My wife Diane and I made our first trip to Africa almost 20 years ago. Africa gets under your skin. The light, the smell, the sounds (or silence), the wildlife, the people, the landscape is a wonderful and intoxicating mix. In fact, we loved it so much that we started a safari company!
But while the African wildlife is magical, your bond with the people of Africa will also last a lifetime. On our numerous trips we have made friends who may appear to have nothing by American standards, yet are the richest people in the world. They have taught us the lesson that it does “take a village.” Everyone helps everyone. They also understand that wildlife is a precious resource. Those lessons have inspired us. And we believe that we have a responsibility to give back and support the people and organizations that have given us so much. Giving back was a way for us to say “Asante Sana”– thank you very much – for the wonderful experiences we have had in Africa and for the help we have received in operating our safari company.
Serving my desire to be part of Africa conservation, I had the honor several years ago of meeting Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Later I visited her at CCF’s headquarters in Namibia and came back knowing that I had to help her and CCF save this beautiful endangered animal. After organizing a “Meetah Cheetah” event at our home (our neighbors were amazed to see a live cheetah in our backyard) I became deeply involved and now sit on the Board of Trustees of this worthwhile organization.
I also serve on the Board of Advisors to Over & Above Africa. Providing an opportunity for “affordable philanthropy” this organization helps raise awareness about the serious conservation issues facing African Wildlife.
In addition to loving Africa we also love dogs. In fact we are crazy about dogs! Our pride and joy was Heidi, our German shepherd rescue. One day these two passions merged together in an “AH HA” moment. We wanted to get a holiday gift for Heidi, the dog who had everything, and found an organization that was selling beautiful beaded items that included dog collars.
Heidi had quite a life and loved showing off her Maasai beaded dog collar we bought for her. We have a new friend now – Alley. We recently rescued her when she was found abandoned in an alley (hence the name). She loves modeling our collars like Heidi did!
But best of all the purchase of Heidi’s collar led me to meet Patrick Olepapatiti, a Maasai warrior who lives in Kenya. Patrick needed someone to support his education at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi Kenya. We said yes. Patrick graduated with a degree in International Business Administration. Be sure to read about Patrick’s Graduation on our blog. My Maasai “son” is now getting his Master’s degree and works for the Kenyan Parliament. We worked together to build a water well for his village. And now he is building a school for kids from his area.
Several years ago I had the honor and pleasure of visiting Patrick and staying with him in his village in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Once again I saw the sharing and caring attitude of the African people. As his cattle and goats grazed, we discussed how we could operate a business together. Anything Patrick undertook always had to benefit his village. Patrick’s wife Agnes and the women of the Ongata-Rangai village are incredible bead artisans. The light bulb went on. How about selling Maasai beaded jewelry and using the proceeds to improve life in his village? And for pet crazy Americans, how about adding beaded dog collars to the mix? It would help the village, allow us to give something back and provide fellow dog lovers with something rare and unique. And that is how our efforts began.
Thanks for visiting our site. Thanks for your generosity in organizations that are making a different and supporting Patrick and his village. We know your dogs’ tails will be wagging as they show off their unique beautiful collar. And you can adorn yourself with handcrafted Maasai Jewelry. And you can feel proud that you are helping a realize Patrick’s dream of educating his village and improving their lives.