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Kibera and Mathare

September 12, 2011

I decided that dedicating a post to the end of my week is very necessary considering all of the things I saw in such a short amount of time.

On Friday morning instead of our usual 4 hours of Swahili, Our entire group went to visit Shining Hope for Communities  (SHOFCO) and the Kibera School for Girls, located in the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa. We took our big blue bus and unloaded right in front of a very clear entrance to the slum and met Jess Posner, the founder and CEO of SHOFCO. Walking through the slum to get to the school I didn’t quite realize the magnitude of the area until I got to a small hill where I could see just how far the corrugated metal homes extended. It was something I was pretty unprepared to see and I can’t quite wrap my mind around how one million Kenyans live in homes like those. All of us had on sneakers or walking shoes and we passed hundreds of little kids without any shoes and only smiles on their faces. They were definitely excited to see so many wazungu (white people) and repeated “How are you??” over and over. We got to the Kibera School and I was amazed at how much they had done with such little space. The school currently has 64 girls enrolled from preschool through second grade and will enroll a new grade each year until they reach their maximum capacity. The goal is to follow the girls until eighth grade and help them enroll in secondary school, a rarity for African girls, especially in Kibera. Investing in girls within the community is not usually emphasized but will have enormous benefits for the community as a whole. They also have a clinic with medical supplies and testing capabilities as well as a community library, a biolatrine to turn waste into energy and a community toilet program throughout Kibera. I know these are only a few of their project so you should definitely go to their website and look at all of the work they are doing. We got to see the girls perform their school poem about empowerment and how education will make a difference and honestly, I teared up. It really made me think of how lucky I am to have an education and how grateful these girls are for the small school building and a primary school education.  I didn’t feel comfortable taking too many pictures within the slum because you can really see directly into people’s homes but here is one picture of Kibera that helps to show the size and living conditions there.

Saturday was another trip for our group to a different slum, this one called Mathare and a bit farther from where we are staying within Nairobi. While smaller than Kibera, we walked straight through the community and it definitely felt larger and more treacherous than Kibera had. The area had various streams running through them and I was unsure whether they were natural or man-made considering the amount of waste and garbage flowing through the area. It had also just recently rained and all of the unpaved pathways turned to mud. We visited the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) that not only set up a soccer program for the youth in Mathare but also runs community clean-ups, community outreach to educate people about hygiene, HIV and other important issues as well as a free library system that seems to really make an impact on the community. The work done here was very inspiring but being back in my suburban home that Saturday night getting ready to out downtown struck me with a lot of force. Sometimes I feel like I am back in America, sitting on a couch in a living room reading a book or studying Swahili. I spent my Sunday in a cafe writing a paper and drinking an iced coffee. But other times like this weekend, the reality of places like Kibera are really unavoidable. I definitely didn’t want this post to be a downer but it was such an important experience to me that I thought I should post something.

Overall, I’m really happy I got to go to to these places and talk to people about the work they are doing to improve the lives of so many adults and children and it is definitely an experience I will hold on to. You should all check out the links of the organizations I mentioned! They are run by some great people. Next I think I will post something about Kenyan food. It has definitely been an interesting daily adventure…I head to Mombasa on Friday night so hopefully I’ll get another post in before then!

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