In 2000 my wife Diane and I made our first trip to Africa. We are an example of what happens to people who go to Africa – it gets under your skin. While the African wildlife and wilderness is magical, it is your bond with the people you meet that will last a lifetime. There we have made friends with people who have nothing by American standards, yet are the richest people in the world. Like so many others, we wanted to do something to give back for the wonderful experiences we have in operating our safari company.
When we returned from Africa it was time to go holiday shopping. In addition to my kids the most important person to shop for is our dog Heidi (who like my wife is a journalist in her own right and rights a column. In searching on the web we found an organization called Beads For Education a group that raises money to send Maasai girls to school. One of the ways they do that is to sell Maasai beaded dog collars, which we promptly purchased for Heidi and some of her friends.
From that we came to know Debby Rooney, the amazing founder of BEADS. While many of BEADS supporters were women Debby asked me if I would be interested in supporting the education of a Maasai warrior who wanted to go to college. She introduced me to Patrick Papatiti, an amazing Maasai warrior. Patrick is going to the United States International University in Nairobi and is scheduled to graduate this year.
Patrick is an incredible person – comfortable in his Maasai ways as well as one who also lives part of the time in Nairobi. While he may dress differently depending on where he is the one thing that amused me was that he and his fellow warriors were never without one important thing – no not a spear, or walking stick, but a cell phone! It is amazing to me that I can email with Patrick from his phone. He has wonderful ideas for his village and himself including possibly running for office, starting a business (we are working on an exciting project together that will involve beads and dogs – stay tuned) and finding ways to fund the education of the children of his village (stay tuned for that too). We had the chance to meet in person a couple of times and recently I went and stayed with him at is village (more to come about that incredible experience).
But most importantly I am proud to call Patrick my “rafiki” – my friend.