he Maasai are one of the approximately 70 tribal groups in Kenya. Concentrated in the Rift Valley region, much of the community has clung to its traditional lifestyle despite the modernization of the rest of the country. The community retains a pastoral tradition, with the men becoming herders, while women take care of households and farms. With such an emphasis on physical labor, there is no place in the community for the disabled. Moreover, the nomadic lifestyle has made access to education poor for a large proportion of the youth. This situation is further worsened for orphaned and disabled children. The Tania Integrated Rehabilitation Centre, located in Kiserian, Kenya has stepped in to fill this gap.
Established and run by local residents, the Centre seeks to provide marginalized Maasai children with education and equip them with skills to become contributing members of society. It currently serves 165 children, approximately 50 percent of whom are handicapped (the majority being hearing impaired). In keeping with this mission, the Centre seeks to become a modern, sustainable outfit.
UT for REED has embarked on a new initiative, The Kenya Project, to assist the Tania Centre in its bid to establish sustainability. With its reliance on donations, the Tania Centre has few income-generating sources and, as a result, difficulty in retaining special teachers, buying educational material, etc. However, the Center has a huge asset in its fertile land, which it hopes to cultivate to stabilize the food supply and to sell surplus crops for profit. In order for this to succeed, the crops will require a steady water supply, which is often lacking due to drought. In addition to the irregular water supply, the Tania Center is facing a reduction in the water table, which can only be accessed via the construction of a deeper well. UT for REED brought this need to the attention of an Austin-based nonprofit, Well Aware, which will be independently constructing a well that will supply both the Center and the surrounding area with a more steady source of water.
In addition, UT for REED will be traveling to the region in January to install a drip irrigation system that will ensure a steady water supply to enable the cultivation of the land. This will provide the center with an adequate
food supply and the opportunity to sell excess crop in nearby markets. Ms. Brio Yiapan, owner and founder of Bush Baby Beer, is also working with REED to help fundraise and bring publicity to this portion of the project; through this partnership, we hope to bring a sustainable source of food and income for the Centre.
Working with UT and Kenyan audiologists, REED is further bringing hearing aids and testing equipment to identify and treat early-onset deafness. The Feminine Alliance has also joined the project to provide health and sex education for the women and children of the center.
UT for REED believes that working with the Tania Centre will enable improvements in the quality of local children’s lives, provide the community with access to clean water, and establish self-sustenance for the Centre.