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Nalepo Charity

Something special about Africa touches the soul

The Nalepo Educational Fund was set up by Siobhan Byrne Learat and Kasao Learat. Kasao is an Elder of the Samburu (Masaai) Tribe. Siobhan is a high-end tour operator selling Ireland, the UK and Africa.

They met in March 2008 when Siobhan was on a fleeting business trip to the camp in Kenya where Kasao was the assistant manager. Both were attracted to each other and despite living over 7,250 kilometres apart, since that moment there has never been a day, if apart, that they don’t text each other.

Kasao wanted to make sure that Siobhan knew what she was signing up for, so gradually under more harsh conditions each time, he made her camp in the bush, climb mountains without bottled water, cross flooded luggas and stay in his family’s manyatta or hutted enclosure in Resim. His family accepted her and she fell in love with the Samburu people especially the children and the women. They married in Kenya in October 2010 and between them, they have seven sons. Both Siobhan and Kasao had come from failed marriages and both of them really wanted their marriage to work this time.

Fluent in English, Swahili and Maa, Kasao also speaks other Kenyan tribal languages. He is one of the highest qualified guides and most sought after independent photographic guide in Kenya. Born in Kenya, after graduating from High School, Kasao went for further education and training as a park ranger in South Africa, followed by safari guide training in Kenya. After managing the Anti-Poaching Unit in East Tsavo and capturing over 60 poachers he was made an honorary life warden of the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

Since he started earning money, Kasao has always given everything that he has earned back to the community. Funding children to go to school, paying medical bills for the impoverished community and signing off on hospital bills so that bodies can be released to the families – giving to the community has always been a way of life for Kasao. In the summer of 2011, when her husband professed that he would never rest until the children of Resim were educated, Siobhan came to the realisation that perhaps they had met for a reason – that she could give an international voice to her husband’s endeavours. Her children were very supportive as they knew their mother was committed. They rowed in behind her, as did her lifetime friends.

The Nalepo Educational Fund was born. Their objectives are threefold.

·        To educate the children of Resim and the greater Samburu East region.

·        To provide a bush school – or as we would know in Ireland a ‘Hedge School – in the evening with dinner, for those whose fathers who won’t allow their children to relinquish their chores of herding animals and in the morning for those too small or weak to travel 10 or 20km each day to go to school.

·     To educate recently widowed young women so that they know there are other options for them in old age, rather than just to proliferate.

The Samburu, known as the ‘Butterfly’ people because of their brightly coloured clothing, comprise of less than 1% of the population and yet inhabit one of the biggest regions in Kenya. They are also one of the poorest tribes. The charity covers the areas of Wamba, Ngaroni and Lodongokwe, which are inhabited by about 15,000 people. There are roughly 290 households here with seven members in each.

Kasao and Siobhan have used up all their own funds including the deposit for their house. They cannot keep this up and for this reason they have set up the charity. There are eight members who have subscribed to the charity who are full of enthusiasm, all with different skill sets and varied life and work experience.

Siobhan Byrne Learat and Mary Grennan are the directors of the charity and Kasao will be based on the ground in Kenya as Director of Operations. Mary has a wealth of international experience in the education sector. Her expertise is in training teachers of English as a second language. Siobhan, as well as running a tour operator company, also lectures part time at the Michael Smurfit Business School. Both Mary and Siobhan have a variety of post-graduate degrees in education, business and languages.