People of Kenya capture Corbett’s heart

Published 5:04 pm Monday, February 6, 2012

Jan Corbett holds one of the babies of the Masai tribe in Kenya. Corbett visited Kenya last summer for an independent mission and safari with friends and family members. (Contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

It was last summer that Jan Corbett received what she describes as “the best gift ever,” an independent mission and animal viewing safari with family members and friends to Masai Mara National Reserve in Western Kenya.

She fell in love with the people, the magnificent animals and the beautiful scenery; but it was the people that captured her heart.

With smiles, laughter and tears, Jan told the story of her experience.

She told of her concerns for the Masai people who live in the world of 100 years ago with none of today’s comforts: no clean running water, no electricity and no bathrooms.

They sleep in huts made of manure and dirt with no mattresses and no furniture.

The village is surrounded by piles of thorny brush to keep the elephants, lions and other wild animals away from their children and their sacred cows.

Manure is everywhere and the smell is horrific.

Everyone is thin and they all have yellow eyes.

Their only meal of the day consists of cows’ milk mixed with cows’ blood and corn maize; a mush of porridge consistency cooked over an outdoor fire. One man will have three or four wives who live in connecting huts with no doors. The women tend the children, build the huts and prepare the food.

The men stand around “conducting business.” There was a time when they hunted, but now they are not allowed to hunt the animals of an endangered species.

Some progress is being made, but many of the schools still have no running water or electricity, and few teaching supplies.

Some of the students who go on to college return to the village to try to improve conditions, but because the natives are so proud of their traditions, the returning students have very little luck.

The travelers were awed by the fact that everywhere they went, they were greeted by these natives who have so little, with happy smiles and offers of gifts, singing and dancing. Jan’s journal noted that her group provided for the Masai tribe $2,000 toward improving the water supply, cows for five families, a laptop, school supplies, candy, soccer balls and jump ropes.

Jan tells an interesting and exciting story; always ending with the prayer that she can go back to Kenya and that she can, somehow, help these people she learned to love.

Making the trip were family members Ellen Corbett, Tricia Corbett, Jeanetta and Bill Keller, Patsy and Jim Auiler.

Accompanying friends were Peg Hill, Jodie Brewer, Candy Mahaffey, Vicki Portis and Helen Pruet.

Catherine Legg can be reached by email at