by Ashley Carter and Alecia McClure
Prisca can really be thought of as the spark that helped form AfricAid’s vision and goals. What would become of this bright, motivated girl from rural Tanzania? Without continued education, Prisca’s future opportunities were unclear. But as the new organization was formed, Prisca was one of the first 10 students to receive a scholarship from AfricAid, becoming the first girl in her village to go to secondary school. It was there in 2003 that Ashley Shuyler Carter and Prisca first met and began to exchange letters as penpals.
Ashley returned to visit Prisca and her large family regularly over the years in their rural village of Mundarara, just south of the Kenya border. Prisca’s mother, Neema has 12 children. Neema works from the pre-dawn hours until late at night and “her kindness is known throughout the village.”
One memorable visit occurred in July, 2007, when Ashley experienced life in Prisca’s Maasai “boma” (home) for several weeks. She describes the full experience of a female in the village. “I tried to participate as much as possible in the various daily activities and chores – walking an hour and a half each way to fetch water, shucking corn, carrying firewood, taking the goats to a far-away mountain for grass.”
The bond of their friendship grew stronger and out of this shared experience, Ashley and Prisca co-authored a children’s book in 2010: Somebody Like Me. Kids all over the world have read about their friendship, how their lives in the US and Tanzania differ, and more importantly, how they are the same.
Ashley knew early on that Prisca would be a natural leader for her community. “Prisca is naturally talkative and is always laughing; she seems often to be the center of attention, even among groups of mixed genders. Unlike many others who have been to secondary school, Prisca does not pretend to be better than her Maasai peers, and still cheerfully does as much work as the other women in her boma. As a result, I left with the sense that she is a unique position to be a leader in her community; no one feels upset by her having left Mundarara to go to secondary school, and she has an understanding of the world beyond her village that is rare among her peers.”
Prisca continued on to teacher training college with AfricAid’s support and became the first woman from Mundarara to become a teacher. She taught in government primary schools around the country for several years, but has now successfully been placed as a teacher back in Mundarara. She is creating the “ripple effect” that AfricAid expects of all its scholars will have by being a role model and inspiring many more students and young girls.
On a return visit in July, 2013, Ashley observed that Prisca’s destiny as a leader had been realized. “She has navigated the impossibly challenging task of being a pioneer on behalf of women in her community, while maintaining strong ties within it. Her father allows her to eat together with the men, and she jokes confidently with her brothers. Her mother beams with pride that Prisca is helping them build a home with a strong roof to endure all seasons. And her younger sisters follow her example, keeping their heads high when the other girls in the village keep their eyes to the ground. The ripple effects of Prisca’s education are already evident, but I left inspired and overjoyed thinking about the impact she has had in her family, in her community and in my life.”
Prisca is a mother herself now, to two daughters and a son (oldest daughter pictured here with grandmother, Neema). And so the cycle begins again…Prisca will ensure that her children receive an education beyond primary school and have an empowered and purposeful life. When Ashley and her mom, Nina visited Prisca’s family in Mundarara in April, 2016, they experienced the deep joy that comes with a friendship developed over the course of many years – and the satisfaction of seeing what a leader Prisca has become.