Sanaipei Lolkinyiei



by Tony Foltman & Terese Lyons


Sanaipei Loice Lolkinyiei. Sanaipei. Her name was given to her by her mother, Tayiana, and it means “the most successful woman in Maasailand.” How could Tayiana possibly have known?

            We began to sponsor Sanaipei’s education through BEADS in March 2006. Little did we know the journey we would be sharing with her.

            We first met our “daughter” in November 2006 at Enkongu Narok Primary School near Amboseli National Park. It was a remarkable and memorable moment. Sanaipei and her mother standing in front of the school; Tayiana, speaking only her Maa language but translated by Sanaipei, said “we give her to you because you can do so much more for her.”  Such a wondrous gift: a young girl yearning for education, possessing the necessary talent and skill, and holding wonderful visions for her future. This was and is a great responsibility. We have shared it and her with her parents ever since. We have become her American “Mum and Dad.”

            Such a daughter. Visionary, dedicated, hardworking. Her letters were a delight to read. She was always “striking while the iron is hot.” And she was always as grateful to us “as a blind beggar who happened to pick a ten-cent coin on the road and think he would be a rich man.”

            We shared her progress through Kimana Secondary School near her home. She was always near or at the top of her class. And always so grateful for the opportunity to go to school.

            In 2009 she graduated from Kimana and we made our second trip to Kenya to celebrate with her and her family. It was a grand celebration at her home with roasted goat, and singing and dancing by the women and the young warriors. Both sets of parents were so proud! But it was bittersweet, because we had to leave, and as we did, we saw Sanaipei crying a bit in the dusk.

            Always ahead of us in her thinking and vision, she had decided she wanted to become a Clinical Officer. Clinical Officers are providers of medical care throughout Kenya. It would require that she attend college for four years to earn a Diploma in Clinical Medicine, Surgery and Community Health. It is a difficult program.

            While we were looking at different Universities on the internet, Sanaipei had already chosen Kenya Methodist University in Meru. She asked for our approval and when we questioned her reasoning she responded with a carefully thought-out rationale. We could do nothing but concur with her decision.

            She began her medical studies at KeMU in 2010. She excelled in her classes and exams and we reveled in her letters. She was so excited, having so much fun learning. We could also sense in her letters her growing maturity and vision. It was unbelievable to us what was happening with our new “daughter.” Gradually, her letters and emails to us were to “Mum and Dad.”  Just as gradually, she became our “Daughter.”  We share her with Tayiana and Lolkinyiei, her father. We are as proud of her as if she were our own flesh and blood.

            She graduated from KeMU in 2013, but the graduation ceremony was in July 2014. We made our third trip to Kenya. Yet another memorable day! Thousands of people descended on the KeMU campus. Our Sanaipei, in traditional Maasai dress, simply glowed. The night before we had dined with her family and they had provided us with traditional Maasai wear as well. We were one big, colorful, Maasai family.

            We left the next day with Sanaipei for a three-day trip to Lake Naivasha Country Club, our graduation gift to her. We had a wonderful time by ourselves talking about her family and experiences. And her vision for the future.

            After Lake Naivasha, we headed to her home in Kimana for another celebration. One that was even more grand than we could have envisioned.

            That morning we bought a she-goat for Tayiana. The goat was feisty, but our trusty Maasai guide, Joshua, got her into the Land Rover for the drive to Sanaipei’s  father’s boma. Once there, we were amazed at the preparations. Tents, a sound system and, it seemed, everyone in town was there. This WAS a big event. No Maasai woman from this community had ever graduated from University.

            As six years before, there was much traditional food, singing and dancing. And speeches! Many, many speeches in Maa, Swahili and our few words in English. Then came the gifts: 16 goats, two cows, and a parcel of land from her father. A remarkable showing of appreciation for all her success. Several hours passed so quickly. We could never have imagined ten years earlier that our simple sponsorship of a young girl could lead to this.

            During this visit, Sanaipei was a Clinical Officer Intern at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. She gave us a tour of the hospital and impressed us with her poise, knowledge and skills. We met several of her supervisors who spoke highly of her. We, of course, were quite proud!

            She has now completed her internship and in February 2015 received her Licence to practice as a Clinical Officer. She is starting her medical career; yet still, in the future after gaining some practical experience, she intends to return to university for more medical training. Her vision now is to pursue a Ph.D. and teach in medicine. We have no doubt that she will continue to be successful. And we will be there with her as she goes forward.

            In 2006, she told us of her vision to go to university and to visit the United States. We promised her that if she worked hard and abided by all BEADS rules, we would pay for her education. And a visit to the US as well! She now has her passport and US visa and is excitedly anticipating coming to Santa Fe, New Mexico this summer where we will welcome her into our own home, as we have been welcomed into her home so many times before.

            We agree with Tayiana. Sanaipei is indeed “the most successful woman in Maasailand.”  And, maybe, beyond!