Our Non-Profit gives 100% of your donation to your sponsored child

Who we are

Shari Young

Shari with Laseko and her mother.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" ~Margaret Mead

I love this quote.  It speaks to me of what is still possible; changing lives of  those less fortunate.  The Amboseli Children's Fund grew out of a desire to do just this.

In 2012, I went on safari in Kenya.  During the tour they took us to a few of the Maasai villages.  Very primitive by American standards; their way of life was foreign to me, but one couldn’t help but be impressed by their proud bearing; the close family units and their commitment 

to each other. 

I was so overwhelmed by the disadvantages inherent to a 3rd world county, that upon return to the US, I began thinking about what I could do to help.  There are a lot of non-profit Kenya organizations on-line but I wanted to be sure that I had a one-on-one connection with the recipients of the program.  

As it turned out, I actually had a former Maasai warrior working for me.   His name was Leonard Mpaayo and as I shared my thoughts with him it soon became clear our collaboration was meant to be. Leonard has a vested interest in seeing that the people of the Amboseli Maasai villages
succeed; it is his home and they are his extended family.  He is a firm believer that education is the key to ensuring a better life for his people – and I wholeheartedly agree.

 Leonard spends approximately 7 months a year in Kenya - overseeing our program, schools and kids.  He is a man of integrity, honesty and commitment; which are attributes not easy to find in a 3rd world country.  I handle administration, sponsorship and local presentations.  I travel to Kenya every few years and meet with the children and their parents as well as teachers and school administrators. Neither of us is compensated, we take care of our own expenses and travel.

It has been a good partnership thus far; we understand we can’t change the world, but “education for one mtoto (child) at a time” is feasible!  This opens up a whole new future for them, making all things possible.
Shari Young
Amboseli Children's Fund 

Leonard Mpaayo

Leonard with his Mom. He is the youngest of 11 children and the only one that was educated.

 A Maasai warrior who fulfilled his dreams through education.

I was born in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the Amboseli region of Southern Maasai land, Kenya.  I grew up in a village (manyatta) of mud
huts enclosed by a thorn (acacia tree) fence. It was a natural way of life with no modern conveniences and few comforts.  There is little
infrastructure; no paved roads, no electricity or refrigeration, no running water (water had to be carried from rivers, springs or wells).  Also, on the Savannah lands was the ever-present danger of wild animals; elephants, buffalo, hippos and the great carnivores - lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and jackals.

Until the age of 10, as with most Maasai boys, I tended the family's calves and cattle. Then as the youngest of 11 children my parents informed me that the Kenyan government had decreed that every family should send one child to school.  In our family, I was that child.

 I attended  government primary schools.  I was a boarder as it was too far to walk there from our ever shifting manyatta.  I saw my family at vacation times only.  In this environment I thrived.  My world opened up and I worked hard to be one of the few in the community to pass the high school entrance examination (which is competitive) and gain a highly coveted chance to go to beyond primary school.  The Kenyan school authorities sent me far away from Amboseli to Narok where I attended Olchekut Supat Apostolic Secondary school, a boarding school run by missionaries.  To pay for this my father had to sell some of his cattle, his only means of support.  I am, to this day, the only person in my immediate family who has been educated and become literate. 

An internship with the Serena Safari Lodge in Amboseli National Park allowed me to further my education and earn a Wildlife Management Certificate.  I became one of 10 senior staff.

Unexpectedly, there would be another chapter that would ultimately take me far from the lands of my birth.  In 2007, I met the woman who would become my wife while she and her friends were on safari in Amboseli.   In 2010 I moved to California where I have lived a life far beyond the dreams of a young Maasai cattle herder. It is my hope that through education many other Maasai children may have the opportunity to live a life beyond

 their dreams too.
Leonard Soipei ole Mpaayo
Vice President
Amboseli Children's Fund 

Basia Christ

Basia with Leonard and his niece Anne, who is a teacher and a liaison for us in Kenya.

For Maasai each day is forever and the "Now"

 is what they live in. 


 I became a board member for Amboseli Children’s Fund in 2014.   I have served on various boards and much of my focus has been advocating for victims of domestic violence and human rights.   Yet when I traveled to Kenya with Leonard and Shari and experienced first hand the difficulties facing Maasai children I felt compelled to get involved with ACF as well. All of my time is voluntary; we do not take compensation for our efforts.

 Like many before me I was not prepared for the lack of any infrastructure and basic
necessities in Maasailand.  The needs of the Maasai are many and cannot be solved with
just handouts.  That doesn't mean we cannot help.  Our solution (which is not original) is
to help children help themselves as in the long term this is so more effective.  We can assist by giving a "hand up" one child at a time.

At ACF we believe that education is the key to a better future for Maasai children.  Quality
education is lacking in the Amboseli region and because of the cost and distance it is out of reach for most Maasai families.  It is hard to attract teachers to locations that do not have the facilities to support a modern life; to harsh environments that people outside the tribe are
not used to; often there is no electricity or running water.  In addition the salaries paid are
very small.  This is why the private academies we work with provide a much better curriculum and in turn a better education.  

We believe our program provides the skills, knowledge and tools to help children
get the kind of education that enables them to attend high school and beyond. And it doesn't end there.  Kenya has almost a 90% unemployment rate. This means a diploma simply isn't enough. Our students receive counseling and direction regarding their career path plus we work with the Academies and University and job placement entities to ensure they will be able to fulfill their dreams the way that Leonard has been able to do. 

Basia Christ

Treasurer & Secretary

Amboseli Children's Fund

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