A British tour guide who has dedicated nearly 15 years to an African tribe was stunned when they made him – an ELDER.
Tim Fox, 49, spends several months a year helping the Luhya people in the village of Mundeka in the Western Province of Kenya.
The married father-of-three is the first outsider to be welcomed into the tribe and is among a handful of Brits to have the honour bestowed upon them.
His title is only afforded to those held in high esteem and is usually only handed down to those within the tribe.
But married Tim was afforded the title after spending a decade vastly improving their standard of living by bringing tourism to the region.
He has also set up a digital village and a commercial farm for the villagers, who now welcome him as one of their own.
He now spends three months a year in the village advising 2,000 tribe members on education, farming, technology and financial matters and helping to resolve disputes.
Tim, from Harpenden, Herts., also runs an ethical tours company giving visitors a taste of the ”real” Kenya and bringing trade to the village’s guest house.
He said: ”As far back as records go I am the only non-Kenyan to have been made a tribal elder with this tribe.
”When I first visited Kenya I realised straight away that I could set up simple projects that would have an immediate impact.
”In recognition of what I was doing the village elders showed their appreciation and made me a part of their community.
”It’s very warming and humbling to me that I was invited to become an elder. It’s rather like being a local councillor or governor in England.
”Richard Branson was made an honorary elder of the Maasai tribe when Virgin began flying to Nairobi, but I’m an actual elder.
”I take part in village meetings and advise villagers on anything from disputes or school fees to farming.
”You get treated with reverence which sometimes find quite strange. People stand to greet me and use a special handshake to show respect.
”But I’m not there to hand out money. I help them to address the real issues and become sustainable for the future.
”It’s all about understanding the culture and looking at longer term solutions to the problems as opposed to quick fixes. It’s giving hope and opportunity.”
Tim first visited Kenya 13 years ago and was inspired to bring visitors to the village after meeting native Gibson Shiraku, now in his 50s.
Gibson’s father earned money working for the East African Railway Company and built a guest house opened in 1955 by Princess Margaret.
Tim officially set up Kogelo tours last year with President Obama’s cousin, Roy Obama, 29, who comes from the Lou tribe in the neighbouring village.
The president’s father came from the Lou tribe and his relatives including his Granny Sarah still live in the village which now has a hotline installed to the White House.
Tim has been married to wife Kazminder, 46, for 25 years and they have three children who have all helped with his Kenyan project.
Asset manager Aaron, 25, set up the digital village, graduate Rebecca, 24, has visited the village several times and Jessica, 17, has taught in the Kibera slum in Nairobi.
Last year Tim visited Kenya six times spending around three months in the village and he hopes to bring around 40 tourists to the area next year.
He offers trips to Lake Victoria, the equator line, the Indian Ocean and Safari as well as offering an insight into village life.
Tim also works as the general manager of homeless charity Emmaus in Harpenden, Herts., where he earns #35,000 a year.
His work has also been officially recognised by the Obama OPIYO foundation – the foundation founded by Barack Obama’s Kenyan uncles.
The Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has also visited Tim’s projects to acknowledge the positive impact they are having on the community.
A chunk of the proceeds from Kogelo will go to find local schools, orphanages and to improve condition in the Kibera slum – the second largest in the world.