for these welcoming people.

How did you become personally involved with Land and Life and what form does your support take?

Kosencha in school uniform

Land & Life has been working at Esiteti Primary School for some time, and have done a lot of work in both building classrooms and such like and channelling donations there for visitors. We happened to be visiting the school on behalf of Land & Life, taking desks that had been donated and meeting the children. We were just about to introduce ourselves to the Head Teacher when we heard the staff discussing a 13 year old girl – they had just stopped the parents from marrying her off and were discussing what to do next.
We had already decided we wanted to get involved with Land & Life, particularly with the work they are doing at Esiteti Primary School. Immediately we volunteered to sponsor this girl to help give her a chance of a good education.
Candy has a history of child development and we were both interested in helping where we could. We then learned her name, Kosencha, pronounced Kosenga. This is very similar to Candy’s mother’s name. Candy’s mother sadly died when Candy was 7 years old and she was called Senga, which is a traditional Scottish name. Knowing this we thought well, this was definitely MEANT to happen!!
So what do you know about Kosencha’s history and what are your future plans for her support?

Kosencha Lemaiyan is now fifteen but when we met her she was just 14 years old. She had been living with her uncle, as her mother was not capable of supporting her and her father has sadly had alcohol problems. Her uncle had recently

Kosencha with Candy

been having financial problems, and so he wanted to marry her off. She did not want to get married and she managed to run away. After failing to garner support from a Rescue Centre in Loitoktok, the HeadTeacher of Esiteti Ms. Phides took her in and she has been in her care ever since.

 
Kosencha has just turned 15 year and she is currently in class 3, so she has another eighteen months or so before she starts secondary school. In her free time, she likes to play football and is a quick runner! She does generally well in most subjects, but her favorite is Science, which is promising!
 
We plan to pay for her education right through until she finishes secondary school, so about another five or six years of support. We try to get to the school as much as possible and take a very keen interest in her and her education. Land & Life monitor her grades and her progress and keep us in the loop with any additional needs she has.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Land & Life does?
The local community really need a helping hand. The people are bright, capable and intelligent but they face hardship every day and struggle to support themselves and their families. Often it is things like education which are seen as optional extras, and it is schools fees, or school support, which is the first to go. Land & Life plays a crucial role in uplifting the communities, turning their schools into places of good quality learning and giving opportunities to children who otherwise would struggle.
This is essential for conservation as well, since it is only through the commitment of the people of Kenya that the wildlife of Kenya stands a chance. By working with Land & Life the students a=are helped to understand the importance of conservation and wildlife, and see for themselves how conservation has direct benefits for themselves and their families.

Graeme and Candy delivering donations to Esiteti Primary

 Do you have a message to share for visitors to East Africa and for other Land & Life supporters?
 It is so very worth it! We are making a tiny difference with our support of Kosencha but we see the real impact of Land & Life and other such organisations’ work on the ground every day. Whoever you choose to support, make sure they are working directly – make sure they are honest and transparent – make sure they are doing their research with the community and will ensure your donation has the most impact possible.   We have  found Land & Life does all these things and are happy to support them. We see many visitors come through Amboseli who want to make a difference, to conserve wildlife, protect beautiful Kenya and life up the local communities. In our experience, Land & Life can help this to happen!

Land & Life Foundation was happy to help host the 10th Anniversary Celebrations for the Plaster House Arusha on Saturday March 17th. The event was held at Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge, who generously provided the venue and all the food and much of the drinks for the evening. Wine was also provided by Red & White.

 

The event was a huge success, attracting over 100 guests who arrived at 6pm and stayed until late. Many sponsors supported the evening with generous donations, allowing a silent auction to be held. Guests were able to bid on wonderful weekends away in destinations across Tanzania and even as far as Uganda and Zanzibar. Other items on offer, thanks to supporters and donors, included hampers of wine, Lebanese food, pieces of art and beautiful household products.

 

An exciting live auction was also held, with guests bidding furiously on a wonderful package including a flights and accommodation for a family of four into the Serengeti. After some tense moments and great excitement, the holiday was bought for an incredible $7000!

The evening raised over $30,000 for the Plaster House. This is a phenomenal achievement and will allow the team to renovate their existing vehicles, making them not only road worthy but safe and sturdy for their young poorly passengers.

Land & Life is delighted to have been able to assist once again and we look forward to much mroe support for PLaster House in the years to come.

 

March 22nd saw the celebration world wide of UN World Water Day 2018. This year the theme was The Answer is in Nature – a principle with which we entirely agree! The concept explores how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century. Here in East Africa the problems of the world water crises are in evidence every single day, and affect both people and wildlife on a daily basis.

From the severe droughts experienced in recent years, to the heavy flooding in both remote and rural areas, the challenges run deep. Environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world. Floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes. When we neglect our ecosystems, we make it harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive.

Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.

 

 

These concepts are all ones we have explored this term with our Wildlife Warrior Clubs. During sessions in each school, our team has discussed the causes and impacts of flooding and drought, drought resilience and locally appropriate ways to manage and conserve water. At the end of each session, the children were set an essay relating to the theme, and given a few weeks to write and submit their entries.

 

 

We had some excellent entries from groups of children in Ura Gate Primary, Esiteti Primary and in Kachiuru Primary; we had individual entries from students in Mwaroni Primary and Esiteti Primary. The range of entries has been impressive and it has taken our team some time to work through all of them and choose ones which are worthy of special mention – so many of the essays were brilliantly written, demonstrating a remarkable grasp of the issues at hand. What was even more interesting was how much the children had understood and could discuss the issues and solutions relevant to their own local communities – ideas which we had hardly covered, but they were able to contribute from their own experience and ideas.

So without further ado we are delighted to announce the following :
Winner –  Group  Work 
Esiteti Primary – Donkey Group
 
Winners – Individual
1st : Mwaroni Primary – Peter Oscar Otieno
2nd : Ura Gate Primary- Dorcus Kagendo Nyagah
Each winner will receive a small gift pack containing a school bag, a geometrical set, a special silver trophy, a scientific calculator and a UN certificate of participation in the World Water Day Challenge.
The winners will also be rewarded with a trip to their nearest Elewana Property and a game drive with a  professional guide.
Well done to Esiteti Primary Donkey Group, and to Peter and Dorcas – we are very proud of you!

This month saw Mwaroni Primary School in Diani join the Wildlife Warrior Program for real. Steve and Millicent from Land & Life visited the school and had a meeting with the school committee and the staff. Once the discussion was completed, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed, ensuring both school and Land & Life are on the same page going forwards. These agreements help Land & Life to ensure that all donations received on behalf of the school are spent on worthwhile projects chosen in consultation with the school committee and the teachers. It is crucial to have these agreements, to make sure funds are spent wisely and transparently, and have maximum benefit for the whole community.

 

Once the admin was over, the fun could begin! Mwaroni already had its own internal wildlife and environmental club, and its members were thrilled to see further attention being paid to their interest area. With the addition of Class 7 and 8 students, the numbers of the club members increased dramatically. Steve and Millicent started the session, on Water Conservation and Drought Resilience, and screened a David Attenborough video as well. The students thoroughly enjoyed the day, and got involved in all aspects of the activities.

 

 

After the Wildlife Warrior Club session, the children sat down and immediately wrote their essays for the World Water Day essay competition – too eager to wait until they got home, they handed in their entries before Steve and Millicent even had time to pack up!

 

While we always enjoy holding these sessions, this one was a particular joy. The children were so incredibly excited, and it is great to be a part of something as exciting as bringing a new school on board. The future success of the Program here in Diani depends on a regular flow of donations to support the school infrastructure and the conservation education activities here. If you or someone you know has a particular interest in Diani and its locale, or simply would like to help these bright young students grow and learn, please do click here and make a contribution. We are grateful for every donation :)

In partnership with the Lewa Digital Education Program, Land & Life is very excited to have started the new digital literacy training program. The Government of Kenya’s amazing provision of tablets to primary schools across the country has been rolled out and now we have been able to help some of the schools get started with using them.

 

 

The first school to benefit has been Esiteti Primary in Amboseli. There two trainers from Lewa arrived with Steve from Land & Life and conducted  a two day training session with both students and teachers. Everyone was shown how to use the tablets and access the resources provided by the Government and the teachers were trained on teaching entire lessons with the tablets. It was a hugely successful event and we look forward to repeating the training at our other Wildlife Warrior Schools.

 

 

The next step at Esiteti is to be the purchase of an Annotator device which will allow the teachers to utilise the interactive whiteboard feature in class. We are also purchasing a wifi router to provide the school, for the first time, with access to the internet.

 

This will also have the added benefit of letting the Lewa training team conduct updates and further training remotely.

 

Watch this space for more updates, and please do contact us if you would like to get involved and support this amazing development