What Diane Raleigh thought would be a turnout of about 20 local Maasai leaders instead swelled to an overflow crowd of 140 men and women – all squeezed into the one-room Olmoti kindergarten, all hungry for information on educating their kids. They trudged in from miles around, their sandals dusty from the trek, eager to hear Diane’s plans for a new primary school next to Olmoti Clinic.
In fact, the inspiration for the school had come from the local mothers themselves. On a 2015 visit, Diane chatted with a group of women about their lives, their hopes and needs. They told her they were delighted with the health services now offered at Olmoti Clinic, but they had a different problem. Their young children were not going to school. The nearest primary school was many kilometers away and the walk was too long and precarious for the little ones. By the time they were old enough to make the journey, they had missed the crucial formative first years of school.
Diane immediately set about finding what it would take to construct a primary school in the heart of Olmoti. She learned that procuring the basic supplies --a simple foundation, cinderblocks for walls, a roof with solar panels--was entirely doable with the help of donors. Once a school was built, the regional education department would supply the desks and teachers.
The project was a huge success and the school began enrolling children in July of 2016.
What was never in question was that the people of Olmoti would respond, and they outdid themselves when they met with Diane in March of 2016. Enthusiastic about the life-transforming benefits of the Olmoti Clinic itself and the new water pipeline, they peppered her with thanks for her commitment to their community.
What happened next affirmed their gratitude, and more. Demonstrating their own commitment to the project and their faith in Diane and the Olmoti Trust, the Maasai announced that they would take responsibility for building the school’s latrines. One by one they stood and pledged to purchase cinderblocks. They volunteered to buy the cement. They pulled shillings from their pockets. After the women gathered the crumpled bills in their cloaks, the total was $800, an enormous sum in this tiny community. Capping the generosity of the meeting, four goats were donated to the cause. The solidarity of the Maasai meant that the new school would launch with two primary-level classrooms.
As the group feasted on a goat slaughtered for the celebratory occasion, it was clear that the Maasai themselves would ensure the sustainability of both their clinic and their new school.