Why am I doing this?

Over the past three years I have found myself voicing this question countless times. Sometimes in moments of doubt but more importantly to check my compass and make sure that this organization embodies the intention and experience that was its catalyst. This is an expression of what I feel about people. And as we are just beginning to share Maji Masafi’s work here, I thought it a good place to start.

My first trip to Africa was to Tanzania to work with the Baobab group building an orphanage. Terri Place, the Executive Director, taught me that to make a difference you have to become a part of the fabric of the country and the people. I came home and searched for Swahili classes. It was through my relationship with Joseph Konya, my teacher, that I decided to go to Kenya.

My plan was to find out about the water crisis in Kenya and other parts of East Africa. I wanted to understand first hand why this problem has plagued them for so long. How could Kenya have six times the water needed for it’s population and yet so many of its people still struggling to get by without it. Being from a construction background, drilling a well just did not seem that difficult.

The trip definitely changed my life. I spent a month traveling all over the country visiting with women’s groups, village elders, public officials, engineers, wild life service, etc, all arranged by Joseph’s family and friends. I realized that there was something missing in the way people had been approaching this situation. The human development and the infrastructure development needed to go hand in hand, but further, the balance needs to shift from an emphasis on the engineering realm to the human one. The solution lay in the people of Kenya.

I was completely captured by the people and the places I visited and the idea of helping the women in these remote villages. They have so much life in them. Every day they struggle to get basic necessities like water, yet they remain so open and welcoming. These people treated me with such respect and displayed an honest desire to make a change in their lives. How could I walk away and do nothing? I knew that I could help. And I’m not talking about trying to change the world, just contribute to the lives of the people that I meet.  If we can’t do that then what else is there? And so, with support from the Konya family and friends and the people of Kenya, Euginia Konya and I founded Maji Masafi Initiative. (Maji Masafi means ‘clean water’ in Swahili).

That founding was a two years ago. We have come a long way but, of course, even as we near to completing our first project have a long way to go.  The process continues to be difficult and yet rewarding. We’ll be sharing our progress here on the blog as well as insights we have a long the way. Hopefully it can serve others who would, like myself, reach out to a distant corner of the earth to try and understand their own humanity while trying to make change.

Mark Steele
President and Co-Founder
Maji Masafi Initiative

Success story #1: Maji Masafi co-founder Euginia Konya
Our pilot project launched January 2013. Learn more
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