In 2007, Dolly Mersinger's daughter went to Nairobi, Kenya, as part of her studies at American University. While she was there, she spent five days in the Maasai community and got to know several people, including Chief Joseph Ole' Tipanko, a teacher.

After Mersinger heard details of her daughter's trip, she had the idea to set up a pen pal arrangement with her then fourth-grade students at Manchester Elementary School. She got in touch with Tipanko and got a list of his students which she then matched up with her students. Mersinger took pictures of everything - houses, fire stations, bakery display cases and each of her students - to send along with the letters.

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From her daughter's descriptions, Mersinger knew the village where the Maasai lived was quite rustic, with no electricity or running water, so she expected nothing in return except letters. To her surprise, the Maasai children included a gift for each Manchester Elementary student - a beadwork key chain or pair of earrings - in each of their letters. Mersinger was overwhelmed, knowing that this beadwork was the main source of income for the community, made by the Maasai women.

Mersinger and her students wracked their brains for something that they could make themselves, with their own limited funds, that would represent America to the Maasai children. Their solution? Chocolate chip cookies.

"Chief Joseph said that all the mothers came to the school when the package arrived. He said that everyone was so excited. The students and mothers loved them. Most of them had never even had chocolate," Mersinger said.

Mersinger and Chief Joseph stayed in touch and he came to visit two years later. The trips have since become an annual event with a delegation that now includes him, community leader John Parsiteu and this year, Chief Joseph's wife, Cecilia.

They have expanded to neighboring states and have participated in the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in New York. Next week they will spend time with students at North Carroll High School, Manchester Valley High School, North Carroll Middle School, Manchester Elementary School and Ebb Valley Elementary School, teaching them about the Maasai people; the traditional roles of men, women and children in their culture; and their rural lifestyle as herdsmen who live without running water or electricity.

To cover their airfare, they sell cows, and then use the money earned from speaking engagements and the sale of beadwork jewelry as income for the community.

This year, the jewelry will be made available to the public at a special cultural presentation and jewelry sale at Ebb Valley Elementary, in the cafeteria, Thursday, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

There will be a 45-minute talk that includes information about the Maasai lifestyle and traditions, as well as a question-and-answer time with the audience.

"The jewelry is handmade by the Maasai women with glass beads. Jewelry sales are a main source of income for Maasai families. Each year they bring many different things to the U.S. Usually included are bracelets, necklaces, earrings, dog collars and key rings," Dolly Mersinger, a teacher at Ebb Valley Elementary, wrote in an email. "The jewelry is colorful and prices vary according to the detail work and the number of beads. The beadwork of Maasai women is known around the world and is a main tourist purchase for travelers visiting in Kenya. The delegation brings jewelry with them on their annual trip as a part of their fund raising to improve living standards in their community."

For more information about the Maasai people, visit

. For more information about the jewelry sale, call Mersinger at 410-386-1550.

Ebb Valley Elementary School is at 3100 Swiper Road, Manchester.

Class of '16 bingo

The North Carroll High School Class of 2016 is hosting a Longaberger Basket and Thirty-One Bag Bingo April 26 in the school cafeteria, 1400 Panther Drive, Hampstead. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and games begin at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Each ticket includes 20 regular games and a chance to win a door prize. Special games, extra packets, raffles and a 50/50 will be available.

Refreshments also will be available, including chicken salad.

For more information or to get tickets, email Dawn Ros at daybreak092@gmail.com or call 410-239-6136.

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