How Maasai Cultural Exchange Project Began

A Chance Meeting Brings History

It was a Spring day in 2004 when the Maasai met Phyllis Eckelmeyer. She was at the Hamilton, NJ train station waiting to travel to New York City. She noticed five Maasai men in traditional garb standing on the platform.

It was by coincidence that Phyllis' daughter Allyson, was leaving for Kenya the following week to teach chemistry at the Rift Valley Academy. Instinctively, Phyllis introduced herself to these Maasai. They told her they were traveling to New York to attend the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. Francis ole Sakuda, spokesman for the men, said they were Maasai from the Rift Valley in Kenya. They knew the school where Allyson would be teaching for the next year. Francis, fluent in English shared his email address with Phyllis which led to a dinner invitation at the Eckelmeyer home the following evening. It was then that the Maasai guests described their desperate need for water, education for their children and an eagerness to empower the Maasai women of the tribe. The next year a non-profit was formed and the rest is history. 




Since 2004, MCEP's programs have helped bring life-sustaining changes to the Maasai.

* There are now seven water wells in Maasailand improving health and living standards and giving women more time to spend on other sustainable work and education opportunities.

* There is better infrastructure with miles of pipeline and hundreds of cisterns reaching out to schools and infirmaries.

* Three greenhouses have been funded and built to grow and sell vegetables to improve nutrition and produce added household income.

* Maasai women sell intricate beadwork to raise funds for their children's education. MCEP introduced them to a business opportunity which led to the formation of women cooperatives. Women were taught to make and export a specialty hair comb called Hairzing on an American home shopping channel. This led to further cooperatives.

* Women's groups also plant and sell crops using drip irrigation for watering crops.

* Poultry and Eggs are now being raised and sold to add to food security. 

* Education funds have helped over 100 primary students further their education to high school and even college.

* Original Maasai folktale (The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel) was translated into 2 versions: English and Swahili and also English and Maa, the indigenous Maasai language. The Maa translation is vital to the Maasai effort to preserve their mother tongue and unique culture. The folktale has been used in hundreds of schools, churches and community programs in America and Maasailand to teach lessons about bullying, courage and justice.

* Maasai guests have been hosted over a dozen times in the USA since 2004 and have captured the interest of over ten thousand school children, civic groups, church and community groups doing cultural presentations.


* In return, many American visitors have travelled to the Maasai village in Kenya and been hosted by our friends. Students and faculty from Buckingham Friends School and families who have met the Maasai have been welcomed.


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Mailing Address: 4391 Mechanicsville Rd

Doylestown, PA 18902 USA