Extended drought seasons have diminished the fertility of the vast East African grasslands that supported the Maasai's cattle, and thus its people. This has led to overgrazing, fierce competition for resources, and poverty for the Maasai. Although the Maasai's nomadic lifestyle has not traditionally supported formal schooling, the threatening effects of this climate shift has led some to believe that formal education will be critical to allowing the Maasai to adapt and survive.
The work of Groton's intensive summer program is to foster relationships and cultural understanding and to assist Orkeeswa’s faculty and students to build various physical components of their growing school. Days are spent working alongside members of the Orkeeswa community. In July 2010, much of the work was dedicated toward completing the school’s impressive new science building. More recently, in July 2011, Groton students and faculty helped build a concrete basketball court at the school–a physically demanding but rewarding project that taught a great deal about teamwork, perseverance, and manual labor.
During late morning tea breaks, early afternoon lunches, and post-work dance sessions, the Groton group has the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with Tanzanian friends, sharing stories, music, and ideas in a beautiful setting. During the evenings, students live in a dormitory-type setting with Groton School faculty for the majority of their stay, but also are welcomed into Tanzanian host family homes for a two-night “boma visit,” which enables them to participate in the daily life of a Maasai family.
At the end of the stay in Monduli, Groton students and faculty traveled with all of Orkeeswa’s second form students for a day-long safari to Lake Manyara National Park, where they saw a remarkable variety of African animals in a spectacular natural setting. In addition to the many ways in which this trip offers opportunities to experience a dramatically different culture, the program also asks its participants to give serious thought to how leadership—in all its possible manifestations—can improve the lives of the Tanzanians whose community they inhabit for three weeks. Groton is determined to maintain this strong, meaningful relationship with Orkeeswa and looks forward to expanding the depth and breadth of its cooperation and friendship.
Groton's Global Education Opportunity (GEO) to Tanzania occurs every other year, alternating with the GEO to Uganda.