Introducing Rebecca Fortney and Montana Maasai Outreach
From the moment we met Rebecca Fortney, we were inspired. This is her story:
At just twenty two, Rebecca Fortney founded Montana Maasai Outreach, a non-profit teamed up with the Saikeri Medical Dispensary in Kenya to provide much needed medical supplies to the village of Saikeri and to its outlying villages.
As a public health and pre-med nursing student at the University of Montana, Rebecca has had the opportunity to observe and serve a role in the health care system within her own community. However, she wanted to learn about, and see for herself, the conditions and needs of a health care setting with far fewer resources than that of her own home country. In 2013, she decided to go on a 6-week volunteer trip to the district of Saikeri in Kenya. There, the Maasai people (who are known well for their rich cultural traditions and semi-nomadic lifestyle) account for a majority of the population and live in a very rural setting.
Rebecca had signed up for the trip through an organization that connects volunteers with local, grassroots non-profits all over the globe. While this volunteer placement organization prides itself as a “trustworthy international volunteer travel company” that bolsters “responsible volunteering,” Rebecca later found out that after paying nearly $4000 to participate in the program, only $200 actually went toward the on-the-ground projects of the Kenyan organization. She was jolted. And, after traveling to the village of Saikeri in Kenya and seeing firsthand the true needs of the people, Rebecca knew that she could do better. She decided to start her own non-profit so that she could directly provide needed services to the community and ensure that 100% of donations go to good use.
During her 6-week trip, Rebecca met several volunteers who had started non-profit organizations to fill gaps in education and health, especially for girls and young women. While these organizations were running a new preschool as well as a boarding house to help young women continue their education and avoid early marriage, Rebecca saw little support being provided to the Saikeri Medical Dispensary. Though the Dispensary received donations from the Kenyan government, many of the supplies and medicines provided were immaterial to the needs of the community. There remained a lack of supplies and medicines critically needed to address disease, infection, illness, and daily health problems relevant to Saikeri.
Upon her return to the States, Rebecca began raising funds in order to assemble appropriately stocked medical kits. Today, every dollar goes toward true medical needs in Saikeri. Rebecca even takes snapshots of donors’ money in action. As put by Rebecca, Montana Maasai Outreach does not donate blindly.
This year, Rebecca will return to Kenya in June, bringing with her medical kits chock-full of drugs and supplies like penicillin and wound dressings. She plans to reassess the needs of the Dispensary and visit the district schools, regional hospital, and girl’s boarding house (to name just a few of the plans she has in store).
Learn more about Montana Maasai Outreach here and stay tuned because Rebecca plans to keep SCIWHF updated on her work in Kenya with videos, photographs, and journal entries. We’ll be sharing it all with you, too.
R, Abbie. 2009. Sundown, Kenya. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/6jrP8R*
Fortney, Rebecca. 2012. [Photograph]. Provided by Rebecca Fortney.
*In no way does the licensor of this image endorse SCIWHF, the content of this post, or the use of this image on this website.