Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meet the Samburu warriors in NYC on May 5th

PS—If you're in NYC on May 5th, I hope you can join me at one of two events for a charity I'm on the board of, The Thorn Tree Project, which supports education for the nomadic Samburu people, who are cow and goat herders in one of the most remote parts of the world in northern Kenya. I am hosting a lunch on Thursday, May 5th, and there will also be a fun gala that same evening (details below).  There's no charge or donation required to attend either event.


At these events, you will be able to meet four Samburu warriors who are in NYC for the first time ever.  They made the Wall Street Journal last week (see the first picture below), and I posted a video of them singing and dancing at an evening event in Soho I attended at:  They are really worth seeing.  Below are additional photos from last week as well as my trip to visit the Samburu a few years ago.


The Thorn Tree Project was founded nearly a decade ago by my friend Jane Newman (in picture #3 below), who spent her career on Madison Avenue as an advertising executive and entrepreneur before moving to Kenya.  After her car broke down in the tiny village of Sereolipi and she was stranded for a few days, she met Chief George (in pics 2-5) and was compelled by his vision to better educate his people so they could survive the onslaught of modernity.  The Samburu people live today almost the same as they lived hundreds of years ago, with no electricity, running water, or modern health care.  However, with the construction of a new road, they are now dealing with issues of alcohol, AIDS, etc. and need to be prepared to deal with the outside world.  The only way the Samburu will survive is if at least some of their young people get a decent education.


When Jane started The Thorn Tree Project, the overall literacy rate among the Samburu was 2% and only 120 children were in the two K-8 public schools serving the region.  Scores on the 8th grade national test were dismal – averaging 180 on a 500-point scale; a 300 is the minimum for going to decent high school – and not a single Samburu student that year graduated from high school, the minimum requirement for any kind of job in Kenya like serving in the military, working for the government, or becoming a teacher. 


The Thorn Tree Project has invested in the schools by hiring additional high-quality teachers, building dormitories (the students can't live at home because the villages are always moving, following the cows to new grazing areas), digging wells, installing a water system, and buying camels to provide milk so the children aren't hungry.  The results have been remarkable: today, 1,300 students are in the two schools, average test scores have nearly doubled, and 90 students are in high school (and even a few in university and technical schools) on full scholarships.


The lunch will be from 12:00-2:00 pm on Thursday, May 5th at the offices of my friend Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management (who has been the single biggest supporter of The Thorn Tree Project), 888 7th Avenue (at W. 57th Street), 42nd Floor.  To RSVP, please email my assistant Leila at


In addition, there will be a really fun gala that evening at Donna Karan's fabulous Urban Zen in the West Village, 711 Greenwich St. (invite at the end of this email).  You can expect a phenomenal silent auction with amazing items to bid on, a fabulous African bazaar full of wonderful things from Kenya, and a bar with snacks.  There will also be the opportunity for you to buy desks, beds, mosquito nets and camels for the schools in Kenya.  The event is always lots of fun and you are pretty much guaranteed to walk out with a bargain.  The room is huge and we want to fill it, so please bring people with you.  Dress is casual.  No need to RSVP – the more the merrier.


I hope to see you!


Best regards,



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