Friday was a day that I can honestly say will stick with me years from now. I have pictures, but the pictures just don’t explain the things I wish I could share and yet I’ve thought about how to write this and I feel like I don’t really know what words to use to explain it either, so I’m hoping that through a combination of the two, I can do justice to the people and lifestyle of those in Kibera.
Kibera is the second largest slum in the world. It’s roughly the size of central park with approx. 1 million people living in it. There is no running water in the houses or really water access of any kind that I could see aside from the large jugs people where carrying around in carts or on their heads or any other ways they could. There are only 600 toilets in the whole slum to be shared by those 1 million people so there is literally sewage running through every alley. I don’t think I was fully ready and expecting what the reality of the slum was. As we drove into the slum, the streets were nicer that those I’ve been driving on in Marurui and the shops that I could see lining the streets were much the same as those in Marurui so my initial thought was; Marurui on a larger scale. But as the size of the slum increases, the poverty and desperation also seemed to have increased right along with it, much beyond what I was expecting.
We parked the car and started to walk down one of the paved streets, and snuck off between two shops to start journeying through the alleys andhomes to get to the school that Jacaranda has there. I looked down at my feet and saw garbage, things I couldn’t completely identify but could most certainly smell and rotten food of all kinds lining the small trench of black water and sweage flowing through the center of the alley, it’s a smell I will never be able to put into words. As I walked and took in everything that was going on around me I could hear Brenda behind me say “…seeing kids sitting here eating the rotten tomatoes off the ground the first time we came in here” and I could already feel myself holding back the tears, imaging what kind of hunger and desperation a child must feel to sit in something that looked and smelled the way it did, and yet eat whatever they could get their hands on.
I was following Pastor Alias and as we turned a corner in the alley he said “So this is the school!” and I found myself stopping, looking around at all the huts that were made out of sticks and mud, one big row of them all connected on only separated by the few doors that I assumed indicated an individual home and wondering where exactly a school could be in all of this. I followed him right up to one of the doors in the middle of the row of huts and peered in to see about 15 or more smiling, excited faces, with their teacher standing in front of the class next to the white board sitting on the ground, leaning against the mud wall. He then lead us 20 feet further up into the slum to a second room in the row of huts with another 15 or more, even younger smiling faces, the odd child napping on the bench, with a teacher at the front of the room with a similar board on the ground. There are no lights in these huts. There is no toilet so when a child has to go to the bathroom they simply step outside and use the trench in the alley to relieve themselves. There was 1 window in each of the huts which was their only source of light, and they were stifling inside.
The kids from the second class room followed us down the alley back to the main classroom to get ready to have lunch, which was a simple meal of beans and maze all boiled up, and following lunch, each child was sent to Jonathan for a check up to make sure none of them were too sick. For most of the children, this is the only meal they will get all day, and if they miss school on any other days, sometimes it’s they only meal they get all week. One woman I met and was able to talk with and pray for, was at home with her sick, 7 month old baby while her husband was out looking for work and her other child was at school. This mom hadn’t eaten a meal in over 24 hours if not much longer, and was somehow managing to breast feed her child in order to make sure the baby was still being fed.
The situations these people are forced to live in is something I’m still struggling to wrap my brain around. The fact that no matter how hard they try and how hard they work, some of them still won’t have money or food for their families at the end of the day ruins me. Kenyan’s are by far some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and yet they are worse off than anything I’ve ever seen.
I’m lucky to have the parents I do, that allowed me to cry and unload via Skype the evening we got back from the slum and while mom sat, and listened, and cried along with me, dad said something that made it hurt a little less. He said “I know money won’t solve all their problems, but even if some money helps to start the change, you have a group of people here back home ready to jump in and offer a hand where we can, but all of us back here that aren’t brave enough or have the ability to actually get out there and see these things for ourselves, need someone like you out there on the front lines, doing and seeing these hard things and then telling us what to do to help.” So my little wheels are turning, and for now, I’m trusting that the hurt I feel, and the heartbreak I have for these people is all going to be worth it when I get to finally see how God uses it to help bring about a change for these people.
For now, I leave you with this and hope that it stirs something up inside you. And as they next few days go by I hope to have some plans and dreams come together to share with you and allow you to be a part of them. I’ve been on the ground now for two and a half weeks, I’ve seen and heard what’s happening around me and now my hope is that it’s time to participate, to become even more active in what’s going on and to let those of you at home know where I need you to step in, step up, and help out.