The Maa Trust, with help from Mara Elephant Project (MEP), is distributing staple food packages to 637 Maasai families affected by the downturn in tourism due to COVID-19. These food packages were donated by the Sidekick Foundation, a supporter of both wildlife and communities in the Mara through The Maa Trust and MEP. Once fully distributed the food aid will feed a total of 12,300 people in the Mara.
“When I started the Sidekick Foundation, Inc. my goal was to protect wildlife and communities through conservation activities in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. I am proud of Sidekick’s support of The Maa Trust’s beadwork and bricks programs, but in this time of crisis, Sidekick needed to find inventive solutions for continuing our impact. Crystal’s leadership and willingness to get ideas mobilized quickly and effectively was crucial to getting the food distribution idea off the ground. We hope that this food bundle will help Maasai women continue to provide stability and comfort to their families during these very difficult times. Sidekick’s model is based on partnership and bringing organizations like The Maa Trust and Mara Elephant Project together to make a difference. The Sidekick Foundation along with the Mara Elephant Project and The Maa Trust want to support not just the wildlife in the Mara but the people during these difficult times. That’s what these bundles of food represent; a donation from the wildlife of the Maasai Mara to Maasai families.” Sidekick Foundation Founder Suzanne Fehsenfeld
The rapid global spread of the COVID-19 virus has forced the temporary closure of The Maa Trust non-profit and its social enterprises Maa Beadwork, Maa Honey, and its scholarship programme. This economic downturn due to COVID-19 means that the families engaged in The Maa Trust’s programmes have been left without a source of income, which presents many challenges, including food insecurity. Both The Maa Trust and MEP want to ensure communities are still benefiting from wildlife, even without tourism as MEP works closely with the communities to protect Kenya’s iconic elephants and the Mara ecosystem.
The Sidekick Foundation donated a total of 1.79 million KES to fund food packages filled with staple items that will provide for a family for one month. The Maa Trust has secured permission from local authorities and is arranging distribution at 12 sites which are easily accessible to the families. The Mara Elephant Project is lending a vehicle and personnel support in this exercise. The Kenya Ministry of Health’s safety protocols are being followed for the food distribution and training is also being provided by The Maa Trust to the community members on handwashing and social distancing measures to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. If the weather permits, food package distribution is set to be completed by 2 May after reaching all families.
“The Sidekick Foundation is focused on the striking a balance between human development and sustaining biodiversity in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Sidekick’s bedrock mission is to protect wildlife, communities and habitat by supporting organizations that thrive in a partnership model. This is why when the COVID-19 pandemic ceased tourism in the Mara, a main source of income for communities living with wildlife, we wanted to help relieve the burden by providing basic support. Being in the fortunate position of serving as a trustee of both The Maa Trust and Mara Elephant Project and the Executive Director of Sidekick Foundation, we were able to quickly focus on bringing organizations together with similar missions to make an impact. It’s vital that all organizations doing work in the Mara do what they can to rally around the wildlife and people during this difficult time.” Sidekick Foundation Executive Director Brian Kearney-Grieve
“It was very difficult closing The Maa Trust so as to abide by government regulations and keep both staff and organization beneficiaries safe. 19,000 people benefit through our various initiatives and so the cessation of all activities lies heavily on my conscience. Having discussed the difficulty that the families are having in buying food with our partner Sidekick Foundation, I was delighted when they presented this extremely generous offer to provide food for the families who are unable to earn their usual income through our social enterprises because of the closure of the organization. I appreciate that 637 families is only a fraction of the deserving families in the Maasai Mara, however, this generous support will have a direct and powerful impact on thousands of people and for that, we are very grateful.” CEO The Maa Trust Dr. Crystal Mogensen
“We do not have words to express this. Thank you very much for this food from Sidekick Foundation and The Maa Trust which is helping us at this time of coronavirus. The Maa Beadwork ladies are very grateful for this wonderful job.” The Maa Trust Social Enterprise Employee Nashuluni Maitai
“We are so happy and we are going to make sure that we are going to protect our wildlife because that is why we are getting this food. We are so happy because you have remembered us at this difficult moment and everyone is going to appreciate it. This Coronavirus is affecting the whole world so we are happy for The Maa Trust that they are remembering us at this difficult time and we are so happy that they are holding our hands. Thank you in the name of Jesus.” The Maa Trust Social Enterprise Employee Ntiwal Naurori
The Maa Trust is a non-profit organization working in partnership with community-owned wildlife conservancies in the Maasai Mara and MEP is a non-governmental organization working closely with communities to protect Kenya’s iconic elephants and the Mara ecosystem. The Sidekick Foundation, Inc. is Mara Elephant Project’s core funder in the United States and aims to see wildlife and people coexist in the Mara to the benefit of both.