On the 2nd of November, 2013 a sherehe (Swahili for celebratory gathering) was held to officially inaugurate the new Lion Guardians Training Camp at Nairrabala, Kenya. Amongst the honored guests were the chairman, secretary and treasurer of Olgulului Group Ranch, several chiefs from the Amboseli area, KWS Senior Warden and the Community Warden, the District Commissioner’s office, and various conservation partners which operate on Olgulului Group Ranch, including representatives from Big Life, African Wildlife Foundation and the School for Field Studies. Also, many members of the local community of Nchakita, were present, including women representatives, influential elders and the new warrior age set, the ituati also graced the occasion. All in all, there was a crowd of approximately 70 celebrators, including the Lion Guardians team.
The event took place over several hours and involved the requisite food, socializing and most importantly speeches and blessings. But it all began in the wee hours of the morning, with nyama (meat) being prepared for the sherehe. As members from the community gathered, the first port of call was the barbecue area in the northwest of the LG Training Center camp. After eating their fill, they would then wend their way to the mess tent where the official ceremony was to be held. Here they were greeted by steaming chai lovingly prepared by Camp Chef Maria.
Once all guests were present, Eric Ole Kesoi (LG community manager) – master of ceremony extraordinaire, called the occasion to order. Two elders from the Maasai community blessed the land with traditional prayers and then the Chairman of Olgulului ranch declared the training camp officially open. In a symbolic gesture Chairman Leturesh cut the ceremonial “ribbon” at the entrance of the mess tent (click here for a short video of the event).
After the short ceremony, everyone gathered in the mess to watch the new Lion Guardian film (click here to see the LG feature film). All guests were enthralled by the captivating story of Lion Guardians and specifically by the myriad benefits that the program has brought in the areas where it operates. In fact, the audience was so involved in the movie that when lioness Elikan growled menacingly within the film, a number of the mamas in the audience actually yelped in fear!
Following the movie, Leela Hazzah formally welcomed everyone to the Lion Guardians Training Centre and specifically thanked the Olgulului Group Ranch members for their continued support of the program. The Olgulului Group Ranch and its members have shared a long relationship with Lion Guardians team. In a grand gesture that illustrates their belief in the program and the benefits it accrues to communities, the group ranch has provided 10 acres of land to the Lion Guardians for the purposes of this training camp.
After Leela’s welcome, all the guests of honor delivered speeches emphasizing the benefits of the Lion Guardians program. They reinforced the messages from the short movie and gave first-hand examples of how the Lion Guardians has helped them. All the chiefs also recognized the important role that key stakeholders such as KWS, Big Life, AWF and others have played and continue to play in this eco-system.
Lion Guardian Community Manager, Eric managed the entire day with aplomb – from welcoming guests to introducing the speakers, translating from Maa to English or vice versa, he was literally everywhere.
After the speeches, more nyama was consumed and washed down with soda. In the end, the guests left with their bellies full, their minds inspired and their hearts filled with happiness. November 2nd was indeed a day of celebration and gratitude that went off without a hitch.
In closing, Lion Guardians would like to thank all the guests and partners for coming and making the day so special as well as all of our supporters which have allowed the Training Centre to be a reality. A big thank you in particular to the St. Andrews Prize which provided the funds to build the centre. Also, to Steve Gold for his dedication to bringing top solar technology to the far reaches of the wilds where conservation efforts are underway – you bring light and power to our work. Asante sana wote! We look forward to many such occasions at the training camp and a continued relationship with the communities and all our stakeholders.