Kasserian Ingera is Swahili for "How are the children?" and is a common greeting for Maasai warriors. It is the equivalent to greeting someone with "What's Up?" or "How are you?". The typical response is Sepati Ingera, which means "All the children are well". So, why would warriors, even those who don't have children, greet each other this way?
First, let's get some context on the Maasai tribes. The Maasai are the most famous tribes of Kenya. They are semi-nomadic pastoralists and have retained most of their age-old cultural traditions. While the Maasai women are responsible for building and maintaining the home and raising the children, the men are responsible for protecting the tribe, their cattle, and their land. The young men begin their training as warriors during their pre-teens and work together to join the legacy of these strong, fearless, and intelligent warriors.
Now, back to our question. Why would the well-being of the children be the primary concern of the warriors? Why not ask about the condition of the homes, families, finances, safety, or any of the many other things that would be traditional indicators of a thriving community?
The Village Thermometer
Well, we believe that children are the thermometer of the village. Like a thermometer can detect a fever as a warning that the body is not well, unhealthy children are indicators that the village isn’t well. Thriving villages have healthy and strong families/individuals, access to resources and excellent education, economic wellness, and safety. When all these things are in place, the village is a fertile place to grow strong and healthy children who will become adults that are equipped to maintain village health. When any of the key components of healthy communities are not in place, the children suffer most. So villages where “all the children are well” are thriving villages.
So What's the Temperature?
Statistics on child well being indicate that things aren't looking good. According to The National Center for Poverty in Children, 38% of the children living in the United States lived in low-income families and 17% lived in poor families in 2019. These numbers were prior to the global pandemic which had a significant impact on families already struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, poverty doesn't impact all children equally. The Center for American Progress shows us that Black and Hispanic children are represented among children in poverty at much higher rates. Although Black children only make up 14% of the total child population, they make up 27% of the population of children living in poverty. Similarly, Hispanic children make up 22% of the total child population and make up 33% of children living in poverty.
While economic status alone does not determine the overall wellbeing of youth, it is a significant social determinant of health. Living under the conditions of poverty increases stress which harms the brain and other body systems, increases the likelihood of poor academic opportunities and success, negatively impacts physical and emotional health, and increases the likelihood of exposure to adverse childhood experiences.
The issues surrounding child wellbeing are complex and intertwined. They involve biological, familial and community factors. The problems are individual and systemic. The solutions that lead to thriving villages must be just as dynamic as the problems that inhibit them.
Maggie’s Village is committed to helping communities thrive. We believe that forming strategic partnerships, leveraging assets, and addressing needs will lead to the transformative change that can come from collective impact. This is the work of the entire village and we partner with youth, families and youth-serving organizations to help build our collective capacity. Since we believe children are the temperature check of the village, we measure the success of our impact by how we directly or indirectly impact the wellness of the youth within the village.
Are you a leader of an organization that serves youth and families and looking for ways to increase your impact? Schedule a consultation with us to explore partnership opportunities.