Whipping the Dog…

kiosk 3In common with the International scout ground, the private Moi Girls boarding school ground shares part of its boundary with the sprawling unplanned metropolis of Kibera.  For the most part this is not regarded as a problem as rigorous fencing and 24 hour manned security protects and maintains the inequalities and the status quo.  Whilst there is an inextricable and an indissoluble association between poverty and crime, one does not and cannot excuse the other. Heinous crimes are just that whatever the economic status and the alleged rape of a school student demanded a swift response.

 

The police and government officials normally shy of entering the Kibra district of Kibera employed yellow bull-dozers to raze the many corrugated metal construct open  ‘kiosks’ that line a section of the school perimeter. Deemed unplanned, unsafe and likely to harbour the perpetrators, around three hundred handmade structures were rendered unusable in a matter of hours. * Hundreds of tiny businesses paid for the requisite summary justice with their modest livelihoods.

 

Official police investigations continue of course and one lead suggested the possibility of a school employee being involved. Meanwhile an official criticised the former kiosk operators for throwing stones in protest. *

 

* Source:- KTN News Reel, Kenya 2018

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Growing Pains…

DSC00081Settling into the ‘Emirates’ Hope School building has not been without its challenges. Requisite construction techniques outpace the realisation; the deviation from original concept and design resulted in an internal latrine waste pipe terminating stubbornly in solid concrete. Releasing and rerouting the malodorous contents using pick axes were no impediment to teaching and learning. Nor was the damp in the lower semi-subterranean classrooms or the darkness. The bare first-fix electrical ceiling cabling dangling in ardent hope of a future formal connection with the shaky grid.

 

And yet the place buzzes with hope. Despite the challenges, enthusiastic and barely paid teachers work tirelessly with minimal equipment and failing plastic chairs. The sense of belonging and love is infectious and the breakfast porridge and cooked lunch incentify regular attendance and of course all this costs. Despite the soul funding school fees being kept to an almost payable $2.00 a week, they are difficult to collect in Kibera. The 40% payment success rate necessitates creative accountancy and daily chasing; a note home evoked a response from a desperate parent.

 

She simply penned “I can no longer cope, please take my child.”

 

These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

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The Bijou Barber…

37897159_2049008845150135_7247209261288128512_nFormal employment rates in Kibera are predictably miniscule and the near zero government support necessitates entrepreneurial activity just to survive. Whilst the proximity of the Nairobi Metropolis provides an unsteady demand for low-skill low-cost labour, the slum businesses are stunted by nano-access to reasonably priced credit from the formal institutions whilst the ‘Shylock’ lenders back-fill the demand with eye watering interest rates and uncomfortable consequences for non-payment.

 

Whilst targeted NGO micro enterprise loans are unlikely to create shilling millionaires, they can provide a first step up from selling oranges to passing cars on the congested highways. Stepping into the newly created bijou barber shop shined a small ray of light. A neatly decked cutting area with clippers, and electrical supply heating water for shaving; posters proclaiming hair cutting possibilities were complimented by a comfortable customer seated waiting area. A price list was proudly blue-tacked to the large mirror facing the barber’s chair.

 

Eagerly taking the chair for a test drive provided an unexpected baberial challenge. Mzungu hair was a first in this Kibera saloon and likely to be the last. Declared as delicate and difficult the client hesitantly settled for a grade three whilst the owner performed admirably under the visitors gaze.

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Meanwhile a small crowd of curious onlookers gathered outside.

 

 

 

Mzungu: White person
Shylock: Unregulated doorstep lender
These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy

The Red Cross and Will’s House…

DSC00132Nuzzling the putrid river boundaries of the informal Kibera chaotic sprawl are a good number of modest land plots on government 99 year leases being sold to the bolder developers and entrepreneurs.  The relatively high land prices forces builds skywards, testing rudimentary concrete moulding skills, bamboo scaffolding and the laws of physics way beyond the year 11 textbook base line of learning. Government planning inspectors daub the more offensive and downright dangerous creations with red-paint crosses denoting disapproval and the impending demolition and removal.

 

The already invisible irony faded into the ether when visiting a friend’s rented shack deep in the Kibera confusion. The recent rains have undermined the none-foundations of the mud and wattle wall, rendering the door frame off-square and the lock useless whilst a nearby unplanned open sewer did little to help and the landlord shrugged.

 

Our warm welcome quickly eclipsed the physicality. For a brief moment the reality of Kibera life faded whilst friends laughed and enjoyed the moment.

 

Perspective morphed.

These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy

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Bridging the Rains…

DSC00092The sprawling informal settlements associated with mega cities in developing economies by their very nature pay little attention to government regulation or planning requirements. They do however, regimentally and consistently conform to geographical paradigms and theory with alarming accuracy and character. Burgeoning developing capital cites require a minimal cost and a flexible labour force; lots of it. Economic migrants, charmed from the villages by hope and aspiration of the big smoke require self-build shelters and gash space. That land is unlikely to be connected to the electrical grid or mains sewers and is usually found on a steepish slope. With remarkable ingenuity and tenacity the system dysfunctionally functions against the backdrop of lawlessness, poverty and flying toilets.

That is until the big rains come.

Cascading the street sewers and shorting the informal power lines, metal sided shacks go lethal whilst their foundations are undermined and mud walls are stripped to their stick carcasses. The narrow heavily polluted stream that bounds the Kibera slum at Kianda, became an untameable torrent that gorged anything that lay in its extended path.

The rickety homemade bridge will be easy to replace; the two young boys who succumbed that morning will not.

 

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Is Anyone Listening?…

DSC00079By any standards Solent NHS Trust’s well respected and beautifully crafted Emotional First Aid (Peer Mentoring) programme is a winner. Balanced and interactive sessions with clear learning outcomes, supported by graphically perfected designer teaching materials in a comfortable and safe training environment; the course allows the learner to inwardly explore, develop, progress and reach out to those in their care.

Translating into the informalities of the huge Kibera slum was never going to be easy. Rapidly upscaling the course for the 50 or so enthusiastic attendees from an array of backgrounds, faiths, and tribes armed with a single course book requires both a steady nerve and a touch of creativity. Now gently stir in several languages, a translator or two, an aging PA system with intermittent power, a dusty concrete floored community hall, a sprinkling of very mobile toddlers, and a few permanently attached suckling infants…

Loud and chaotic; the initial reticence to engage soon caved to learning Kibera style. The practical exercises and learning sessions degenerated as trust overcame. People visibly changed.

To date emotional health is rarely discussed in Kibera.

Is anyone listening?

 

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Hi-Lights…

kibera lightingMore often than not it the simpler solutions that are the most effective. Kibera is at best notorious for unchecked levels of crime both petty and serious. The installation of ultra-high panoramic lighting stands illuminating some of the more troubled areas have had significant effects on the daily life of Kibera’s bustling residents. Both in government and anecdotal terms there is a tangible increase in confidence and decrease in crime.

Bringing light into the darkness just works…

That is providing the oversized lamps are connected to a reliable supply. A creaking power grid and frequent power outages negate some of the progress. In an effort to replenish the huge government spending pre-general election, power prices have soared and disagreements over apparently inflated bills are met with swift and lengthy disconnections.

The better resourced residents in nearby Nairobi respond with noisy local diesel alternators armed with auto kick in; acrid black diesel exhausts vie with the spoils of the evening Matatu commuters.

 

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Minding Your Own…

DSC00101It is difficult to believe that only 18 months have passed since the inception and introduction of the micro enterprise development to the Kianda district of Kibera. The mere mention of the possibility of manageable short term loans to the shadows that the banks would never entertain, produced an avalanche of interest; not all of it positive. Misunderstandings over loan size, personal responsibility and transparity of the process can be rapidly confused with the everyday Shylock charlatans and the accepted informal inducements that uncomfortably lubricate the already shaky economy.

Local ownership of the day to day running of the project by some of the more established businesses entrepreneurs is essential, as is advice, support and regular site visits. The pride and sense of empowering is overwhelming; the ability to be able to provide for the basic needs of dependants is priceless. To date over 30 new micro businesses are successfully running with a good number repaying their original loan and seeking a further tranche to expand a little more.

The unpredictably of Kibera life creates the inevitable casualties and defaulters that are remarkably few in number. The decision to fund an unexpected funeral or pay up?

You chose…

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DSC00116Shylock:- Loan Shark
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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Schooling From the Skies…

20180430_141706Launching a fledgling primary school from scratch on the edge of Kibera is no mean feat. From tiny beginnings residing in the corner of ICA’s community centre with volunteer staff and virtually no equipment; Demand for places at Hope School has rapidly outpaced physical capacity.

Entirely unconnected, Emirates Airlines had sponsored the construction of a rudimentary building for school use only 100 metres away. Rejected by the recipient NGO as ‘unsuitably located’ Emirates took to the web and contacted Hope School offering the building  on a ‘peppercorn’ rent and a five year lease. The ten or so useable classrooms and some rudimentary latrines connected to a real water supply easily out-class the unusually austere, near windowless exterior, and the open air inward facing courtyard.

Questioning this bizarre design reveals the builders’ anticipation of the possible failure of the school or NGO abandonment. Each classroom is coincidently the dimensions of a standard Kibera dwelling.

 

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.