How did a Maasai warrior with a magnetic personality, a command of five languages, and aspirations to become an ecotourism leader in his native Tanzania wind up teaching teens in the Rockies? Ask Paula Busey.
In 2009, when the 55-year-old librarian and her family headed out on safari in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, they found a friend in their guide, Samwel Melami Langidare Mollel, a 30-year-old university-educated wildlife expert. "It was magical to learn about his life-about growing up in a village of 65 people, about Maasai tradition," she recalls. "As an educator, I wanted my students to have a first-person experience like this."
Back home in Littleton, a Denver suburb haunted by a high school shooting and rattled by last summer's gun violence in nearby Aurora, Busey saw an opportunity to give her students an eye-opening encounter. Through craft sales and fund drives, Busey raised enough money to bring Melami to the States.
Over five days, Melami taught some 1,500 ThunderRidge High students lessons in wildlife conservation, ethnobotany, tribal traditions, and African development. Those students returned the favor by raising funds to build a kitchen for a school near Arusha, where Melami lives.
The cultural exchange has been going on for three years now, and, happily, there's no end in sight.