Asilia is proud to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world, and especially in East Africa, for International Women’s Day on 8 March. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be sharing stories from across our camps, offices and Positive Impact partners of inspirational women who have made a difference in their community. Be sure to follow along on the Asilia blog for a new story each week.
This week, we’ve spoken to the women who head up our Positive Impact efforts across both Kenya and Tanzania; Helen Schutte and Doris Ngemera. Our aim is to empower crucial wilderness areas in East Africa, benefiting people and nature alike, and this is exactly what both Helen and Doris help make possible each day.
‘By making bold, and often pioneering, investments into areas that are ecologically and economically vulnerable, we aim to turn these areas into viable conservation economies, benefitting both the local communities as well as the environment.’
Tell us about your job — what do you do and what drew you to this kind of work?
Doris: My role as a Public Relations and Communication Coordinator is generally to facilitate PR activities within Tanzania. This involves communicating our programs to the world as well as our accomplishments. A large part of my job involves engaging with local communities and implementing partnerships that will make a genuine difference to the people and wildlife of the area. I love what I do because the output of my work is making a constructive influence on both people and wildlife. As a Public Relations practitioner, some of the values that inspire me involves giving back to the community, networking, and having fun doing it. I also really enjoy travelling and social collaborations that I am involved in during my day to day activities.
Helen: My role is quite varied as one of the Field Operations Managers in Kenya, but I also oversee most aspects throughout our camps, with a good dash of my work involving people management. I also oversee the social responsibility work for Asilia Kenya, called our Positive Impact. It’s the variety of aspects of my work that I enjoy the most. I have learned a lot through the years and can genuinely see how Asilia grows and improve each year – it is exciting to be part of it. While staying at Naboisho, it has been especially fulfilling to be part of the conservancy story and success and to see how it has matured and is now a well-known international wildlife destination.
What does making a Positive Impact mean to you?
Doris: Positive Impact means making an impact to the community surrounding you, you become the change in making a difference in the community through various approaches of support and influence. I believe sustainable practices & success is not about being the best in the world but about being the best for the world through protecting the heritage so as it’s good for people and planet.
Helen: It means making a true, lasting difference in the areas that we operate. To have local communities benefit due to the wildlife on their land, in their area so they want to protect it with us. Through organisation like The Maa Trust, it has been incredible to see how we can give woman and children an opportunity to be fully part of the community and have a voice, improve their lively hoods and give them hope.
What is your favourite memory of working in Positive Impact?
Doris: My favourite memory is from when we visited a remote community in the Serengeti that we support and donated school desks to the students. They were excited and glad that they will now sit on the desks and wear clean uniforms while studying in class, we also had girls that needed school support because they couldn’t afford to pay school fees and were forced to be married by their parents instead of going to school. The young girl shed tears of happiness after she was chosen to join the scholarship programme. It’s something that made me reflect more on life; what you think is not valuable to you means a lot to others.
Helen: In December 2017, I managed to join Dr Crystal Courtney and her team from The Maa Trust to meet a 12-year-old Masai Girl. This was to inform her that she qualified for a full scholarship and she will be able to join a school for the first time! This girl had been herding goats and sheep for other people since she was 3 years old, living as an orphan with her grandmother and there was just no money to send her to school. She was in a vulnerable position at the age of 12 to be married off, but with the help of The Maa Trust scholarship program, her story reached them, and they were able to give her a full scholarship. When she heard the news that she could go to school for the first time, she was completely speechless and then very emotional – she had given up on her dream of going to school a long time ago. These are things we take for granted, which children in other communities can only dream off. There are many more of these stories – but seeing her face as she heard the news, still bring tears to my eyes as I recall the memory. Each of or Twende Porini’s also have a special place in my heart – meeting these children from our communities, spending four days with them, and sharing our ‘world’ in a tourism camp with them. We help them to see and understand what incredible heritage they have, and how to take care of it. I feel extremely blessed to be able to run a program like this on behalf of Asilia.
Who are the women you look up to and admire the most in your life and why?
Doris: I admire and look up to my mother as my role model. I admire her for her bravery and her incredible love and care as a mother. I admire her tireless efforts of taking care of us, she raised us to be responsible mothers of tomorrow and future leaders. I admire her more because she is a sister, a friend, a teacher, and a hero to me. She is always there whenever I need her. She is very caring, ambitious, and she has many goals in her life. She is also a wonderful mother, very patient, sensitive and warm-hearted.
Helen: I lost my mom at a young age, but have been fortunate enough in each stage of life to have incredible women who served as role models and friends who inspired and believed in me. Any woman who can rise above the pain and struggles in her life, and still be there for her family, work and care for other people around her inspires me. I believe woman are incredibly strong creatures, who have been underestimated for too long, and can bring a huge change in our communities when given a voice and when we stand together.