Members of the Maasai Tribe of Kenya will be visiting Carroll County Public Schools from April 30 – May 3, 2019, to share information and develop an understanding of the Maasai culture.

The school visit schedule is listed below:

Tuesday, April 30, 10:30 a.m.
CCPS Central Office:  Program and jewelry sale

Thursday, May 2, 3:45 p.m.
Ebb Valley Elementary School: Short program and jewelry sale

Friday, May 3, 1:45 p.m.
North Carroll Middle School: Program

The delegation also will present a program and sell their jewelry at the Eldersburg Library on Tuesday, April 30, the Westminster Library on Wednesday, May 1, and the North Carroll Library on Thursday, May 2. These presentations will begin at 6:30 p.m.

During this cultural exchange visit, John Parsitau and Cicilia Tipanko will provide interactive presentations and hands-on experiences for students. They will share their pastoral and sustenance way of life without running water or electricity. In turn, they learn ways to raise the education and health standards for their own community in Maasailand. Chief Joseph is not a part of the delegation on the visit due to community concerns that are keeping him at home with the tribe.

John Parsitau is a social worker and leader in the Maasai community of over 3,000 members. He has extensive experience in community development and governance accountability and has been visiting the United States and Maryland in a cultural exchange capacity for over 10 years. He has spoken at numerous international conferences, including the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the United Nations Teachers Conference on Peace and Education. He also has spoken at Stanford, Adelphi, and American Universities. He is the father of four boys.

Cicilia Tipanko is the wife of Chief Joseph. In the Maasai community, the women's beadwork is the main source of income. Women are the builders and maintainers of the homes, which are made of cow dung and twigs. As the Chief's wife, Cicilia is the highly respected leader and mentor of the Women's Organization. Along with the Chief, she is in the foreground of sheltering girls fleeing FGM and providing them with education and in working with community elders to persuade them to reject this practice. Cicilia is the mother of four children, two girls and two boys.

The relationship between Carroll County Public Schools and the Maasai community began in 2005, when fourth graders at Manchester Elementary School became pen pals with school children from the community outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Children from both communities exchanged letters, pictures, drawings, games, and simple gifts. The Maasai children sent handmade beaded bracelets to the fourth graders, and the Manchester children made chocolate chip cookies that were sent to the Maasai community. This pen pal exchange turned out to be the very beginning of a cultural relationship between the two communities that has continued and expanded across Maryland for 14 years.  

In 2007, the Maasai community sold 12 cows to be able to send Chief Joseph to the United States to meet the fourth grade children of Manchester Elementary School and the seventh graders of North Carroll Middle School who had been pen pals with the Maasai two years earlier. Another important purpose of that trip was to share more about the Maasai culture with Americans and to learn things that would help the Maasai community improve its health and education standards. Joseph’s trip was successful on every count. The children and faculty of Manchester had their eyes opened to the successful and happy culture of the Maasai people. Additionally, Chief Joseph was able to create interest in some of the Maasai community’s efforts to improve their living standards, especially with regard to their water tank project and education for girls.

Every year since then members of the Maasai community have returned to share the Maasai culture. The visiting delegation has expanded to include other men and women leaders in the community. The cultural visits now include elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as retirement communities and public libraries across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware.

The simplicity and richness of the Maasai culture, which is steeped in respect for elders and community sharing, has been inspiring audiences everywhere, and the funds raised from speaking fees and jewelry sales associated with their interactive programs have elevated the health and educational standards of the Maasai people in their village.  Over the years, it has been an enlightening opportunity for Maryland communities to experience a meaningful cultural exchange firsthand and it has been extremely productive and positive for the Maasai community as well.




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