Kenya is known as a popular tourist destination as the country has a lot to offer: Amazing safaris, long sandy beaches and a rich and varied culture. However, it is often forgotten that many Kenyans live in poverty. Some of them reside in slums like Kibera. The United Nations define a slum as «overcrowded, poor or informal housing without adequate access to drinking water and sanitation and unsecured control over land.» Despite this description, it is difficult to get a picture of the precarious living conditions in a slum. What does everyday life look like? Under what circumstances do the people of Kibera live? Tize conducted an interview with a resident.
The consequences of Kenya’s colonial history still have an impact to this day. The poverty that arose because the country was unable to develop and flourish on its own created great social differences among the population. Many people therefore are forced to live in slums like Kibera.
Kibera is a suburb of Nairobi with an area of 2.5 square kilometers and an estimated population of one million people, therefore it forms one of the largest slums in Africa. Most of the people live in small huts made of corrugated iron without water supply and sanitary facilities. Disease, violence, hunger and corruption are the norm. Due to these bad conditions and high unemployment, many people become addicted to illegal substances.
These problems throw a bad light on Kibera. But what do the locals who live there say and think ? For them it is a home despite the unfortunate circumstances. Most of the residents have already grown up in Kibera and never got out of the slum. For them it is a piece of home. Walking through the streets, you can feel the joy of life, the dignity and hope as well as the hospitality of these people despite the difficulties. In a Phoenix documentary, a resident of Kibera says: «The slum is never really reported on correctly, it’s always about violence, disease or prostitution. No one takes the time to show the good sides. But that would help many people to straighten up instead of letting their heads hang.»
Introduce yourself briefly.
Hi, my name is Kennedy and I am 26 years old. I live in Kenya and teach English and literature there. When I’m not at work, I love to sing, rap and author books, plus traveling and helping those in need. Now you know what I like, so you should also know what I don’t like, which is being sick and lacking money.
Describe an ordinary day in Kibera.
Peace and noise as usual with the busy narrow streets, stretching between tightly-packed wooden buildings. The ground under your feet is buried under layers of rubbish. Water vendors splashing mud on pedestrians with their overloaded carts. The air is filled with the smell of human waste as families living side-by-side amongst all this carry on with their daily routines.
What problems do the residents of Kibera face on a daily basis? With what problems do you personally have to struggle?
The inhabitants of Kibera have to deal with the following problems on a day-to-day basis: water shortage, lack of jobs, shortage of food, lack of proper education, no proper and comfortable housing, insecurity at its peak, child right abuse, domestic violence, poor road networks that cause accidents in the slum as well as poor sanitation facilities.
Personally, I have the following difficulties in everyday life: I don’t have good gadgets, like a good smartphone or laptop, which can effectively access the Internet. These devices are just too expensive for me. In addition, I am financially unstable due to low disposable income. In Kenya, teachers are among the lowest paid workers.
Is crime on the daily agenda? If so, why do you think some people are criminals?
Criminality is present and it is caused by lack of jobs and an unstable income. Unemployment is the root of criminality, especially in Kibera.
What about education? Is it accessible to everyone?
Education is very expensive here and therefore not accessible to everyone. Many children pass, but often miss the chance to reach a higher level.
Is there anything that would make Kibera a better place?
Kibera needs land rights, water, electricity, housing, health clinics, education, employment, security and much more. All these issues are being addressed to a lesser or greater extent by many organizations. However, money can not help without people to direct it – all the organizations require assisstance. They all need intelligent, keen, willing and compassionate people to help.
What can people from Europe learn from the inhabitants of Kibera?
In my opinion, to support upcoming talents better, as well as creativity to find good solutions in a difficult situations. Last but not least love for all; tourists are always welcome, loved and treated well when they come to visit Kibera.
Tell me about your best memories and times in Kibera. What do you enjoy most?
I had my best time, when my friends from Switzerland visited Kibera. We went to places that I never afforded to visit due to financial reasons. I liked to spent time with them at school and at home. I really enjoyed their company.
What are the dreams and hopes of Kibera’s residents? And yours?
People have different hopes and dreams based on work, health, homes, relationships, family, education and daily activities.
My personal dreams are to travel to Switzerland and get a scholarship to study over there. I would also love to start a business and develop my music career.
Good Hearts Organisation
Alex Weigel decided to make a trip to Kibera in spring 2007. A visit that stuck with him and changed his life forever. He wanted to fight against the misery he had seen and founded a small school in Kibera in January 2009 – the KidStar Academy. In order to expand the project further, the optimal conditions were created in Switzerland by founding the Good Hearts organization. This meant that the first donations were soon collected. In 2012, Alex Weigel began with the construction of the current school. Currently, 215 children attend the school and 22 Kenyan staff members are employed. Every day, the students receive breakfast and a healthy lunch. In case of illness, the students and their families are offered free medical care.
The school has a great importance for the local people, because the children are given a meaningful occupation and a structured everyday life. Through education, they have the chance of a qualified profession, and thus a source of income. But not only the school children benefit from the KidStar Academy, also the adults, because the school creates new jobs. These are all factors that can counteract poverty and crime in the long term.
Further information under: goodhearts.ch