Lesson from Africa

Dressed in traditional clothes, Samson Parashina of the Maasai tribe in Kenya, Africa, speaks to Islander Middle School students at school last Wednesday. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Dressed in traditional clothes, Samson Parashina of the Maasai tribe in Kenya, Africa, speaks to Islander Middle School students at school last Wednesday.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Dozens of sixth-graders at Islander Middle School listened in awe as Samson Parashina, a member of the Maasai tribe of Kenya, Africa, described how his family would mix cattle blood and milk for lunch, among other Maasai customs.

Parashina, wearing traditional Maasai robes and jewelry, spoke to the students of social studies teachers Janet Brady, Jan Nolan and Alice Larkin on May 6 and 7 as part of a pilot service learning project. The idea was initiated by IMS parent and Site Council member Lori Langston after she met Parashina, 30, as a guide during a recent safari in Kenya.

“He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” Langston said of Parashina, who speaks six languages, including English.

A member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT), Parashina is visiting Washington this month with fellow trust volunteer Clare Coulson, a resident of Woodinville who has worked in Kenya with the MWCT for the past three years. Learning that Parashina would be in the Seattle area, Langston proposed involving IMS sixth-graders with the fundraising organization. Brady readily accepted the idea.

“Eventually, we hope there will be curriculum ties, but because this got started recently, the students are just working to come up with fundraising ideas,” the social studies teacher said.

The students visited the organization’s Web site last week to learn of different fundraising efforts, from Kenyan habitat conservation to collecting school supplies for Maasai children.

Now that they have heard Parashina discuss the needs of his village in Kenya, the sixth-graders are eager to raise money for the foundation. Over the next few weeks, the students will bring their fundraising ideas to the community.

“They’re really excited and are coming up with a lot of creative ideas — some things I’d never thought of — to raise money,” Brady said, mentioning the sale of Kenyan-style bracelets as an example.

As for their 30-minute interaction with Parashina, the students were awed by the exoticism and humility of his people. In turn, the tall and slender Maasai man saw much potential at IMS.

“I think they can really help,” he said with a sincere smile. “It’s good for them to realize that they’re lucky and that they have so much.”

For more information on the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, go to

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