RANDOLPH COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - This time of year, many college students leave home to go to school, but one Illinois student left her family, her country and her continent for education.
Lavender Ntaoti comes from a Maasai tribal community in Kajiado County, Kenya.
"It's a different world out here," said Ntaoti. "Everything looks different to me."
The Maasai people raise cattle, but Ntaoti's mother worked hard to ensure she could do more.
"My mom didn't get a chance to go to school, but she values education a lot," said Ntaoti. "Most of the time she works very hard and does everything and says, 'make sure you concentrate on your studies."
Now Ntaoti has become the first person in her county to come to the United States to learn.
"I come here to get education at Illinois State University," said Ntaoti. "I'll be pursuing a master's degree in communications."
Ntaoti has had to overcome many obstacles to get here, not the least of which is that Maasai women generally don't have time for education.
"All the work the domestic chores are done by women so we were the ones really having a hard time," said Ntaoti.
The primary chore which keeps women in Ntaoti's region busy is simply finding water. Ntaoti says women sometimes must walk miles to find it.
"In my place, there's no water," said Ntaoti "It is very hard."
Vic Hamer with the group Give Me Water Lord said when the women do find water, it is not clean.
"I was watching a lady," said Hamer. "There was no water in sight. She dug with her bare hands for about three feet until some water started to seep up. She took a coffee cup and started to scoop a little at a time into her water jug. She has six children. If you can imagine bathing, cooking, everything you need for six kids, it is just mind boggling."
Hamer and his non-profit organization based in Sparta, Illinois have been working to change that by drilling water wells in Kenya. So far, the group has dug four wells for a school and some villages.
"It gives people clean water where they're not drinking water contaminated with cholera and typhoid," said Hamer. "So, the health improves. It gives these people more time. If you can free that time up of walking and carrying water the ladies can make dresses and belts and sell those, and the children can now go to school, so it improves those communities quite a bit."
Hamer's group is also sponsoring Ntaoti in her education so one day she too can give back.
"When I'm done with my master's degree I'm going to go for my doctorate and then I will go back to Kenya and help my mom and my community," said Ntaoti.
For now, Ntaoti is looking forward to learning, and she says she is grateful for the friends and opportunities she has found in Illinois.
"I'm just overwhelmed by all the blessings and love," said Ntaoti.
Hamer said the group's next project is to provide a Kenyan school with a state-of-the-art water filtration system to help give more children access to education in that country.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Give Me Water Lord organization mail your check made payable to Give Me Water Lord, to P.O. Box 183, Sparta, IL 62286. If your church would like to host a presentation by the group contact Vic Hamer at (618) 978-8533, or email email@example.com.