By Brecken Branstrator
The students at the Kitarini Maasai Children’s School near Longido, Tanzania, were never too shy to jump in front of the camera. This photo was taken by the author of this blog post when she traveled to East Africa in January.
At a time of year when it’s easy to get caught up in buying gifts, attending parties and trying to balance a busy schedule, it can be hard to find the time to stop and be grateful for what you do have, and to show that gratefulness by giving back.

So, I was only too happy to hear about an opportunity that recently popped up to do just that.

This one in particular is special to me. On my last full day in East Africa earlier this year, my travel companions and I got to visit the Kitarini Maasai Children’s School in rural northern Tanzania near the Kenyan border.

Local miners Sune and Pia Merisheki started the school. When Sune was on a prospecting trip one day, he came across a group of children gathered under a tree out in the bush for their schooling.

Wanting to help bring a real school to these children, the couple raised funds and petitioned the government for support. Kitarini now consists of a group of buildings with metal roofs with more than 400 children attending, many of whom have to walk miles from their homes every day just get to school.

Members of the jewelry industry have been getting more and more involved in the school, with a number of jewelry stores and gem cutters across the country collecting books from their local community for kids of all ages. They were packed up in suitcases and brought along on our visit in January to be donated.

20161214 Kitarini-BodyStudents sit outside during a class, practicing their writing in the dirt.
Watching the grateful teachers and staff accept the books, and seeing the excited smiles on the students’ faces and happiness to be at school, it’s impossible not to be affected in a way that makes you want to do more.

Now, we can.

One of the gemstone cutters, Dan Lynch, on the trip has launched a GoFundMe page to help raise money to build a library at Kitarini and provide a place for those books to go so that the students can actually use them.

“There is no limit to the potential these children have and what can be unlocked through the power of reading. It becomes especially transforming that the surrounding villages will share this library. This humble library has the power to change the lives not only of the children from the school, but become a community resource,” he says on the page.

The plans is to build the library in 2017, with Sune helping coordinate the construction locally. Any funds raised beyond what’s needed for the library will be put toward other needs of the school and its students, such as funding lunches or housing for the teachers.

There also might be online gemstones auctions in the future to help raise money; stay tuned for more information on that. In the meantime, visit the donation page here.

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