March 23, 2022
Alumni Spotlight: Kikanae Punyua ’11
Growing up in Kenya as a member of the Maasai tribal community, Kikanae Punyua ’11 might not have imagined his life path. A path that would lead him to the United States and Glenelg Country School (GCS), and then to the University of Maryland as a Division I athlete in track and field. Now he sees his time in the US as a gift and is dedicated to giving back to his community, supporting efforts to improve health care for the Maasai and empower the girls and women of his Punyua clan.
Punyua came to the United States on an American Field Service scholarship presented to him by his teacher at Narok High School in Kenya. He first attended Wilde Lake High School in his junior year and then transferred to Glenelg Country School for his senior year. He excelled in cross country and was a standout on the team. In his elective on public policy, Punyua had to research and present a significant international issue. He chose the topic of female circumcision, concerned about its impact on his younger sister, who would be expected to experience it as a rite of passage.
Learning more about the ritual and international organizations calling for its eradication, Punyua began persuading his father and other elders of his clan to do away with the procedure. In the summer of 2012, David Weeks, global education and community service director, traveled to Kenya to support Punyua’s efforts in presenting the value of female empowerment and the protection of female youth from the long-lasting painful impact of female circumcision, especially during childbirth.
In December of that year, his tribal clan terminated the female circumcision practice, and girls were encouraged to continue their education beyond the primary level. Today, his younger sister is attending college.
After GCS, Punyua attended the University of Maryland, College Park on a full athletic scholarship, where he earned an economics degree. After college, Punyua returned to Kenya, managing a hotel restaurant in Narok. Having learned of childbirth challenges to the women in his tribal group—his mother died in childbirth—Punyua dedicated himself to constructing a local health facility for emergency care and supporting the childbirth needs of women. With support from the GCS community, Saint John’s United Church of Columbia, the Fund for the Future of Our Children Foundation, and other generous donors, the Osiligi Medical Dispensary was constructed and made operational by the Narok Health Department. To support the facility, construction on a second medical facility, which will house a pharmacy, dentist office, vision center, and a lab to make traditional medicine, began in 2018.
Today, Punyua lives with his wife, Hazel, and two daughters in Narok while pursuing an MBA degree at the University of Nairobi. He continues his work in the Maasai community through his non-profit organization, the Osiligi Foundation.
With the support of David Weeks, global education and community service director, a GoFundMe fundraiser has been established to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the second medical facility. Punyua continues to display the Dragon dedication to service and community. The GCS community is invited to join him in his efforts.