O.A.T. Travelers George and Lynda Carlson support the rescue of a Kenyan Primary Student
Put yourself in George and Lynda Carlson’s shoes. The Neavitt, Maryland, couple were visiting Kenya on the Best of Kenya & Tanzania adventure, when their small group was greeted by Sandra Vaughan, Grand Circle Foundation’s East Africa Foundation Project Manager. Sandra’s duties prevent her from meeting with all O.A.T. travelers to the region, but on that particular day, she was delivering eggs to the village the Carlsons were visiting on the Day in the Life program. “One of the things we like and admire about the O.A.T./Grand Circle trips are these opportunities to meet people in the area and the community you’re visiting,” says George. “That makes the whole trip very real—you actually get to talk to people in their homes or in school and learn about their lifestyle.”
During that encounter, Sandra told the travelers the heart-wrenching tale of Flora Ntaine, who had been a student at Kenya’s Amboseli Primary School, a Grand Circle Foundation partner since 2010. When Flora was just eleven years old, her mother passed away, and the Carlsons were told that her father was about to “sell” her into marriage to an older man in exchange for a cow—a transaction that is illegal in Kenya but still practiced in rural areas.
The chief of the Maasai village, the school’s head teacher, and a local police officer evolved a rescue plan for Flora. She was removed from her father and her village, and placed in a boarding school that was, in Sandra’s words, “in the middle of nowhere, difficult to get to, and safe and secure.” Grand Circle Foundation assisted by providing Flora with a scholarship.
Flora’s story touched the Carlsons’ hearts. They point out that young girls who are sold into marriage essentially lose their chance for an education and an independent life. “If these girls—and they are girls—are going to be given an opportunity to be educated and be trained for some kind of employment and have a life of their own, then early intervention is absolutely essential,” says George.
When they returned home, the 13-time O.A.T/Grand Circle travelers wondered what they could do for Flora. Lynda contacted the Foundation to see how they could help and was advised that, while Flora’s school uniforms were provided, she lacked the money for other essentials. The Carlsons began donating $300 a year for Flora’s care through Grand Circle Foundation, which absorbs 100% of the administrative costs. The funds have paid for non-uniform clothing such as jeans, other personal items, and the special tutoring Flora required.
Thanks to the Carlsons and all those involved in her rescue, Flora is thriving. An avid baker, she has begun taking culinary classes. “We were really delighted to hear that. They may be the elements of a professional career,” says George. He points out further that, where Flora lives, a modest amount of money, by American standards, can do a world of good. “It’s within reach of a lot of people, I think,” he says.
Grand Circle Foundation, too, is happy to support Flora, and we wish her a bright future.