Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Masai mud hut tale

Woman who married into African tribe tells her story to Shepparton District Probus Club.

ESTELLE GRIEPINK July 5, 2014 3:55am

Tracey Sawyer and Emanuel Saakai operate the not-for-profit organisation Testigo Africa.


It was a personal connection to the Goulburn Valley that brought Testigo Africa founder Tracey Sawyer to Shepparton yesterday.

Ms Sawyer founded the Tanzania-based not-for-profit organisation after visiting the country on safari in 2004.

As much as she loved seeing the African animals, it was the semi-nomadic Masai tribe who captured her imagination.

‘‘They became my teachers of what life can be like when a sense of community and a connection to nature exists,’’ she said.

Ms Sawyer decided to make the move Tanzania, where she lives in a mud hut with her Masai husband Emanuel Saakai.


Together they run a series of projects that help people in Tanzania and across Africa.

Ms Sawyer and her husband visited Shepparton Park Bowls Club yesterday to share her incredible story with Shepparton District Probus Club.

It was not by chance the pair decided to visit Shepparton.

Ms Sawyer said she had formed a strong friendship with Cosgrove’s Glenda Haigh, who is friends with Probus Club member Joy Ricardo.

‘‘I was on a plane through Africa and I met Glenda and her daughter ... the whole plane, it was full of Africans and then sitting directly behind me were these two Australians and so I just stuck my head over the back seat and started chatting to them,’’ Ms Sawyer said.

‘‘When we got to our destination I asked if I could get a lift with them and they gave me a lift and at the end of their safari I invited them to come and see the village where I lived with the mud huts and my projects.’’

Ms Sawyer said the Cosgrove women had visited her village many times since and she had caught up with them when she was in Melbourne.

So when Mrs Haigh asked Ms Sawyer to speak at the Probus Club, she was only too happy to oblige. Ms Sawyer and Mr Saakai spoke to the club about their life in Tanzania and the various projects they ran for people in the country.

Ms Sawyer said she was undertaking a project teaching rural women to grow food for themselves and Mr Saakai ran the Lengo Football Academy, training and supporting street boys.

‘‘They wanted to know about my story — how I was working in a corporate career and ended up living in a mud hut with the Masai,’’ Ms Sawyer said.

Probus club member Mrs Ricardo said it was fantastic to hear the Testigo Africa story.

‘‘This was a golden opportunity and it’s so interesting,’’ she said.

‘‘Tracey and Emanuel are both such lovely people.’’


For more information about Testigo African, visit

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