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KENYA DIARY

KENYA: DAY FOUR. "EVENING"

Catt Sadler

As if our day wasn’t interesting enough, we had an opportunity to head into a Maasai village tonight. We were welcomed very warmly by the men of the group who first performed a typical “jumping” ceremony. (See my instagram for a video.) It was unreal! They explained that this jumping practice was a regular occurance and that the higher the man jumps, the more girlfriends he can acquire. Polygamy is celebrated here. Many of the men have a number of wives and girlfriends. The males are definitely the dominants and the females are left to make babies and care for the children.

CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA

I learned an immense amount about these kind, beautiful people and am thankful for the visit. Truth be told though, once again, witnessing their living conditions was really difficult. You just can’t possibly conceive what it must be like to exist like this. One the one hand it’s devastating. The hut you see in the photo sometimes houses a family of 10. There of course is no electricity, no running water. The floors are made of mud and the cots for sleeping are only covered by cow skin - no mattresses. There is this overwhelming desperation for money. Showing up as “the white man” or “zungu” as they call us feels somewhat uncomfortable to be honest. I can’t help but wonder what they hear about Americans, what conclusions they draw about our affluent society, and what they particularly make a of a group of white chicks with cameras ascending on their village with stuffed pocketbooks. I was happy to shop their market which wSome really special pieces about my memorable time there. 

CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA

I left the village feeling sad about the kids who don’t have shoes, are covered flies, and are regularly stepping over animal dung. But…. this is their life. They love their people, their village, their community. I gave them my love, said a prayer, and will cherish the memories. 

Tomorrow we travel 8 hours by van to Lake Victoria. The journey continues to unfold. 

CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA
CATT SADLER CATT TALES CATTWALK KENYA

KENYA: DAY FOUR. "FAITH"

Catt Sadler

It’s hard to put into words what today was like. It isn’t one I’ll soon forget. 

The all female group I’m traveling with on this trip, there are 17 of us, packed into our three vehicles and traveled about 15 km down the road from our tented camp towards the Olmalaika Home. This would be the first real on the ground outreach our foundation would be doing on the trip. We were all a little anxious and certainly excited to meet the girls and learn about their existence here. 

CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK

My mom, who again is the head of our foundation, introduced us to the beautiful man with the brightest eyes and deepest laugh.  Dr. Marcos would be our leader for the day. He explained the history of the school to us, who these precious girls are, and why our visit would be so meaningful. In a nutshell, the girls at Olmalaika have been rescued from their communities because many of them were suffering from lack of education, extreme poverty, and the majority of them victims of Female Genital Mutilation. This cultural tradition if you are unfamiliar, is very controversial. Most see this as a barbaric, painful, demeaning practice and want to see it eradicated. But believe it or not, even the grown women within the community sometimes encourage this act because it means their daughters are more valuable. If they’ve been circumsized then they can be married. If they are desirable for marriage, then the families receive money and/or a number of cows (which are considered sacred and valuable here). I am no expert on this subject but this is my understanding as of now.

What transpired when we got to the school was beautiful in every way. The girls sang for us and then we broke into groups and experienced life as they know it. We washed clothes with them, helped them prepare lunch, participated in beadwork, and fetched water from the river. I spent most of my time washing clothes and whoa, I mean, what a wimp I am. These girls were bent over in the heat, laser focused on the task before them and washed the clothes in an assembly line fashion that they had down to a science. I kept imagining how my boys would do at this chore and sorry, but they wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Their mother was struggling herself! The girls go about their work without complaint, smiling, talking, and this time mostly giggling at my poor technique. 

I believe I mentioned we are making a documentary about our travels, directed and produced by Women Like Us board member, the incomparable Sally Colon Petree. So while we were there at the home I conducted a few interviews. First, with Faith, the girl with the voice of an angel. She is the song leader and has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. She is 12 years old and bravely shared her story with me. Mostly about her life before the Olmalaika Home and her life now. She made it painfully clear that in her past life she couldn’t receive an education. Her father died when she was small and her single mother couldn’t pay for her schooling. Faith wants to be a doctor and believes within her soul that this is her right, her future. She is highly disciplined in her every move but also one of the warmest humans I’ve ever come in contact with. Her story didn’t make me sad, but so hopeful. 

CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK

Next I interviewed 14 year old Jacquelyn. What a stunningly beautiful and very tall girl. She had only been at the home a year and a half. She was a victim of FGM and told me that she only remembered bits of the procedure as it literally is so painful I believe she blocks out the memory. She too didn’t know her father and needed refuge from her earlier life with no education and no future other than being “married off” like so many. She, like so many of the girls, wants to go to school. She wants to learn. She understands that an education is her power. She and the others are so grateful for this protected sanctuary that is bit by bit empowering them and promising brighter days. What I didn’t expect while interviewing Jacquelyn was to “lose it”. I started crying and I think it may have spooked her a little. What I explained was that my tears weren’t ones of pity, but tears of hope. I saw the light around this child and was just so emotional about the possibilities for her. I explained to her that she could do it, she will do it, and to hold tightly to the hope of what will be. 

As the day wrapped up my mom thanked the girls for sharing Olmalaika with us and presented them with the supplies we had brought to share. Our donations - collected by many generous people back in the US - included tooth brushes, toothpaste, new underwear, hair ties, and lovely butterfly back packs filled with supplies inside. (A very special thank you to Leon Rubin from Office Depot for his continued support of the Women Like Us Foundation and our causes.)

A huge thank you to the woman who had the determination and drive to bring this place to life. Kim Dewitt of Global Village Ministries, you ARE an angel. Your work has inspired us all. 

I think the girls had fun today. I know we are forever changed.

To learn more about Olmalaika, click here.

CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
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CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK
CATT SADLER KENYA CATT TALES CATTWALK

KENYA: DAY THREE

Catt Sadler

KENYA - DAY THREE

Seven hour game drive really speaks for itself. Our journey through the Maasai Mara was bumpy, exhilarating, breathtaking. It was literally like taking a page out of National Geographic. There’s something so spiritual about spotting these elegant creatures, then slowly creeping up on them, and then quietly admiring their beauty. Mr. Lone Giraffe was beyond cute but the family of elephants cooling down in their mud bath and the hippos - o em gee. Wish my boys could have witnessed this! (PS Why is it every time I saw a zebra I thought of Chris Rock and Jada Pinket Smith? #MadagascarLol )

I’m also really bonding with the five amazing ladies in my vehicle on this trip. We go everywhere together, including on safari. We can’t stop laughing and its been a true joy to experience Kenya for the first time with all of them. Shout out to Sally, Lindsay, Sandy, Rebecca, and my mom, Linda.

Nap time. Gaming is actually exhausting. It’s like being on a roller coaster for hours at a time. The muddy conditions here have made for some rough riding conditions. Tomorrow is a huge day. Our humanitarian efforts really begin. Can’t wait to meet more locals and learn more about these beautiful people.

Some of my favorite safari snaps here.

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KENYA: DAY TWO

Catt Sadler

CATT SADLER KENYA CATTALOGUE CATTWALK

Woke up today for the first time in Nairobi. We had plans to drive to the Tenderfeet School this morning but because of the unrest and rather dangerous conditions in the city right now, we were urged not to go. Instead, the head of the school, the founder, the incomparable Mama Margaret came to us at our hotel to share her story.

Mama lit up the room before she even opened her mouth. Her presence exudes strength and light all at the same time. She has an aura around her that is impossible to ignore. This woman in her late 40’s is an educator and has dedicated her life to caring for orphans, rescuing most of them from the slums of Kibera. Many of them have HIV and the majority of the kids became orphans because their parents died of AIDS. Mama shared her story with our group and the impact was so powerful. Additionally, she’s raised four kids of her own but admits to housing an additional seven orphans personally because she can’t bare to see them exist in the truly most unimaginable and horrific of conditions.

MM started the Tenderfeet school more than five years ago and desperately needs help to keep it going. She believes that by educating these children, they will then go out into the world and do their own kind of good. Mama believes in love multiplying. She knows fully that her purpose is greater than the 130 children she and her mostly volunteer staff is currently serving. Her selflessness is awe-spiring. My mom and I are going to try and find a way to get to the school before the end of our travels. Meanwhile, we were so pleased to give her some of the supplies from the Women Like Us foundation that we had collected for the children. She was wildly grateful.

CATT SADLER KENYA CATTALOGUE CATTWALK
CATT SADLER CATTWALK CATT TALES

Just lastly, beyond the bus she dreams of to transport the kids from the danger zone to her school, beyond the well that she one day hopes to drill so the children may have clean safe drinking water, we asked Margaret “When we go home to the states, what can we do? What can we tell people? How can we help?” Instead of Margaret asking for a donation, or money, or fiscal contributions she simply said, “ When you have your next meal, look to the people at your table and let them know that they are so fortunate. Tell them that there are many, many people living without. That go hungry. That eat only a few bites in an entire day, if that. Please recognize that you are very very lucky.”

To learn more about Mama Margaret’s incredible story, learn more here: www.tenderfeetkids.org

CATT SADLER CATTWALK CATT TALES

The second part of our first day was traveling nearly five hours to Masai Mara. What an eye opening journey. I saw so much poverty. It silenced me. For most of the drive I felt rather somber taking it in. We stopped at a local “curio” shop where the locals sell things to tourists like our group. That’s where I met Charles, my salesman-turned friend. Our tour guide made us promise not to pay full price; to pay 40%-50% of what we were quoted. Damn if I’m not a softy. Horrible negotiator. I paid far too much for my beautiful wooden warrior statue. Charles told me he made commission and well, let’s call it my monetary donation for the day. His cheerful face and soft stature melted my heart. I’ll never see dear Charles again but I’ll never forget him. He liked it when I took his picture. I asked him what he wanted for his future and he said all he wants is to be a driver. I knew what he meant. He didn’t want to stand still. Charles would outgrow his village. He wanted more. He wanted to escape and discover what the world has to offer outside of his tiny village in the wide open spaces. I believe he’ll make it.

CATT SADLER KENYA CATTALOGUE CATTWALK

We made it to the Sarova Mara tented camp. It was pouring down rain and rumbling with wicked thunder when we arrived - so moody, I love it! A number of beautiful Masai tribe members greeted us upon our arrival. Many of them were wearing their typical red garb complete with shiny silver jewelry. What gorgeous people. Our camp lodge is just perfect, complete with a fire pit and nestled into the woods like a tree house. I’m going to like it here. I’m really tired. Tomorrow we head into wide open spaces. My first ever game drive. Early to rise at 5:30am.

Goodnight from inside my netted bed inside my tented home for the next 3 days. Bunking with my mom like when I was a little girl. #Peaceful

CATT SADLER CATTWALK CATT TALES
CATT SADLER CATTWALK CATT TALES
CATT SADLER KENYA CATTALOGUE CATTWALK

KENYA: DAY ONE

Catt Sadler

I seem to do my best writing, some of my only writing these days, when I’m at least 30,000 feet above the ground sitting still in one stationary position with few distractions.

I’m on an airplane sitting next to my mother who has been planning a trip to Kenya with her foundation, Women Like Us, for more than two years. Most of those two years she’s been asking if I’d go along. Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love stamping my passport but this trip to Nairobi, I know will be different.

I’ve traveled through most parts of Europe but this will be my first time to Africa. As part of our all women-lead humanitarian efforts (there are 17 of us) we’ll be spending most of our time just outside Nairobi, and mostly in the Masai Mara region.

So here’s the thing. I’m going because well, mostly because I am so proud of my mother and her mission to support other women around the world who are making change. I’m going because I too want to see the faces of those in need and want to provide some type of help. To be honest, at this moment, I’m not sure what form that help will come in. A smile and a warm hug. A new friendship, perhaps? Maybe it’s in the physical. The supplies we’ve packed to deliver to a number of schools in the area, the clean underwear some of these teens so desperately need. You know, the kind we take for granted?

Truth is, in many ways I don’t know what to expect but in my soul I feel like I’m embarking on what is likely to be a radical journey and a wildly eye-opening experience. I am so grateful to have this opportunity at all. Traveling, for me, means gaining perspective. How do my other human brothers and sisters have it? What are their struggles? What are their triumphs? How are we different? How are we surprisingly so similar? What do the plains of Kenya look like? How gorgeous is its wildlife? Will the stars shine the same when I lie my head down at night?

I’m ready. Ready to dive in and thankful for the unknown. I anticipate stories to be shared. I expect love to be shared. I await miracles!