Africa, a 17-year-old, his camera, and his inner musings…

Last updated on March 16th, 2021

“My name is Josh. I am seventeen years old.

I am a photographer and I have a dream.

Recently I was invited to Kenya by WE.org

To experience first-hand the work that they are doing.

This was a life-changing event for me. It made me question things.

It made me think about my values.

Here is my photo journal, a diary of the images I captured and what those images taught me.

My dream is to return to Africa to help carry on the awesome work that is being done by WE.org.”
Josh M.

What I learned from the land of Africa

Until I got to Kenya I never liked waking up early. In Africa, I would be up and ready by 6:30 am so I could meet with a Maasai Warrior and go for a walk through the savannah. We would walk through the dewy grass, straight into the rising sun. He would teach me about the flora and fauna of the area. For example, the Sandpaper Tree is a tree with leaves so like sandpaper that the warriors could smooth and sand their weapons with it. I cherished these morning walks and always awaited the next one. They were some of the most peaceful times of my day.

What I love so much about the Masai Mara are the plants. Each tree, each bush, each flower, they all have some type of unique, interesting texture and detail that’s hard to find in North American plants. You will never get tired of just walking through the savannah and gazing at the finite details, each line, each leaf, each plant.

The Yellow Bark Acacia is a deadly, yet marvellous tree. It’s another example of the exaggerated beauty of Kenya. The thorns, the size of your finger, can pierce through your shoes if you aren’t careful. The Maasai Warriors of the Mara use this plant in many different ways. One use is a toothpick. Creative, right?

Being in Kenya has taught me many things. A lesson that definitely stands out is that sometimes you need to look at things from a different angle, a different perspective. For example, the flowers you see in this photo are only a mere few feet off the ground. Yet, here it seems like they grew straight to the sky. This is the way I’m learning to look at everything in life. Something seems too hard for you? Try looking at it from a different perspective.

Meet one of the LAST two White Rhinos in Kenya. I had the pleasure of seeing them while on a safari on the Masai Mara National Reserve. These animals have been poached left and right for their horns. Because of the circumstances, they have guards with assault rifles watching the two rhinos 24 hours a day. If left unattended, poachers may be successful in wiping this species right out of Kenya. I wonder, why does good sometimes come in such small quantities?

The Africans I met and the hardships they often face

These two young women are students at a public school called Laila, in Ololulungo village. You can see the sheer pride and happiness in their smiles. These two girls don’t have to carry 50 pounds of infected water to their homes, five times a day. Instead, they get an education. They get to fulfill their lifelong dreams. And, on top of that, they get to bring home clean water from their school at the end of every day. That is what I call pure success. That is called pure happiness. That is what makes them smile and it’s what makes me smile. But that is not everybody’s story.
This photo is taken at the same school in the same village. I watched these two brothers sit and hold each other while they watched their 16-year-old brother go to school. It fascinated them, it fascinated me, and it gave me a bittersweet taste. Their eyes shone with pride as they watched their brother get an education, play soccer with his friends, and get fresh water from the tap. They knew that instead of herding cattle for the rest of his life their brother would become something, and he would bring pride and success to his family and village. On one hand, I was happy to see them fill up with pride. On the other, I wondered why couldn’t they get the same chance. Shouldn’t every child get the chance to go to school, fulfill his or her dreams? Be successful? Go somewhere? This has to change.
Driving along the roads of the Masai Mara, everybody waves to you. All the younger children chased after our land rover. Some kids yell out asking for sweets, and some just stare. At first we thought it must be because we are tourists, or we’re white, or just because we are different in so many ways. Eventually we realized the real reason for all the attention. All these people we were passing know who we are, and what we are doing for them. Everyone of all ages knows who WE.org is, and that they are the ones providing them with schools, hospitals, clean water, and more. They are so grateful for what we do, they can’t suppress a smile or a wave as we pass by. People helping people, It’s a beautiful thing. Really.
Some may argue that the strongest people in Africa are the Maasai warriors, the guardians of their communities and livestock. In many cases this is true, but from what I witnessed while traveling around the Masai Mara, at heart, the mamas are true, strong warriors as well. They carry fifty-pound barrels of water to their homes, sometimes walking miles, multiple times a day, sometimes carrying their children on their back! Did I mention the water is completely unsafe? Imagine this was your reality. If you wanted to give your family water you had to walk miles for unclean water. Then, if a family member gets sick from it, mama must stay home to take care, leaving nobody to get the water. A very vicious cycle. In my mind and my heart, these women are warriors, even champions.
Driving through Kenya, I love seeing all the different people herding their cattle. It makes me wonder … where did they come from? Greener pastures? Not so green pastures? How far did they walk? So many untold stories from people with so much to say. So many things encountered, and most importantly, so many things stored in their heads that we should learn.

The people I met were incredible…

On our final night in the Masai Mara, we experienced something not very many people will ever get to experience. A village of Maasai people walked miles to welcome us into the community and to perform a thank you ceremony. They paraded in in what seemed like high definition color. After chanting and singing in a circle around us, an elder of the group walked around to each and every person and spat fermented goat milk on our boots. Yes, fermented goat milk. In their culture, it’s a blessing. It was a ceremony like nothing I’d ever seen, or will ever see again.

What amazed me, and touched me most, was how although these people have so little, what they did have they were willing to give. The size of their hearts is almost the size of their smiles – massive! The kindness, warmth, strength, and happiness found in every person you see, every ‘Jambo!’ greeting you hear, and every hand you hold is welcoming and I loved it.

This was the final sunset photo I took. I think it’s symbolic. Not only was the sun going down as we hiked to our final meal in Africa, but the sun was also setting on more than just a dinner. It was setting on a pulsing need for me to continue this movement of change. After this trip, I was left with a vision much clearer than before, and a heart illuminated by the glow of the power of change. It’s a very special feeling, and the only way to experience this is to just be the change yourself.

P.S. I miss all my new friends in Africa. Hopefully I will see them soon. Then again, they say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Right?

Meet one of the LAST two White Rhinos in Kenya. I had the pleasure of seeing them while on a safari on the Masai Mara National Reserve. These animals have been poached left and right for their horns. Because of the circumstances, they have guards with assault rifles watching the two rhinos 24 hours a day. If left unattended, poachers may be successful in wiping this species right out of Kenya. I wonder, why does good sometimes come in such small quantities?

Join me to be the change…

While I was in the Masai Mara I saw first hand a very urgent issue that touched me in a profound way. I experienced the amazing children of Kenya with their endless dreams and the endless possibilities that come with them. Dreams like becoming lawyers, pilots, journalists, and doctors. These dreams come to life when education is made possible.

Unfortunately, in Africa, that is often easier said than done, but, nonetheless, it needs to be done no matter how hard it may be.

I am ready to work for it.

If these kids can fight for the dream of becoming successful and bringing pride to their communities, then I can fight for the tools to make that a possibility.

Will you join me?

Help me to raise funds with WE.org to build a school in Kenya and send hundreds of kids to school, changing lives, and making life long dreams a reality.

Your contributions of any amount will help me to reach that goal.

Thank you very much. Josh M.

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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