Fredrick Tubula Masago lived with us last year as an exchange student from a village near Ngoswani in the Masai Mara in Kenya, a very rural area of Kenya. He attended The Sharon Academy High School with my son Silas Farwell Mead ‘15. He played with Silas on TSA’s soccer team, ran on TSA’s track team (setting state track records), and even learned to ice skate and ski. He did this final sport in spite of the fact that in his native Masai language there is no word for snow. “Fog” is as close as they get, he told us. Despite his enthusiasm for trying just about every new thing in Vermont flung his way, he did draw the line at joining Silas in the igloo they had made in the front yard overnight at -10 degrees below zero. Smart boy that Fred!
I’ve both lived and traveled in Kenya and know a little about the culture that Fred comes from. It’s about as vastly different from Vermont and TSA as one can get. Fred soaked up his many new experiences here, and over time taught us about his land, his beloved large family, his village, and his school. He taught us about the day to day differences, such as what a luxury we all live with here to have fresh, drinkable water come so easily out of our tap. Fred described transitioning from a home without running water or electricity to a place where both are almost ubiquitous as “one of the strangest things I have experienced.”
In Fred’s village, his mother, or sister, or he, have to walk almost a mile, each way, to collect water in jugs, and carry it back. And it’s not always clean. Fred’s brother Simon explains: “The biggest challenge is for the small villages outlying 5+km away, especially west of Ngoswani. During drought times (most of the year) mammas must get water each day – walking many kilometers to and from the bore hole, carry 20 liters on their backs supported by a strap across their forehead. If a family has many children, she may have to make several trips. This water is used for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.”
During the year Fred spent at TSA, he made many friends. Fred is easy to love. He is exceptionally skilled at building community, likely a skill he learned growing up in a close knit large family and a village where everyone looks out for everyone else. The community he built his year at TSA is large, strong, and committed.
When the idea of a drilling a well that would bring water closer to Fred’s family and village, the TSA community quickly jumped on board. Over $4,000 was raised in support of the well for Fred’s village. This came through spare change collected in a jar at the front desk, sales of valentines, and generous donations from many of Fred’s friends. We connect with Fred via Skype, phone calls, and letters whenever we can. Even with Fred far away, he is still very much a part of TSA in our thoughts and hearts.
TSA Alumni Parent
Host Parent to Fredrick Tubula Masago