This woman was such an influential part of my Peace Corps experience in Tanzania. Endesh was my APCD in the Health sector and is an AMAZING one at that!
Most of you who know me well know I tend to like wearing completely different earrings for all 6 ear piercings I have in my ears, it's my style. Well, Endesh had noticed this little thing about me and always had earrings waiting for me if one of her pairs went missing.
Aside from her overall strong commitment to the job, you could tell, she really cared about us, the volunteers. I'll never forget that. ♥️
Tanzania has more than 120 different ethno-linguistic groups or tribes, and we'd like to celebrate that diversity in our staff! For January, Staff Heritage and Appreciation Month, we interviewed our Health Sector APCD or Program Manager, Endesh Mollel, and asked her one simple question: What does being Maasai mean to you?
1. Endesh is proud of being Maasai and proud of her education.
“I like to introduce myself as Maasai, because people think we are all ‘mshamba’ [‘from-the-farm’]. Many Maasai do not have formal education. Being college educated, people of my tribe listen to me, especially other Maasai women.”
2. She is proud of the resilience of her culture.
“Many Maasai still practice traditional ways of living and dress. I am proud to be part of a culture where people still wear their clothes, even if people are looking at them. For my secondary school graduation, many girls were buying expensive dresses—some from outside of Tanzania! I wore traditional Maasai clothes, and ended up winning First Girl of the evening.”
3. She comes from humble beginnings.
“I lived in a traditional round house in Arusha, living with livestock in the house and a fire in the middle. I even have a scar from when a cow kicked me into a pot of boiling water.”
4. She worked very hard to be where she is today.
“My mother is 88-years-old and cannot read or write. I am the youngest of 12 children, and two of us ended up going to university. I started attending school when I was 10-years-old, the same year my father passed away. I wish he could see where my brother and I are today in our careers. We attended government schools and built our careers with little resources and without any connections.”
5. Her culture ties into her work in Peace Corps as the Health Sector APCD, or Program Manager.
“For Maasai, our priority is food for our children. Instead of men eating first, children eat first. After a mother gives birth, she is excused from work and catered food from neighbors and relatives for 6 months. My mother also practiced exclusive breastfeeding during that time. My brothers and sisters say I was nursed until I was three! In Arusha, I grew up with neighbors from other tribes. I witnessed malnutrition, some people eating soil for superstitious reasons, when it was really for iron deficiency. In secondary school, I studied nutrition and fell in love with the subject and grew a passion for it. I did field work, and I saw children dying. They were admitted for malnutrition, but many died from HIV and improper feeding practices. I became concerned in children’s rights. I saw many of these issues stemming from socio-cultural reasons, but also socio-economic reasons. The main issue here is poverty.” graduation dresses for college
6. Endesh invites you to learn more about Maasai culture.
“In secondary school, we read the book ‘Is it Possible to Hold a Spear in one Hand and a Book in the Other?” and watched the movie ‘White Maasai.’ I was proud to be studying about my culture in school with my peers. You should take a look at these!”