The Rotary Club of Belfast has actively supported Project Rombo, which was initiated in 2007 when Rotary Ireland's District Governor Ray Cosgrave selected Project Rombo as one of his two main international projects for his year. It was to provide help to an Irish lady, Elaine Bannon with her plans for Education, Clean water and Health Care in Rombo. Elaine left the comforts of her home in Ireland and moved to Rombo to live amongst and work with the children of the Maasai, she formed, with 3 Massai men in 2002, the Light of Massai charity and has worked tirelessly there. She has made Kenya her home and intends to live there the rest of her life.
Rombo is a district in Kenya, at the foot of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, on the Kenyan side of the Tanzanian border, half way between Nairobi and Mombasa, near the Serengeti plains. Rombo village, with a population of approximately 1,000 people, is a village of red dusty roads, timber shacks for shops and very poor people.
The Maasai are one of the few remaining tribes in Africa who continue to live by their culture and tradition. They continue to dress in their traditional clothes and live in the traditional mud and cow dung Manyatta. They are a proud and peaceful tribe who think only of their animals and who try to be happy no matter what difficulties they face.
Project Rombo is a long term District 1160 project to build strong, secure communities for the people living in the village. The aim is to ease the hardship they face due to drought, the killer disease AIDS which is spreading rapidly amongst them, the lack of basic education, clean water and the lack of a basic health-care system.
In 2011 President Elect Ken Morrison and his wife Gilly went to Rombo for a few weeks to volunteer helping and working there. They gratefully took with them the Club's donation of £500 for wood for the school desks that he would be making and 20kg of clinical material donated by Limerick Hospital. See here...
They have now built a clinic, drilled water wells, provided education facilities, a centre for volunteers to stay in and teachers' houses. Rotary clubs from all over the island of Ireland have got together to build a 'Sand Dam' in the Maasai area of Kenya. This is part of an initiative by Rotary Clubs in the UK and Ireland to bring water to half a million people in Kenya over the next 2 years. More here...
Elaine visited the Club in November 11 and thanked the Club and Rotary Ireland for their support: "So many of you continue to support me through sponsorship and or projects and for that I am very, very grateful. Without your help I couldn't continue but with your help I can continue to assist the children in Rombo.". She made an impassioned plea for further assistance for the Project saying that another famine is looming in Rombo, as crops are dying before they have grown. They are facing a prolonged drought again this year which will bring many more problems. In addition they currently have 30 boys and girls who passed very well in last year's exams and who, without sponsorship of €250pa for 4 years, will have no chance to go to secondary school.
The Club produced for sale in the Centenary year a pen with the Centenary logo all proceeds from which went to Project Rombo.
Elaine also attended the Rotary Ireland District Conference in Dublin, September 2013 and explained how vital the sand dams being donated by District Clubs were to the Maasai people and thanked for the donations so far. She also introduced Ciara, an adorable 5yr old who had been a tiny abandoned 1½yr old girl brought to her dying from lack of water and malnutrition probably 24hs away from dying. In Elaine's words she had been "saved" by District 1160 Rotarians as she was revived using water from a well funded by Rotary, attended a medical clinic fitted out by Rotary and now that she has recovered, is attending a school built by Rotary and was now a beautiful, lively and mischievous 5yr old.
Elaine says: "Thank you Rotary, you have truly changed lives in my village. Without Rotary, the people of my village would continue to suffer difficult lives, while they work long hours in the fields praying for rain for their crops. Now, thanks to Rotary clubs in Ireland, they have water security. Rotary has breathed life into these people and this area. From this helping hand, the people here will be able to support themselves now. Millions of people go blind every year because they have no clean water to wash their face. Crops die and families go hungry. Food is the most basic of human needs and it all starts with access to water."