From France to Samburu: How one young student got to meet her donor


Consolata Kithinji, Conservation Education Officer

Date Published

As Save The Elephants works towards building a tolerant relationship between man and elephants, the STE/Elephant Watch Safaris Elephant Scholarship Programme is furthering this mission by providing students with an opportunity to change lives.

In 2016, we admitted the fourteen year old who hails from Isiolo, Naima Mohamed into the programme after she had performed so well in her final primary school examinations. From the way she conducted herself, we could tell that Naima was someone with zeal and determination, and deserving of a scholarship opportunity.

A year later, she had risen to the top of her class among hundreds of other competitive scholars, despite her very humble background and difficult upbringing. A first born in a family of eight children, Naima struggled to get textbooks and any other academic revision material. Her mother who is jobless, and father, who sells in a small vegetable shop in Northern Kenya, had very limited income to cater for the needs of the large family. Naima would occasionally join her mother to cook mandazi, a Kenyan snack, for sale on the roadside to raise money for the family. This scholarship opportunity rescued Naima from the responsibility of dividing her attention between her mother’s business and her academics, by funding her attendance at a boarding high school.

When her generous sponsor, Sonia Palfrey from France, informed us she would be visiting Samburu and would like to meet Naima, we were delighted.  Naima herself was beaming with joy.

This meeting was to be particularly special as Naima and Sonia had been writing to each other for the past year but had never met. Through their year-long correspondence, Sonia had given Naima the support and love she needed to work even harder and continue to excel in her studies. For Sonia, the exchange with Naima, she says, was truly rewarding. “Everything I had read or heard about Naima was positive but to meet her myself was completely convincing.  I feel that my funding is going to a most worthy cause for this lovely, intelligent girl.”

And what better place to have a first meeting than at Save The Elephant’s life-long partner, Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu, surrounded by elephants. Not only was it an extraordinary experience, but it also provided Naima with her first glimpse of wild elephants! 

“We went together into Samburu National Reserve to see the wild animals, and believe it or not, it was the first time that I had seen an elephant so close.” Naima said. “The elephant raised its trunk to smell me, which made me so afraid but Sonia reassured me and held my hands. I was so happy to finally meet the person who has bought so much joy and support into my life and I am forever grateful to have been chosen by Save The Elephants as an elephant scholar.”

Sonia had spent time at the Elephant Watch Camp in 2016, where she had grown to love and trust the people who do the incredible work of protecting elephants. It is during her visit that she was introduced to the Education Programme, and she says “Quite often, we hear of programmes where we can contribute, but knowing this one first hand, it was an easy choice to make.  Additionally, I feel it important that my support of Naima also means that I can convey to her my love and concern for the elephants of Kenya and elsewhere.  Meeting her allowed me to do that.”

Both Naima and Sonia parted from the meeting as firm friends and with a renewed understanding of each others’ lives and cultures. It was a meeting that neither will ever forget.

It is thanks to the wonderful support from donors like Sonia Palfrey that drive such positive change in our students. We remain extremely grateful to all those who have supported the education programme – your generosity allows our students to reach for the stars and gives them opportunities that would otherwise seem impossible. Asante Sana!

It costs $6,000 to sponsor a child like Naima through 4 years of high school. If you too would like to sponsor an elephant scholar like Naima, please email [email protected] or click here for more information.

Naima with her generous sponsor Sonia in Samburu