Guest Author - Rev. Jackie O´Neal S.T.M.
Kristen Kosinski, the founder of The Samburu Project, and former executive at Paramount Network Television in Hollywood, believes all people have a primal need to connect with Mother Earth.
In 2005, she traveled to Kenya with the intention of researching a documentary about indigenous tribal women. Through her local Kenyan contacts, she identified a guide who eventually led her deep into the African bush. She ended up in Umoga, an all women’s village in the Samburu District of Kenya. Once she made the acquaintance of Rebecca Losali, an influential tribal leader, Kosinski began to clearly understand the real purpose of her journey.
"I sat down to connect with tribal women and learned that women in the Samburu District spend their whole lives in search of safe drinking water. The stories I heard from the women seemed to scream for my attention, and it was then that I understood the issue so clearly,” she said.
In Kenya, a woman’s life expectancy is 55 years and as a result of clean, safe drinking water being scarce and often inaccessible, women and families are at risk for contracting waterborne infectious diseases like typhoid fever, Hepatitis A and bacterial and protozoal diarrhea.
After spending three months in Kenya, Kosinski flew back to her home in Santa Monica, California, to establish The Samburu Project and file for 501 C-3 non-profit status.
Through her fundraising efforts, to date she has raised over $65,000 to be able to drill and install 25 wells in Samburu, and hopes in the future to install and drill many more water wells.
According to Kosinski, it takes three days and $10,000 to install and drill a water well in Samburu. The process is labor intensive and tedious. When asked if she had ever participated in the actual drilling, she lost no time in confessing that she prefers managing people rather than handling tools and heavy labor. "I'm a princess," she said jokingly.
In her short documentary, “Bringing Water to Thousands of People,” Kosinski explains that community members and facilitators take ownership of the village wells and learn skills to maintain them in good operational condition. It takes team work to successfully complete a well drilling project, but through her 10 years as a Paramount executive, Kosinski is no stranger to managing people and extensive projects. “I know how to manage people and I understand them,” she said.
Kosinski considers Samburu one of the most beautiful places on earth, but knows it is vulnerable and plagued by drought, domestic violence, and female circumcision. She recognizes her presence and mission in Samburu as the realization of her childhood dream. As a child growing up in Pittsburgh, her grandfather’s colorful National Geographic issues inspired her imagination to one day dedicate her energies to improving the plight of African women. “I had a vision since childhood of working among African women, and it there was no logical reason for it,” she said.
Renowned biologist E.O. Wilson once argued that all of humanity is in a sense programmed to experience an intense emotional connection with Africa- since it has been the original home of the human species for 150,000 years. Kosinski could not agree more, and she realizes she is on the planet to help make the world a better place.
She admits that Westerners have difficulty understanding the hardship endured by women in Africa who wake up at 3 a.m. to walk twelve or more miles in search of safe drinking water. “Understanding allows for compassion,” she said.
Kosinski plans to return to Kenya in March 2008, and wants to engage non-governmental agencies in the area to collaborate with The Samburu Project. For more information, visit: http://www.TheSamburuProject.org.