The O'Brien Project
Organized by: Grace Beckham
T H E O ‘ B R I E N P R O J E C T
The purpose of this page is to share part of my incredible experience in Tanzania this past May, in hopes to raise money that will go towards healthcare for the O’Brien School for the Maasai. The Maasai people are famously known as the Maasai Warriors, continue to practice polygamy, and for the most part, have no education or access to healthcare. The O’Brien School is the first for the Maasai living in Sanya Station, providing education to over 300 students, and empowering a younger generation with skills that can lead to more opportunities for a successful future. These students do not have access to consistent healthcare, something I can say that I take for granted every day. Some of the students and their families have never even seen a healthcare professional in their entire lives. Every penny raised will go towards solving this problem. To learn more, please read my story below, and watch a short video I made to the left. You may also visit their website: The O'Brien School
T H E S T O R Y
Hi! My name is Grace Beckham, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be starting my final year (sadly) at the University of Georgia this fall. After several change-of-mind moments on what I want to do after college, I finally decided to major in Psychology, and I hope to be accepted into a Physician-Assistant program after graduation. But this isn’t about me; it's about the Maasai Village of Sanya Station.
I applied and was accepted to be apart of an ISL (International Service Learning) team to Tanzania, a two-week program that provides free healthcare services to people in places that need it most. I’ve heard stories about life-changing experiences from people who have been on similar trips, but I had never even considered that 14 days could have such a drastic impact on my life. Well, they did.
Our first 3 days in Tanzania were spent working with the Maasai Tribe of Sanya Station. This was a group of people I had briefly read about in textbooks, but admittedly being separated by over 8,000 miles made them seem unreal to me. Well, there I was in Tanzania, in a van with 16 other people I had met less than 24 hours before, about to come face to face with people I had brushed off as “unreal”.
Day one in Sanya Station, our team was separated into groups of four, with the task of walking door to door to give out appointment times to anyone who needed healthcare. The appointments were free and would occur over the next two days at The O’brien School. Walking from house to house, each made out of dried mud with straw-thatched roofs, we booked appointment after appointment via our two translators (English to Swahili, Swahili to Maasai).
The next two days, our groups from the day before saw patient after patient. Some had walked miles to see us, others were students of the school. It was not uncommon to have a patient who had never been to a hospital, had never seen a doctor, or didn’t even know their own age. With our translators, we recorded as much family and personal history as possible, took vitals, and recorded the symptoms they were experiencing. Two doctors from Tanzania accompanied our group. They would assess our recordings and the patient once more and then would write them a prescription of medicine that our team had brought from the US. Over the two days, we helped over 100 people, but some were left untreated. I knew going into the trip that we would not be able to help every patient, but what I didn’t expect was the overwhelming feelings I had when this actually happened.
What I learned from my experience in Tanzania was much more than I had ever hoped to. At first, all the patients were hesitant, which makes sense. We were complete strangers, didn’t speak a word of their language, but were there to help them for free? I don’t think I would believe it either. But after spending time with them, their eyes began to change. I remember one woman who had brought her two sons that needed to be treated. Being a protective mother, she was closed off at first, but by the time the appointment was over, she looked at each of us in a way I will never forget. There was genuine appreciation, like she finally trusted us. Her boys would laugh and play with us while we were waiting for the doctor, and she laughed with us. Language was no longer important. We had made a connection that we both understood each other completely.
The Maasai that I had the privilege of meeting were the most incredible people I have ever met. We live in the richest country in the world, yet they are so much richer. I felt the strength of their community just by being in their presence. Their appreciation for family values, love, patience, and happiness are the exact things we traded in for iPhones and internet. As much as the people of Maasai believe we helped them in our short three days, they helped us so much more.
Since arriving back home, I have tried to organize all my thoughts and emotions from the trip but can only come up with one logical sentence: I cannot possibly explain how much Tanzania gave to me. It has opened my eyes to how many people still do not have access to healthcare. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of that beautiful mother and her two adorable sons as well as the rest of the Maasai community. I hope one day I can return and help all the people we didn’t get a chance to, but I know I can’t just ignore them until that happens. I hope this small glimpse into my experience helps raise money to bring the Maasai tribe healthcare, something that no one should be denied.
Thank you so much for reading, and any donation will help.