A Texas Kiwanian uses his mechanical knowledge to help children in Africa.
Story by Julie Saetre
As a master mechanic and owner of an automobile repair shop in Texas, longtime Kiwanian John Eanes knows his way around all kinds of motor vehicles. Little did he realize, however, that his expertise would one day be needed and valued in Africa.
This past year, thanks to a grant from the Galveston Kiwanis club, Eanes traveled to Kenya with Ed Sulzberger, executive director of African Childrens Haven. Based in Texas, the haven works to help orphans and young women in Africa.
While in Kenya, Eanes served as technical advisor on a project that brought a John Deere tractor to Mission With A Vision, which provides shelter and educational support to young Masai women. The teens have risked their lives fleeing their villages to avoid genital mutilation and forced marriage, both traditional practices of the Masai people. During the past 15 years, the mission has helped nearly 1,000 girls find better futures.
The mission operates a 10-acre farm to provide food for the residents and staff of its residential safe house and to generate income for operating expenses and scholarships. Until Eanes visited, all farming was done painstakingly by hand with short hoes and machetes. But that all changed with the tractor’s much-anticipated arrival — once the young women learned how to operate it, that is.
For two weeks, Eanes trained mission residents to become heavy equipment operators, something they eagerly embraced.
“When we first met the girls, they were very shy and very reserved,” recalls Eanes. “By the time they got up on the tractor and they were plowing, it was just amazing to hear how excited they were to be able to become self-sufficient.”
Such independence is rare for these teens.
“It’s very unusual for Masai women and girls to get an education,” says Sulzberger. “There’s still a lot of resistance to it. And for young women like this to be trained as heavy equipment operators is really unique. We’re told that they’re probably the first Masai women ever to be certified.”
Adds Eanes, “It’s like they came alive as soon as they were able to start plowing. They were just so excited that they would be able to go to other farmers’ fields and plow for them and make money and make themselves better every time they do it.”
This story originally appeared in the June/July issue of Kiwanis magazine.