The Samburu people of Northern Kenya live in one of the poorest and most marginalized parts of the world. There are no roads, electricity, hospitals, telephones, prenatal care, or running water. While the Samburu people’s nomadic pastoral way of life is thousands of years old, it is rapidly changing as they face the challenges of the twenty-first century.
The Thorn Tree Project works in the villages of Ndonyo Wasin, Sereolipi, and Lerata to give children of the Samburu tribe the opportunity to attend school. Education offers each child the chance to realize their potential, find a good job and earn enough to support their families and way of life. The Thorn Tree Project supports 14 preschools (kindergartens), 3 primary schools (grade school 1 –8), and has provided full scholarships for over 100 students to go to high school, technical school, and college.
Ten years ago, under the branches of large shady thorn trees with a blackboard propped against the tree trunk, we established our first preschools for Samburu children. In 2001, there were only 130 children at two primary schools in the Samburu region. Today, thanks to The Thorn Tree Project and the Samburu people’s hard work, over 1,300 children attend school.
We are a 100% volunteer-run organization that has come together to help the Samburu realize their dream of educating their children. We have no administrative overhead, so donations directly reach the children of Samburu. The Thorn Tree Project is registered as a 501c3 nonprofit organization called The Sereolipi Nomadic Education Foundation.
The Thorn Tree Project’s mission is to help educate the children of traditional nomadic families in Northern Samburu. We work to help more Samburu children go to school and receive the level of education they desire, whether that is primary school, high school, technical school, or college.
The Samburu practice a nomadic pastoral lifestyle that is thousands of years old. They are constantly on the move in search of water and pasture for their animals. Traditionally, the Samburu’s only source of food is their cows and goats, which provide milk, blood, and meat.
In 1999 Jane Newman was traveling from Nairobi, Kenya to Addis Abba, Ethiopia. Near the village of Sereolipi, the Landrover Jane was in broke down. The Samburu people generously took her in, hosting her with a great deal of kindness over the next few days.
Education provides many benefits to the Samburu people. It can improve the socio-economic structures of the community, mitigate poverty, preserve the Samburu culture, give the Samburu people control over their own destiny, and enable students to achieve their full potential.