In 2016, Suzanne’s husband died of a sudden cardiac arrest. Her family was understadbly a ship with no sails for several years. On a whim, in 2018, in search of change, she took her daughters on safari to Africa. They were all instantly spellbound by the country, the wildlife and the endearing people. During an excursion to a rural Maasai school, south of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Suzanne learned of the great need for STEM education for students. On one of the long game drives later that week, while out on the Serengeti, she thought about what she & her husband might have been able to do together, and in that moment Suzanne committed to building the first Math & Science Lab at the school in memory of her late husband, Kenneth R. Hopson. And that was just the beginning.
By early January 2019, she returned to Africa to see the labs under construction. It also happened to be the first day of school. After a full day reviewing the construction, Suzanne came across a student crying behind their truck. This young girl was leaning against the spare tire, dusty and tear streaked. Her tattered uniform was pinched closed with an oversized safety pin. The guide explained that she had only just arrived disobeying her father. She left home to come to school walking the entire day, 5 hours with no water in the African sun. This was something children in tight knit tribal families just don’t do. And of course this also explained why she was so scared. She felt she had no choice. You see, her father had sold her to a man to be married. She didn’t want to get married. She did not want to start a family. All she wanted was to go to school. And although tuition in Tanzania is free, the supplies are not. Families must purchase the uniforms, books, food, mattresses and sometimes even firewood for the entire school year. She had arrived with nothing. She knew she would not be permitted to stay. Suzanne was heartbroken.Why? The translator then went on to reveal she was only 14. All she could think of was her 2 daughters, 11 & 13 at the time being married and pregnant. Gratefully, one of the group members, a veteran at helping the Maasai, and without hesitation paid for the young girls yearly tuition on the spot. Suzanne was not quick enough that day. But something else happened. Suzanne made a silent promise that if she could find a way to provide schooling for girls like Inoti, she would. She never wanted to see a family make a choice to prevent their child from an education. When Black Panther Safaris was created a year later, she figured out a genius way to serve. She would provide incredible safaris to her clients while also providing scholarships with the safari proceeds one girl at a time. Co-founders Suzanne & Fred feel so privileged to be able to support these beautiful children and their amazing culture.
Consider becoming part of our Travel Tribe. You can continue learning about ways you can get involved. Come on safari knowing you’ll be sending a girl to school. Or sponsor a girl by contributing to our Legacy Scholarship Program. If you’d like a monthly serving of great deals and free advice, please sign up for our Blog. And finally, kindly follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook.
Love, Suzanne Eason &