Mama Maji & Me

Hey, I’m Gianna! One of my biggest goals in life is to be a globally connected human in a hands on way. I just completed my sophomore year at Tulane as an anthropology major, and in my studies I am learning how to live and engage with diverse communities without imposing my values. This is a vital skill for anyone working abroad, and I hope to join the Peace Corps after graduation, so gaining this knowledge is definitely key for my future.

Last summer I traveled to Kenya to visit Daylight, a school my friends Nathan and Michael started in rural Kapenguria. There I learned about the importance of listening to what a community needs and wants as opposed to what you as an outsider objectively feel like giving. Sustainable development is all about working as a team to consider the long term impacts of a project.

Here’s a few pictures of the Daylight students:


How could I not fall in love with these kids?

My trip to Kenya magnified my passion- my passion for life: finding happiness, and helping others. The students, teachers, and workers at Daylight inspired me through their embodiment of the resilience of the human spirit.No matter what they have gone through- tribal warfare, being orphaned, extreme poverty, or walking 10 miles to school each day, their bright eyes and gigantic smiles remain. The energy and commitment these students put into their studies is astounding. The general population of American kids (including me) has something to learn from them.It’s so easy to take school for granted, but education is the key to learning about yourself and discovering the world. Anyways, I’m rambling. I could talk about this stuff all day.

This summer I’m interning with Mama Maji. I was super excited when I discovered this organization on the list of places looking for Tulane interns because Mama Maji works in Kenya! Mama Maji is a non-profit whose mission is to “empower women to change their world through water.” They mainly work with communities in Kisumu, Kenya, but are expanding their efforts to anywhere that demonstrates a need for clean water infrastructure and a reaches out to Mama Maji. Their first project was in 2012 building a well in the rural community of Chiga. But Mama Maji is about much more than just building wells. They seek out women leaders in communities and engage them in workshops to learn business skills. These business skills in combination with the women’s preexisting knowledge of water management are the tools they need to facilitate positive development in their communities.

Here’s a link to Mama Maji’s website: Mama Maji

During my internship this summer I will not be traveling to Kenya, but I will be helping with implementation of programs with the similar aims. The workshops in New Orleans, same as the workshops in Kenya, are focused on encouraging women leaders and helping them to develop their skills. Currently, Mama Maji is leading a project at Ben Franklin Elementary to engage young potential engineers by teaching them about irrigation and water conservation through the growth of a community garden.

To prepare for my internship and reflect upon what I want to gain from the experience I have compiled a list of 5 learning objectives:

  1. Learn more about how a non-profit is run.
  2. Build my confidence in sharing ideas.
  3. Improve my leadership skills by organizing projects and communicating with large groups.
  4. Establish relationships with New Orleans teachers, students, and community partners.
  5. Build connections with work in Kenya through Mama Maji which I can maintain and further develop in the coming years.

The thought of my future with Mama Maji makes me so happy. My passion is connecting with people globally through non-profit work (specifically in Kenya!). Mama Maji’s mission and mine align beautifully.

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