It never fails to amaze me the hope that people have and the opportunities that people create when facing the harsh circumstances that life deals them. I meet such inspiring people on our insight trips and my recent trip to Nairobi was no exception.
One of the programmes that we visited while we were there was in Kibera – an informal settlement that is home to over 250,000 people. Nothing can prepare you for what you see when you walk into Kibera, you can’t fully grasp the fact that people are actually living in such shocking conditions. It’s an overload to your senses when you arrive.
Sheets of corrugated metal run for miles creating homes and communities for thousands upon thousands of people. The narrow paths in-between are often open sewers. The smell is overwhelming. Children running bare foot laughing carefree, oblivious to the shocking surroundings that they call home.
Yet it’s clear to see that so many people here are making the very best that they can for themselves given the circumstances. The shacks that you walk past all have a personal uniqueness to them; different types of material hung to create curtains and homely touches with what very little they have and women sweeping their communal areas keeping their homes as clean as they can while human waste is running in the paths close by. Corrugated iron schools have been erected, where children study hoping for a better future.
With a 50% unemployment rate in Kibera, education and training is crucial if people are to ever lift themselves out of the poverty cycle. The area we visited was a bustling hive of activity, with a busy market feel and lots of stalls where people have created businesses for themselves. Produce was being sold such as tomatoes, dried fish and maize and some people were selling charcoal.
There was a butchers (a sight I will never forget – a space full of hanging meat and more flies than I have ever seen in my whole life), a hairdressers and we even saw a ‘dry cleaners’ as we navigated our way through the narrow alleyways.
I was amazed to learn about the cost of living in Kibera – if you are lucky enough to have a ‘shop space’ in the settlement close to the main road it’s around $100 a month to rent.
House rent if you live close to the main road is around $30 per month (the average size of a shack in Kibera is 12ft x 12ft). Built with mud and a corrugated tin roof, these shacks often house families with up to 8 members. As you move further into the slum rent is $10 a month and it’s clear to see why, the further in the worse the living conditions are.
Only 20% of Kibera has electricity, and until recently Kibera had no water, it was previously collected from an alternative source, which didn’t provide clean water. Now, although there are two main pipes into Kibera, water access is very limited and with cartels having a huge monopoly on water within the settlement many residents have no option but to pay over three times the rate that they should be for a 20 litre jerry can of water.
In most of Kibera there are no toilet facilities. Open deification is a big problem, and where there are latrines available over 50 households can often be sharing one latrine. Lack of sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices often result in the spread of many diseases there such as typhoid and cholera.
Seeing first-hand how desperate the need is there, The One Foundation is proud to be funding improved water and sanitation access to seven informal settlements through the installation of yard and household connections. A programme that’s supporting over 8,000 people.
Another programme that we saw that really struck a chord with me was the construction of a communal toilet and shower block. It’s so basic and so simple – run by a group of youth workers/students who live there, this project has seen a transformation in improved sanitation for the local community as well as generating a healthy income which is then invested back into maintaining the facilities and also back into the community too.
It’s a set cost of 5 Kenyan Shillings (KES) to use the toilet and 20 KES to use the showers. When we visited the project 120 people had already used the facility for a shower that day, generating over 2,400 KES (£18). I was amazed, that’s a lot of showers!
I was so impressed too talking to the team who run the facilities, their enthusiasm and energy ….it doesn’t sound very glamorous managing and cleaning toilets, but they told me how their hard work was paying off as just recently they had bought study visas with some of the funds generated over the last year for some of the youth team to further their studies.
It really struck me the hope and aspirations that people can have, and how they can change their lives for the better if given the opportunity. I’m heading back to Kibera in September so am looking forward to catching up and seeing how their studies are going and to see the impact of our work six months on.
* “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein