A Moment with Mama Jane
It was a hot Sunday afternoon on the Mara, the sounds of choir voices spilling from a little church on the hill, when we were fortunate to visit Mama Jane, a Maasai mama and well-respected community leader and advocate for the area's women empowerment programs. Through the work of WE, Mama Jane had been able to save up money to build a small home on her land as well as expand her farm and gain access to clean water.
Mama Jane had started with a cow, and used the proceeds from selling milk to neighbors and at the local market to purchase baby chicks (we estimated those at about 75-cents USD) and then as she sold eggs, was able to purchase other animals such as goats, a donkey and even other cows (which we figured were about $5-600 USD). Her plot of land was modest, but she's certainly using every opportunity to grow her offerings and provide for her family.
During our time together, Mama Jane graciously invited us into her new home, which she'd decorated with paper garlands and newsprint, but the unbelievable part came as she showed us the former dwelling where she had raised her family. The mud and straw hut was very dark, even with the midday sun, and had no ventilation for the fire used for cooking and for heat. The entire family slept together in an upstairs loft, which was covered in ash and soot, with someone keeping an eye on the land and movements of other tribes in the far-stretching Mara.
As if that wasn't real enough, we walked with Mama Jane down a dusty, rocky path to the Mara River, about 1KM from her land, to collect 50-liter jugs of dirty, muddy water. Before WE brought the community access to clean water, Mama Jane would have to make about eight trips in a single day, which was a total distraction while trying to raise a family and get a farm going. As we walked back, the two of us switched off carrying the jug on our backs, but throughout our trip, we saw young women carrying even larger jugs as well as another one (or even a baby) on their front!
Despite her hardships and years of unsettling conditions, Mama Jane had the most positive and sunny outlook on life. She didn't resent where she'd come from but spoke with gratitude for how far she'd come on her journey, certainly well beyond her imagination.