Security Cheques…

DSC00355An invitation to a home on Kibera is a huge honour, although both humbling, and daunting. Visitors from the many other defined Kibera sub-districts are easily identified by gait or language, and are often targeted; Mzungu skin simply negates the guesswork. Our hosts, having earned their respect through their demonstrable commitment to coaching of the Kibera teenagers, nod to the lads enquiring eyes to secure our safe passage through the tiny darkened passageways.

Police rarely encroach too deeply into Kibera, partly because of personal safety. Protection rackets and territorial controls reduce policing to ‘react and snatch’ followed by summary punishment. Often fatal, this reduces court time and gang retribution through identification of police and their families.

Just being observed walking with us has resulted in a consequential mugging, and the centre is habitually raided post visit. Team security is paramount to our tireless hosts. Usually it is a not so subtle escort or two, or a stern reminder not to stray from the community centre walls.

Always an upside:- Two employed armed guards at  the large Sunday church gatherings are making a small contribution to the local economy.


Matatu Bling…


Matatu 5Nairobi’s 3.3 million residents commuting needs are no different to any other nation capital.   Twice a day the entire population has the urge to move and the ensuing gridlock has little respect of socio-economic status. Granted the middle classes have the use of private vehicles of varying abilities, but they have to vie with the mass of trucks, most of which appear overloaded, un-serviced,  have tread-less tyres and belch black diesel smoke with a passion.

Then there are the Matatus.

The privately run amalgam of bus like vehicles, compete for passengers using suicidal hustler/conductors, materialise in many guises. From the ubiquitous Toyota micro bus with a pax capacity of 14 (minimum) to the grander versions of dubious origins, these commuter work horses are the back bone of the city and are completely immune to any traffic regulations. The more entrepreneurial of owners have taken to Matatu bling. Blinding, pulsating LEDs adorn every surface where painted graffiti will allow; some have installed a back row ‘business section’. For a few shillings more, a deignated seat, a play station and ear bleeding, chest thumping music is yours.

When the afternoon traffic finally reaches inevitable gridlock, the horn provides stress relief whilst shouting bonds frustrated driver to driver. Overhead the redundant traffic lights lazily change colours, the speed cameras strobe at the stationary vehicles and the traffic police duck behind their  smartphones.

The twenty-five minute drive back to the airport stretched to the full two hours…

Hi Speed Chapattis…


The term ‘Micro-Finance’ is not as ubiquitous as it might seem. In some developing countries its reputation has dived subterranean with interest rates and conditions that would make a loan-shark blush. The term ‘Micro Enterprise Development’ is not just a rebrand; it is an attempt to look at business development holistically, with support and advice from those already on the runway and not as an extension of colonial patronage.

Managing expectations in the initial training of the local constitutional and manageDSC00295ment team in Kibera was therefore going to be a challenge.  A group of successful Kibera business people who would be unable to gain either finance or favour from the project, tussled and challenged and agreed a constitution and terms for prospective Kibera micro loan beneficiaries. Ditching the need for offices, staff, expenses and high speed internet connections, the group’s realisation that those with tiny businesses and incomes of under five dollars a day, could do with a leg up. The chapatti seller really needed to find their USP and be briefed on the finer points of stock control.

The DSC00249slum Shylocks with their eye watering multi thousand percent interest rates that would make Wonga bristle with anticipation, may not have yet had their day, however those that have made a start and were working the full twelve hours to support their families may just have a chance.


The beautiful game and the warthog…


Coaching the coaches in Kibera does have its own unique set of challenges. The territorial baboons who have the propensity for acquiring anything colourful or edible on or off field soon becomes an irritation. A chance face to face encounter with a full sized adult wild warthog had recklessly been left of the risk assessment.

The long term consequences of the soccer academy were always difficult to predict. Started locally as a distraction  for the ever growing lads appetites away from  children’s feeding programme, at the first meeting they did not even possess a single football.  The concept of coaching the coaches was originally to up-skill the many individual coaches scattered across the vast slum of Kibera and to harness the love for the beautiful game which offered so much to so many but disappointed the majority.

Mark Tizoli (Coach to the Kibera Saints and Kibera resident) writes:-

“Before the training of the coaches began, there was no unity among coaches. As a result even players from different teams saw each other as enemies and this was carried from the fields to the community/streets. You could find players abusing, stealing, or even fighting their fellow players from other teams or schools because this is what most coaches displayed. Due to this, most parents discouraged their children from having anything to do with football or even having friends who are footballers.

When the coaches training began early last year, things began to take another direction thereafter. It first brought us together then made us to start reasoning together.  During training, coaches are encouraged to come up with their own drills and coach others. This has brought respect amongst ourselves and has also made us to begin appreciating each other. Unlike before, where you could hear a coach asking another during or after their matches: “You; what do you know?”, “What could you tell me?” & “There ‘s nothing that you can show me!”

“After being taught that players have got different ways of learning (visual, audio & demonstration (doing)) and that they learn at different times, it has lead more coaches to be more patient with their players whether they are winning or losing. Some coaches used to insult or even beat their players when they do a mistake during a match or even lose but now that has reduced as the coaches who come for the training hardly do it and we even discourage coaches who do that.”


The Wall…

DSC00231 The Kenyan National Scout ground and the Nairobi Polo Club juxtapositions the sprawling ultra-high density Kibera Kianda district with breath-taking audacity. The vast grounds perimeter wire fence has long been a useful source of shack building materials and dodgy scrap metal income, and exposing the scouts to armed ambush much to the frustration of the of the over-stretched Scout security.


A huge reinforced concrete perimeter wall has become a mammoth project that would cause Hadrian to wheeze is under construction. Protecting people and assets is laudable and it is too easy to judge in terms of economic and social apartheid. The Kenyan Scout Association are kindly letting us use an open area for Kibera Soccer Academy training.


Through hardened necessity the Kianda residents of course, have their own unique but  positive perspective. When protecting their modest possession the robbers no longer have the Scout’s woods to escape to or hide. Muggings alongside the Scout ground perimeter is noticeably on the decline. DSC00276

The Suitcase…


Avoiding the four hour layover in Doha and the implied three hours added flight times totaled a massive ninety-eight man hour saving across the UK Kibera team. Buying time in terms of a direct flight premium was marginally offset by seasonal pricing and Kenyan Airways (The pride of Kenya) excitement in replacing its ageing flying hardware with plastic Dreamliner jets.

Perhaps it was the assault on the retinas by the inept control of the ultra-bright-daylight-white LED comfort mood lighting strobing into action at three in the morning, (The gentle colour changes will caress your mood and reduce travel fatigue) or it may have been the extra cabin oxygen content permitted by the carbon fibre fuselage that befuddled the brain at the luggage belt.  Either way an identification fail of the copious team equipment luggage resulted in an augmentation of our bag count and an unintentional theft and transport of Mama Gutata’s finest black baggage and her personal belongings across the Nairobi morning traffic chaos to the Rosa Mystica lodge on the Ngong Road.

Red faced texting and an expensive taxi courier eventually reunited Mama and her luggage to an undisclosed rendezvous in downtown Nairobi.



DSC00246It wasn’t big or particularly clever, it just seemed to work. The Links approach of enabling people on the ground to take responsibility for local challenges after training from visiting teams of qualified volunteers has an impact which is sustainable and low cost. Whether in community healthcare, agriculture, education, or micro-enterprise development, small steps were making big differences.

After a number of years working with the Links team in the Philippines and Malawi, I was delighted to be asked to head up a new project in partnership with New Community Southampton, and International Christian Assemblies based on the huge Kibera Slum, Nairobi in Kenya. Out of a half-built, tent roofed community centre, the ICA team were committed to bring love and change to a small part of the slum.

With their experience, advice and generous access to written materials, Links has quietly enabled a number of adapted healthcare trainer courses to take place and a planned Micro-Enterprise development training is in the pipeline. Alongside these courses and in a similar vein, a thriving football coaching academy has been set up with a significant impact on youth crime and gun related deaths. Several hundred youngsters are on a regular feeding programme, a small primary school is up and running, and a tiny training bakery and a fledgling sound recording studio are finding their feet.

Thank you Andy Read and Links… It was too good to keep to yourselves


DSC00160A huge thank you to the many that supported this trip and the Kibera Project so consistently. The volunteer trainers, the financial support, the emails, the nods, and the kind words mean so much.

The real heroes of course, are the residents of Kibera who live it 24/7.


We are currently  recruiting volunteers to join the Feb 2016 trip. Community Health, Micro Enterprise Training and Football Coaching Academy If you think you have some skills in any of these areas, please contact Dave Boni at  for further information and an informal chat.



Thirty Two Eyes

DSC00124Invitations to visit ‘good works’ in Kibera are frequent but not always feasible or practical during our busy training schedules. Many NGOs display their credentials in bold graphics but experience teaches that the reality can be more aspirational then realistic. An invitation to the ‘Shape Africa Foundation’ centre in Soweto was agreed via the Kibera Football Academy training. A group of Kibera ‘youths’ (young adults)  who have had some educational breaks, dedicate themselves to making a difference to slum children, many parentless and some homeless, all with chaotic lives.

The 4×4 managed the wider tracks but on-foot agility is required to navigate the narrow foul water alleys to the double story shacks that many vulnerable children find respite. A mixture of education, recreation, food and for some, accommodation is offered from an impossibly tiny shack footprint.

From the darker depths of a windowless tin walled room, thirty two bright eyes met our gaze.


Electric Dogs…

DSC00121Rosa Mystica is the UK team lodge of choice. Delicately accented in rose and lilac it provides welcome respite from the day’s toils and challenges, as bunking in Kibera itself is not a realistic option for azungu. Quirky yet welcoming, Rosa provides the basic needs of breakfast, mosquito nets, mains wired kettle heaters attached to shower heads and copious amounts of friendly nuns.

David, the security guard and his team man the fortified entrance. Welded steel framed shutter bars protect the stairwells and windows, whilst the high perimeter walls are topped with electric fences; the diesel generator usually groans into action to bridge the power outages.

On night duty, guard dogs are loosed to patrol and ward off the unwelcome. Un-syncopated night time howling is a much practised art form that is dispensed unceasingly at a volume that render industrial earplugs impotent.

Overnight a sizeable but elderly bus materialised in the courtyard having deposited two of it’s side windows in tiny fragments on the drive…