I am Debby Rooney and the Co-founder of BEADS for Education. I first visited Kenya in 1991 - I thought I was just going on vacation to see the wild animals. And then I met the beautiful Maasai people whose traditional lands surround the game parks. In fact, it is due to the Maasai’s lifestyle of neither hunting wild animals for food or using the land for farming that so many of the beautiful game parks remain today. I knew immediately that I wanted to help save the land and improve the standard of living for the Maasai. I began working on women’s business development and girls’ education.
When I first visited, Kenya was a dictatorship under Arap Moi. Often, I was scared and not able to pursue my true goals of girls’ education. It was deemed unrealistic to even visit a school so I began with developing new products for the Maasai women’s beading groups. I wanted to support their traditional art of beading but to make their products marketable to a larger audience. We began with dog collars. I will never forget the laughter from the Maasai women when I said that Americans would like beaded dog collars – they knew a belt was nice but why would a dog wear a beaded (belt) dog collar. Soon they said, “Now you will probably tell us your dogs have doctors!” What could I say!
In 1998, the dictatorship was beginning to wane. One day, while the women were beading, I asked if it would help to sponsor their daughter’s education. Before I could catch my breath, I was at Florence Nasoore’s home. Florence was just finishing 8th grade and her father was looking for a husband for her. No girl in their family had ever finished elementary school and he saw no reason that she should continue. But Florence and her mother were determined that she would continue. Florence completed high school with honors and in 2006 continued to the University of Nairobi to study math and science. She graduated in 2010 and is now a math and science teacher in a high school close to her home. Florence epitomizes our dreams of success for our sponsored girls.
Florence wrote a very moving story about the day she got her sponsorship called Marriage which is posted on our website.
Florence is the first of our sponsored girls which now number 320 including 6 college graduates.
Our first college graduate works for BEADS for Education as the Program Manager in Kenya supervising all of our girls and programs. We boast a pharmacist and several teachers.
Traditionally , Maasai girls (85% of our sponsored girls are Maasai) marry as young as age of 13, often in an arranged marriage, and become the second or third wife to a 30 plus year old man, bear as many children as possible – as most of our sponsored girls older sisters have done. Since most Maasai cannot live as traditional pastoralists anymore THIS is a sentence to poverty. Our girls have the opportunity to complete their education, become the sole wife to a man of their choice, choose a career and have a positive impact on the environment and their standard of living. An educated woman usually educates all of her children both boys and girls.
Each time I match a girl with a sponsor, I know her life will be changed forever by this amazing opportunity. Like I do with the college graduates, one day I will share a cup of tea with her at her work and marvel at the girl’s success. This has truly been a gift to me.
BEADS Programs are designed to provide the girls with all the skills necessary to become LEADERS in their communities and ultimately to become the next leaders of Kenya!
Our programs include improving the quality of education, human rights awareness, community service, and environmental education. Our libraries are amazing stocked with over 10,000 volumes of classic literature.
VOLUNTEERISM by the sponsored GIRLS
Each sponsored girl, who graduates from high school, works as a teacher intern for one year in the remote public schools before she qualifies to enroll in college with a BEADS sponsorship. . Our teaching interns are usually the only teacher in their class room. To date, more than 33 interns have spent one year teaching in the public schools reaching 1000’s of students. One intern said, “I am so proud to help my Maasai community and I will never stop helping them. That is what I learned when I was working as a teaching intern in Amboseli National Park.”
LIBRARY – READING AND WRITING PROGRAMS
To develop critical and creative thinkers. BEADS has developed two libraries with 10,000 volumes of classic children’s literature and a complement of literature for adults and teaching staff. Our libraries are unique in Kenya. BEADS programs include an extensive reading and creative writing program which is also unique in the Kenyan curriculum. Teaching inter Rachael says, “When I read Ann Franks’ story, I knew with determination I could do anything.” Please read the article by Beryl, a 7th grade student who read Nelson Mandela’s and Martin Luther King’s biographies in our library called I Have a Dream on our website.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND RECYCLED ART
Our environmental education program includes study of the local flora and fauna including fields trips to provide a personal experience for the students. Many students have never even seen an elephant! Students participate in planting trees in the local community in addition to learning basic agriculture and husbandry. Environmental education includes town clean up and a recycled art program which also provides artwork for the classrooms and toys for the younger students. We love the 8 foot tall paper mache giraffe made from old workbooks.
BEADS for Education is a non profit 501 (c)(3) organization coufounded in 1998 by Debby Rooney and Lisa Stevens. Lisa is the Curator of Primates and Pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Board of Trustee members include: Dr Helen Gichohi, President of AWF, and Cynthia Moss – Amboseli Elephant Trust.
Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org