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Robert Keller: Kenyan adventure shows people in need

5:55 PM, Mar. 18, 2013  |  Comments
Zebras in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
Zebras in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

My wife, Lynne, and I recently returned from a trip to Kenya that was highlighted by helping others and a safari.

Some years back, we decided to build a medical clinic in a remote region on property owned by the Anglican Church. Each year, we would send money and get a progress report. In 2012, the clinic structure was completed and we were invited to the dedication by Bishop Timothy Ranji.

We left for Kenya on Sept. 12, a Wednesday, and the dedication was on Saturday. The clinic is west of Nairobi and next to a small Anglican Church that serves the Maasai community. We also attended Sunday church service and were honored with Maasai song and dance. This was truly "out of Africa" and the location isn't far from the site of the movie.

It became obvious that these people also needed water. Within a few hours, Lynne and I made a decision to finance and build a well for the community. At the present time, these people rely on rainwater in a semi-arid region.

The following week was spent on safari in the famous Maasai Mara game reserve. The roads were poor, the view breathtaking and the animals abundant.

The park is located in the Great Rift Valley (6,000-feet elevation) and includes Maasai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania. The Mara River separates the two. This is the location of the great migration each year.

Our days were spent in a safari vehicle that's designed for bad roads, and featured an elevated roof for animal viewing and photos. We observed thousands and thousands of animals - herds of elephant, giraffe, Cape buffalo, zebra, impala and wildebeest.

While viewing zebra drinking at the Mara River, we witnessed a crocodile grab a zebra by the neck and successfully kill the animal with the help of a second crocodile. The struggle lasted a few minutes and we could hear the zebra gasp for air.

There was a Maasai village near the park entrance. They graze their goats in the park during daylight hours and return the goats to the village at night. As we might think, lions and other cats follow these animals and often kill a goat or two. The Maasai seek out and kill a lion following each attack. As a result, the lion population is in decline.

The Maasai people are as interesting as the park animals. These nomads are herdsmen, and live with and off their small herd of goats. Their only other possessions are the bright-colored clothes and a spear. They drink each day from the river, and eat goat meat and drink milk from the herd.

Their villages are built to protect livestock from the animals. Each village has a fenced-in area and a large circular open area for ceremonies and protection. Huts are made of mud and are very small. Villages are moved every nine years because of termites.

With the recent importance placed on schools for the children, the Maasai are becoming less nomadic over time. The challenges with this trend include population increase, community leadership and development.

We returned home after two weeks of mission work and adventure. This was a trip of a lifetime.

- Robert Keller is a Kaukauna resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. He can be reached at pcletters@postcrescent.com

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