Our featured heroine is Elaine Bannon who has been instrumental in projects that have helped the society especially Loitokitok soar into greater heights of success. She, and two of her workmates [Joseph Nkanoni and Jonathon Kipanu] founded the Light of Maasai which is a registered charity in Ireland and a registered CBO here in Kenya. As described from their website http://www.lightofmaasai.com, the Light of Maasai is a not-for-profit charitable organisation that gives no bias to religion, politics, race, social status, color, gender, nationality, disability or ability.
The following is a written interview I had with Elaine. She talks more of who she is, where she was raised up and what are her goals and aspirations with Loitokitok and the Light of Maasai.
SECTION ONE [PERSONAL DETAILS]
1. What are your full names?
2. Where were you born and raised up?
I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland.
3. Did you have any goals and visions as you grew up? Did you have a mentor someone you looked up to?
My mother and father were great mentors for me. My Dad was very much a community person and helped form a neighborhood association which went on to form Football, volleyball, swimming and other clubs for the children of our estate. Many young men came to him for advice and help when they had problems. My mum started her own small program when she collected money and food from all the neighbors and gave to other neighbors who were undergoing economic problems. She did it without anybody knowing who was the recipient so that people were not ashamed when they were having problems. She constantly worked and assisted with the household bills and was always there from my brother and I. Our house was more than home for the neighborhood children who frequently gathered because they felt comfortable with my mum and dad. They are great parents and great people. I also greatly admired an Irish woman named Christina Noble. She had an awful childhood, lived homeless, was in an orphanage, was raped and then married a man who beat her regularly but in her 40’s she went to Vietnam to help the street children. She is inspirational.
I was always involved in organizations which helped the community when I was growing up, I was a member of Amnesty International, and always hoped to see a day when people of all ages, races, cultures and color could live together in peace.
SECTION TWO [SOCIETY]
1. What is your view on Loitokitok, current state; financially, politically etc. Is it able to produce a generation that will impact the society? What is it that has to change for a better Loitokitok?
Loitokitok area is undoubtedly slowly improving. In the 11 years I have lived in the area, I have seen many changes. The improved infrastructure has made a difference. Free education will eventually impact the area. We are very able to produce a generation that will greatly impact society. More and more youth have a social conscience, more and more are striving for improved standard of living. All of this comes from education and we are producing well educated young men and women who will go on to effect changes in their homes, this will in turn spread to the area at large and slowly we will uplift the area.
2.How does what you do impact the society? How have you been an inspiration to the society?
The work of Light of Maasai has had an impact in helping improve the lives of women and children. New sources of water means women walk shorter distances to fetch water daily therefore they have more time for improving their lives economically. The schools we have built in areas such as Moilo and Lemongo have given more children an opportunity to get education. The clinics which we fitted out at Maili Tatu and Njukini have provided health care to thousands of people who previously walked for miles to receive treatment. It has also worked hand in hand with the relevant government offices to ensure that the projects are sustainable.
I am not sure that I have been an inspiration to the society but I hope that I have helped ease their hardships.
SECTION THREE [WHAT YOU DO]
1. What is Light Of Maasai and how are you affiliated to it?
Light of Maasai is a registered charity in Ireland and a registered CBO here in Kenya. Joseph Nkanoni, Jonathon Kipanu and I are among the founding members. Our area of focus is water, health and education.
2. The mission of Light of Maasai according to your website is to alleviate poverty and the hardship of everyday life. How do you achieve or plan to achieve this while many of our local organizations efforts have proved futile?
We hope to achieve this by improving the daily lives of the people. This is achieved by improving sources of water, improving the access to health care and providing access to education at a more local level. We can’t change the world but if we can improve the life of one family then we will not have failed in our mission. We don’t work outside our small area as we are very familiar with the problems of the people. If we can be pro-active instead of re-active we can hopefully make a difference. So instead of giving relief food, we can provide sand dams so that people can grow their own crops and won’t need relief food.
3. What motivated you and your team to start this project? Why did it have to be in Kenya and necessarily in Oloitokitok?
I decided to come to Kenya after coming for a holiday here, initially I was involved in a help project in Mombasa. When I returned to Ireland from my holiday I was a bit disillusioned by how much we had and how little others had and decided to come for one year to try and give back something to the society. My team, all from Rombo were anxious to see change for their community. They had been trying to uplift the Rombo Maasai community through providing employment, working with other NGO’s and the Catholic Church. I was invited to come and visit Rombo while I was working with the project in Mombasa. I loved the area and paid frequent visits during that first year. My friends suggested that as soon as I exhausted my year in Mombasa, I should consider coming to Rombo and get involved in a project that will help the society. I have been here ever since.
4. I believe you have faced many challenges in implementing the tasks of the ‘Light of Maasai’ have these challenges given you a thought to quit? How did you go about these challenges? What gives you the motive to pursue despite challenges
I have had many challenges that the thought of quitting ceased not to cross my mind. My team have been the supporting pillar and they have always uplifted me during those rough and challenging times. I try as much to involve the community in a project so that they understand it and acknowledge it as theirs. It is also very hard to get funding at the moment as there is a worldwide financial crisis and we are trying our best to do as much as we can with less finances and get more community input to sustain the projects. This is a huge challenge, but we keep moving forward and greatly hope that the future generation will appreciate what we have done.
5. What is the future of Light Of Maasai?
This is a difficult question to answer as every project we undertake is funded. Hopefully, we will continue to make a small difference and contribute to our community.
6. Give Loitokitok residents an inspirational note. For those who think that they have reached the peak of life and cannot make it no more.
I always find the Serenity prayer helpful.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Loitokitok is beautiful place as Elaine states, She has lived here for 11 years. What exactly are our weaknesses as people from Loitokitok? Do we focus on our own selves that we forget of the suffering neighbor? Do we ignore the cry of the innocent women or the rumbling of the hungry stomachs and focus on our own personal gain? It is time to change! We need lights of the society. We need mentors. We need role models. We need a beloved community relating together as a family.
Check out http://lightofmaasai.com for projects they have undertaken for the change they have impacted in the society and if it is from your HEART, donate!