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!
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