Teriano Lesancha likes to talk about the power of one.

When one person positively impacts another person’s life, they in turn can go on to positively impact many other lives.

“So many lives can be impacted by that one person. That’s how we change the world.”

As the first Maasai woman from her Kenyan village of Lodaariak to earn a university degree, Lesancha has spent her post-graduate years helping others in her community get education. On Monday, June 5, she shared her remarkable story and talked about the importance of giving back to your community during a talk at University Canada West’s Vancouver House Campus.

Growing up in a remote village, Teriano’s path was primary school then marriage, which had already been pre-arranged at birth.

“My mother always believed in education. She had a friend who went to school and continued to become a high school teacher.

“In Grade 8 there was a plan for me to get married. My mother said that’s not going to happen.”

However, such a norm-shattering decision didn’t initially sit well with her traditional-minded father, who was a respected village elder. But as she progressed through high school, he started to change his mind.

“Dad was proud when I was top of the class.”

Once she graduated, “Dad was ready to sell a cow to allow me to go to college.”

Teriano’s post-secondary path brought her to Ryerson University in Toronto (since renamed Toronto Metropolitan University), whose president and vice-chancellor at the time was none other than current UCW President Sheldon Levy. She graduated from Ryerson School of Social Work’s four-year degree program.

For convocation, she went back to her village with Levy and other university representatives.

Levy remembered telling Lesancha’s proud mother how it was a miracle Teriano went from a rural home to wind up in a university in Toronto. “Her mom says that wasn’t a miracle, the miracle was that she came back. She came because she set a path for others to follow,” President Levy recalled. “They saw a young woman chart a different path.”

Since graduating in 2012, Teriano has continued to positively impact her village, inspiring girls to find a path in education. She started a fund to assist in girls in her village to getting an education. She went back to her old school and had a dormitory built, so older students preparing for high school can board at school rather than having to walk up to two hours. The approach to education has changed in her rural village, with girls attending high school

“Right now, there is no family in my village who isn’t taking their children to school,” she said.

Published on June 6, 2023.