THE FULL STORY
So how did I get to this point? Well, I was born in a rural area of Woodside, California, where I was surrounded by nature and had all kinds of animals. As a child, I was always rescuing some injured being of one sort or another, and shoe boxes filled with tissue and eyedroppers were commonplace in my home. When I went to college, I studied psychology like my dad, but my career path led me instead to new product development, commercial real estate, interior design and remodeling, handbag design, and teaching.
I feel like my whole life was preparing me for this project. My early interest in architecture, my design career, and my love of animals—all have coalesced into a project that has captured my heart and soul.
Prince and I have been building a conservation and education center in the Maasai Mara, the components of which include a small camp (to generate income for sustainability and self-sufficiency), a women’s center, a mobile vet, a radio station, a community cafe and outdoor theatre, a Maasai museum, drone surveillance for anti-poaching, a medical clinic, and training facilities for auto mechanics, bee keeping, construction, and spa skills.
Here’s how it started. October 2017 I heard about a young man, Prince Harris Taga, and his dream to build a conservation and education center in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Despite having never been to the Maasai Mara, I was instantly interested. It was one of those, “don’t think about it just do it” moments. I volunteered to help Friends of Maasai Mara, Prince’s non-profit, buy the land to start the project. I knew this was a chance to make an impact and leave a legacy: something I had longed for since childhood. Despite being the seat of the Great Migration and famous the world over, there was no visitor center or museum in the Mara. Somebody had to do it.
My first visit to the Mara was in January of 2018, when we had title to the land. I fell immediately and completely in love with the place and its people. Thanks to a group of generous individuals, by July 2019 we had built a water purification plant, an office, and our first tent. I decided to fund the next phase of the project personally. There was a sense of urgency for me and I did not want to waste any time.
So in 2020, while most of the world was shutting down, we had an opportunity to employ hundreds of workers who had been let go from tourist camps. We fed them, housed them, trained them in various skills, and gathered together a team of amazing people to forge this dream-come-true.
When I first volunteered to help, I did not know the magnitude of the impact this project would have in the community and in the futures of many local Maasai. I am humbled by this privilege.
If you have been looking for a way to give back, to leave your mark, let me know. We love working with kindred spirits and widening our circle of friends of the earth and its people. I hope to greet some of you personally at the Mara Napa Center someday. The Maasai Mara is a magical paradise, not to be missed in one’s lifetime.