Archive for the ‘Nairobi’ Category

Kibera Ni Yetu!

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Nairobi

When @mahebob asked me to paint him a picture of what I thought Kibera was like, I didn’t hesitate. What came to mind and rushed out of my mouth was…broad daylight thuggery, crude weapons, dilapidated shelters, foul-smelling trenches, flying toilets…I went on and on. Never mind that I had never set foot in interior Kibera. It was minutes after our conversation ended that I really thought about @mahebob’s question. And I realized that there’s an off chance that I could be wrong. But even if I turned out to be right, surely there was more to Kibera than met the eye. The desire to find out for myself burned deep within.

Just like me, majority of Kenyans know what they know about Kibera from watching short films by both local and international producers, TV and radio news items, tales by friends who have or have not been to Kibera, newspaper articles etc. So when an opportunity to visit Kibera presented itself, I was more than convinced that this was my chance to experience what was possibly the world’s largest slum and to tell the story from my perspective.

May 14, 2011. I got up early to get ready. With the sort of image I had in mind, I chose my outfit for the day carefully. A pair of faded black jeans, slightly faded blue top, old black sweater and off white sneakers. Being the girl that I am I wasn’t going to match off, even into Kibera, without a hot pair of earrings. I figured if I was gonna look ragged, I’d do so fashionably. Mother always says be ready for your husband could find you anywhere. And doesn’t Kibera qualify as the said ‘anywhere’?

The turnout by tweeps for the inaugural #KiberaRoadTrip was amazing. For an idea that was birthed through interactions on Twitter, the response was overwhelming. I only knew a couple of the attendees from tweeting each other but I had never met them off line. This would turn out to be a social networking experience as well as a chance to give back to society. So off we went, and in groups of about 8 we followed with interest as our guides gave instructions.

I was in Gigi’s group. Gigi is a young man spotting dreadlocks and the spitting image of Kama, the lead actor in Hot Sun Film’sTogetherness Supreme. Turns out they are brothers! I’m not sure if he refers to blood brothers or the bond they have, glued together by their shared struggles and dreams of a better Kibera. Togetherness Supreme is a feature-film that captures real life experiences of Kibera youth during the 2007 post-poll violence. Produced by Mercy Murugi (@mercymurugi), it is a moving story of a young man, Kamau, and his experiences as he gets caught up in the 2007 post-poll violence in Kenya, and particularly in Kibera. The film captures the typical life at Kibera from the struggles of street kids, to how unsuspecting youth are used by power-hungry politicians to fan violence, to the sufferings of the elderly and the sick.

Togetherness Supreme poster

Gigi and Kama are part of Jah Army; a musical outfit that he tells us seeks to promote peace and unity among the youth in Kibera. Jah Army has two albums under its belt and plans of unleashing another one are underway. He says theirs is a calling to spread messages of peace and reconciliation in Kibera. I like how he puts in: “The future generation depends on us. We have to live a life that inspires others.”

Born and bred in Kibera, Gigi knows the area quite well and anyone who’s been to Kibera knows you need such expertise otherwise getting lost is nothing new. This need for direction has in the recent times necessitated the introduction of Kibera maps which would make it easier to navigate the complicated web that is Kibera. Kibera youth came up with an open digital map of the area and this has increased interactivity as community members chip in information towards the project.

Kibera slum. Photo by Alvin Gachie

Gigi gave us a backgrounder of what life was like for the average Kibera youth and as we sat under the tree that has over the years provided a shaded meeting base for Jah Army, I began to shed all manner of stereotypes I had slapped on Kibera and its people. Here is a community riddled with poverty and all manner of social atrocities. Boys drop out of school for lack of fees and get into crime. Girls drop out of school for lack of fees and get into early marriages or end up as street kids battling to protect themselves from ruthless rapists. Social amenities are almost a luxury.Well-equipped hospitals and schools are far between. Clean water supply, sanitation, decent clothing, books…

I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I have hot-water shower at my house and yet I still complain when I wake up and it’s not hot enough. I have access to private university education and yet I still complain about how much work the lecturers throw at us. I have permanent shelter, my own bed, security…and yet I still complain. How much more selfish can one get.

What I found inspiring and absolutely encouraging is the resolve of the Kibera people to live. Despite their misfortunes, the youth especially have a stubborn resolve to stay alive and not to succumb to life’s imbalances. Gigi is a typical modern-day Kibera youth. He is a passionate film enthusiast working with a number of NGOs on projects geared towards improving the lives of Kibera youth. Currently he is also involved with the Norwegian embassy’s initiative dubbed Amani Lazima that has been visiting slums in the country spreading the message of peace. It is the hope in his eyes and the hunger for change that motivate him to wake up each day and face Kibera. Like him, many youth in Kibera desire a better life. They need to know there is a bigger world out there for their exploration. They need to keep their dreams and talents alive. It is in line with this that Kibera Mpira Mtaani among others initiatives, were formed to bring back the cheer and sense of participation in Kibera. Kibera Mpira Mtaani has been instrumental in mentoring young people and offering hope through their sports and education programs.

Sea of mabati roofs in Kibera. Photo by Alvin Gachie

At the end of the #KiberaRoadTrip, I felt greatly challenged. I realized Kibera ni yetu (Kibera is ours) and as a country and more-so the youth, we owe it to ourselves to share our privileges. I realized too that I was wrong. There’s more to Kibera than the sprawling rusted mabati roofs. There are talented kids living in those temporary shelters and deplorable conditions. There is a distinct warmness about the people of Kibera. They are at peace with themselves. It is the world that keeps judging. They are welcoming. Circumstances just do not allow them to make much progress but the passion is there, the drive and the common interest towards change and a better life.

There is something each one of us can do for those unfortunate around us. We can dedicate our time, efforts and resources towards bettering the life of somebody else. The kids at Kibera need mentorship. They need guidance and life skills. They need books that when they read, they become exposed to a world they never knew. And this is how we can get them to keep their dreams alive. Mohandas Gandhi once said: A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes. Through mentors, the thoughts of these kids will continue to be shaped positively and there’s no limit to what great people they’ll one day become.

Read Kirsty McLullich’s post on #KiberaRoadTrip here. She volunteers with Vision Africa. Many thanks to her and the organizers of this event. It was truly inspiring.

Advertisements
I love Twitter! And no am not being paid to say that, just a genuine appreciation for a social network that has proved useful.
And as useful as useful goes…just last Sunday (March 26th) a group of Twitter enthusiasts met in what was dubbed Nairobi TweetUp #2 which pretty much is a get-together by tweeps (twitter users) and their followers. It was a social gathering at the Savannah Lounge, National Museum (Review soonJ)where we sipped, gobbled or nibbled while interacting and sharing ideas. Networking is an amazing thing, I got to meet brilliant minds and discovered just how much power we possess in our different abilities. Some of the people present were:-
The brains behind Nairobi TweetUp (Applause! Applause!)
He’s a graphic designer, web developer, copywriter and photographer by profession. He is also a chess/scrabble enthusiast and probably the nicest person ever! Find him here http://www.parasgudka.com/
Meidimi Hugo Sokoto http://twitter.com/hugocious
I know him from Daystar University. He recently graduated and he loves everything film.
One of my absolutely wonderful friends, my shopping buddy, a writer at Parents Magazine, a super super talented blogger (http:/ednagicovi.wordpress.com).  She volunteers at Autism Awareness Kenya and speaks Spanish! How cool is thatJ 
Banker by day, founder of Ufahari and a photography enthusiast
She’s Zimbabwean, a medical intern working in Nairobi, film producer and blogger (http:/sithabiso.blogspot.com) She’s lived in many parts of Africa including Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa. Absolutely brilliant personality
This girl can pull crowds! I like that she’s confident, articulate and absolutely informed.  Runs a centre for scientific communication training. A photography enthusiast who believes the older the camera the better.
 Works at Safaricom. She’s the bubbliest person ever. Definitely easy to talk to!
First of all I want that Bert Simpson Tee! I gotta have it!
Works at Ashoka. He attended #NairobiTweetup1 as well
How tall are you man? Like seriously! 🙂
He’s a Computer software professional. Interests include Austrian economics/quantum physics/agriculture/aviation. Also a #NairobiTweetup1 attendee
Background in advertising and marketing. Founder of Fluid Tees (they are awesome by the way) Also a #NairobiTweetup1 attendee
Genius!  Freelance designer, cartoonist and the man behind http://kenyanmathree.wordpress.com/ A personal friend who I think is going places.  He just needs to cut down on his sleep hoursJ
Just joined Twitter, best friend of Michelle Ayuma. Just winding up her undergraduate degree at Daystar University.
Blogger ( http://mybaobabroots.wordpress.com/). She’s passionate about African tradition of story-telling. Best friend of Linda Anyango. Bubbly personality. I keep saying she resembles the lovely Bidanya Barassa! Also a fourth year student at Daystar University.
Works at Care International (Somalia, South Sudan). He is passionate about Jazz music
DJ ,real estate developer/consultant , creative enterprise trainer , former auditor and a tech junkie.
Founder of an advertising agency , blogger (arrived after our group photo sessions were over)But am following her
So there you have it! It was an awesome team. I look forward to plenty of interactions, both professional and social. I see this group expanding and becoming something revolutionary, exploring each others abilities and partnering towards growth and development of this continent and possibly even the world!
If you wanna be part of this be sure to join us on April 17, 2011 at Mercury Lounge, ABC Place- Westlands, off Waiyaki Way when Nairobi TweetUp #3 goes down!