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Changing Lives

SHP students join Maasai tribe project to improve water access

Three years ago, brothers Roshan Taneja (SHP ’25) and Yuvraj Taneja (SHP ’26) were inspired to join the passion project of Maasai tribe member Mbayani Tayai to provide water for over 30,000 Maasai in the Monduli district of Tanzania, effectively changing the lives of an entire population. Connecting with Tayai through a mutual family friend, the pair were introduced to the nonprofit organization Tayai founded, Maji Wells (maji means “water” in Swahili), which aims to improve access for locals to water, healthcare, and education. 

Working closely with Tayai to really understand the district’s most pressing need—clean water supply and access—the brothers launched a successful fundraising effort leading to the construction of the first 100,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank as well as the first community center for the entire Maasai tribe. The water unit made an immediate impact, helping about 4,000 people in a two-mile radius by reducing the average 10- to 13-hour roundtrip trek on foot to collect water—a chore that typically befalls women and children—to a new average of just two hours. 

Building on their continued partnership with Tayai, the Taneja brothers, joined by fellow SHP students Adam Barycza (SHP ‘26) and Arhaan Gupta-Rastogi (SHP ‘25), raised an additional round of funding, to construct three more water tanks and install rainwater and weather meters to collect critical data. While visiting the site, the group conducted more than 40 interviews of Maasai tribe members to assess the economic impact of reduced walking time to access water. “People were using those extra 10 hours of their life to produce crops and food,” said Roshan. They also saw higher rates of enrollment in neighborhood schools, improved hygiene, and health benefits. 

On the horizon, they plan to scale the project and subsidize 50- to 60-percent of the cost of smaller water harvesting units for individual “bomas,” or households, consisting of approximately 20 individuals. To determine where to install future rainwater harvesting units, satellite images and computer vision/machine learning is being used to detect and map bomas. “This work will help us create a planned approach to supporting the Maasai in the future,” said Yuvraj. Learning about other needs within the community as well, the Taneja brothers have generated a number of possible future solutions that might help—anything from sourcing drones to deliver medicine, to subsidizing domestic water collection units in remote areas where people cannot access the larger units. 

To Roshan, the most important lessons he has taken from his three-year journey with Tayai center around the inextricable connection between service and a strong community. “I learned from people who are so in touch with nature and the community that to provide for others is to provide for themselves. Their government oppresses the Maasai of Moduli, and they are subject to many injustices, but they still give everything they can to their community. To the Maasai, service embodies the essence of community—offering everything to others, regardless of personal sacrifice,” he said.

Echoing this sentiment, Yuvraj emphasized the openness and acceptance he experienced when working with Maasai tribe members, and the true relationships made throughout the duration of the project. “Visiting the harvesting units, [building something lasting and important], and connecting with the community, I have [forged relationships] with some incredible people who have changed my life. I still talk to them and hold them as close friends.”

The brothers intend to continue their partnership with Tayai and Maji Wells—Tayai is currently in the U.S. pursuing a master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration—as well as hopefully address some of the area's other needs. In addition, both brothers are deeply committed to providing mentorship to other students who want to get involved, especially those at the SHS Lower & Middle Schools. Two siblings, sixth grader Devarshi Patel (SHS ‘30) and fifth grader Priansh Patel (SHS ‘31), have raised funds to subsidize 5,000-liter water harvesting units for five families, which will help approximately 100 Maasai. This sibling pair were greatly inspired by the SHP duo and met with them on multiple occasions. 

The young siblings had an Acton Academy Children’s Business Fair stall where they made “insta” photo frames and sold them to fundraise for their water project. The boys also contribute yearly to an orphanage in Zambia, Africa where their mother was born and raised. These efforts went toward building a hospice facility for younger children who are orphans, or who are terminally ill with no financial support. “We hope the boys [further] their efforts and continue to be inspired by leaders like Yuvraj and Roshan to make a difference–even if it’s small,” said Diixa Patel, their mother.

Sacred Heart Schools Atherton

Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton

150 Valparaiso Ave
Atherton, CA 94027
650 322 1866
Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12