Our Story

As Tanzania has developed, the semi-nomadic life-style of many Maasai has been disrupted. The Maasai of Ekenywa Village (in the Arusha District of Tanzania) have been particularly hard-hit, as land in the region has become increasingly urbanized and is no longer available for grazing cattle. Without their cattle and with little or no formal education, many have had no reliable source of income. In addition to the poverty and despair arising from loss of livelihood, AIDS has decimated the once-strong family bonds, and many children in the village now come from broken families or are orphans.

Maasai Joy Children’s Center

Cousins Edward Ernest Kutingala and Justin Julius Kisota grew up in Ekenywa Village, where most of their fellow Maasai people could not afford to educate their children. Through their own hard work and using their own money earned as guides on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the two cousins launched the Maasai Joy Children’s Centre in 2006 with dreams of breaking their village’s poverty cycle. Meet Ernest, Principal founder.

Using a local church as a classroom, Ernest and Justin hired their first English teacher for $80 a month, and asked fellow villagers to send children ages 3 to 6 to class.  With the generous support of donors, the school quickly grew. By 2014, the school had grown to a full seven grades (plus kindergarten and pre- kindergarten) and graduated its first class in December 2014. All 12 of the graduates have successfully continued on to secondary school.

A core group of donors and the non-profit organization Lift Up Africa are now working together with the MJCC founders to develop projects that will provide the school with sustainable income for paying teachers, buying textbooks, helping villagers pay for school uniforms and lunches, and continuing to construct needed facilities. Meanwhile, MJCC continues to rely on the generous support of its donors.

Founders Ernest and Justin hope that by providing a quality education, MJCC can help Maasai children seek and obtain solid jobs, improve their standard of living, and contribute to the support of their parents and the community.

MJCC Board of Advisors

David Easson, Head of Manufacturing

David has spent his professional career in the biotechnology industry. In addition to co-founding two companies, David has worked with companies involved in drug manufacturing and drug delivery technology/systems. He previously acted as Director of the WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Head of Manufacturing for AOBiome, a developer of first-in-class topical biologics. David became familiar with MJCC during a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro and in addition to visiting the school, David and his family have hosted the school’s founder, Ernest Kutingala, in the U.S. David can be reached at deasson@townisp.com for more information about MJCC, including current projects or needs.

Ellen J. Elliott, Ph.D., Retired Researcher/Teacher

Ellen has spent over 40 years in research, teaching and administration in science and engineering, and retired as Director of the Education Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in 2012. While in Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ellen visited MJCC and was immediately impressed by the commitment of the school founder, Ernest Kutingala, her guide on Kili, and by the amazing progress and success the school had enjoyed in its short time of existence. Ellen and her husband became supporters of the school and she is pleased to be able to donate her time and effort as a member of the Board of Advisors for the school.

Bruce Fryer, Teacher/School Data Analyst & Teacher Coach

Over fifteen years ago, Bruce left his career in magazine publishing to pursue a childhood goal to honor the great educators in his life by becoming a teacher. His particular calling is urban education and Bruce currently works for the Newark Public Schools, in Newark, NJ. Currently employed as a teacher data coach and school data analyst, Bruce spent the prior seven years teaching 8th grade English Language Arts. Bruce’s introduction to MJCC occurred in the summer of 2015 when he spent two weeks as a volunteer teacher. He will never forget the love of learning and deep respect for teachers that the students of MJCC demonstrated on a daily basis. They seemed oblivious to the challenging physical conditions of most of their classrooms. They were just happy to have the opportunity to learn from their loving and talented instructors. Bruce can be reached at bfryermail@gmail.com for additional information on volunteering opportunities.

Charles Gage, Healthcare Consultant

Charles has been a supporter of MJCC since his introduction to the school and its founder, Ernest, during a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Charles has subsequently visited the school and continues to support the growth and success of the school through his work as a member of the Board of Advisors. A graduate of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Charles is a healthcare analyst with a consulting firm in Washington D.C.

Robert J. Gage, Partner, Covington & Burling LLP

Bob is head of his law firm’s real estate practice and advises clients on matters including acquisitions, finance, leasing, construction and general commercial and non-profit organization law. Bob has visited MJCC and continues to support the fundraising and growth of the school. He also provides pro bono legal services to MJCC in addition to his work as a member of the Board of Advisors.

Sheri Hoistad, Legal Consultant

Sheri has more than 25 years of experience working as a corporate paralegal in both law firm and in-house legal department settings, and has experience in formation and compliance matters for nonprofit organizations. In addition, she is an active volunteer with various organizations. Sheri was introduced to MJCC during a Mt. Kilimanjaro climbing trip, and is committed to support the school and the students in their work and growth.   Sheri can be reached at sherihoistad@comcast.net with any inquiries or additional information about MJCC.

Paul Kavitz, Strategic Advisor, Bluecrue Institute (www.bluecrue.com)

Paul is a strategic advisor for business and information technology with more than 25 years experience in the high-tech industry.  He became involved as an advisor and fundraiser for MJCC upon visiting the school as part of a journey through East Africa.  His advocacy for the school stems from a passion for sustainable development through education and good governance.  In 2015, he successfully coordinated the ClimbKili4Kids campaign which secured funding to build roofs for two classrooms at MJCC.  He plans to return to Africa soon to bring his own children on safari and share the MJCC experience first-hand with them.

Elizabeth Lenz, Territory Business Manager, NeoGenomics Laboratories

Elizabeth has been in professional sales her entire career, specifically medical sales. She is currently working in the field of cancer diagnostics. Elizabeth was introduced to MJCC by Karie and Susan Orendorff. She recently had the great honor and pleasure to travel to Tanzania and spend time in various classrooms at Maasai Joy Children’s Centre. It was a life changing experience. The passion for education, as well as, the dedication of both administrators, teachers and students was incredibly inspiring. She has recently begun to sponsor a MJCC student and plans to continue volunteering at the school. She is excited to join the advisory board and support the continued success of the school.

Karie Orendorff, Professor, University of Rhode Island

Karie has been an educator for more than 20 years, including work as a teacher with grades K-12 and currently at the university level. Karie is passionate about teaching and travel, and was introduced to MJCC during a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. She has led groups of students from the University of Rhode Island to Africa for several years, where they used their expertise, energy and skills to student-teach at MJCC. Karie and her students have delivered approximately 3,500 pounds of supplies and equipment to the school for use by students and staff.

Carol Ferris Schoeman, Partner, The Ferris & Schoeman Group

In 2006, Ernest (working as a mountain guide for the trekking company formed and operated by Carol and her husband, Eben), shared a vision and passion to build a school in his village. Carol and Eben invited Ernest to the USA where he began the first fundraising efforts for MJCC. Carol continues to spread the word about MJCC on company websites and encourages clients to participate in this heartwarming project by visiting the school, donating and volunteering. Thankfully, many generous clients have supported MJCC for years via donations and using their time and talents to volunteer at the school. Also, Carol is involved with the “Pack for a Purpose” program which directly supports MJCC by encouraging clients visiting Tanzania to bring needed school supplies.

Benjamin Crafts Upham, Teacher

Ben is a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island, and is currently working as a teacher. Ben has visited MJCC and worked as a student-teacher at the school on three separate trips, in addition to working to build a playground and two classrooms at MJCC. Ben continues his support of MJCC by sponsoring a student and serving as a member of the Board of Advisors of the school.