Kibera! This is probably one place that is known by many for different reasons. Many know Kibera as one of the largest slums in the world. Others, know Kibera as a place where many Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs have concentrated themselves, not to help the slum dwellers but for their own benefits.
For those from abroad will call it a poverty exhibition, will be scared of being robbed of their valuables –mobile phones, money, cameras and look very hesitant every time they make a decision on whether to or not visit Kibera.
We all have different perceptions as to what Kibera is. Many of these are imagined beliefs and just because it was said by one person, it does not make it the norm as far Kibera slum and other slums are concerned.
I have never been to Kibera before. It’s a shame! I know that quite well and that is why I made it part of my resolutions this year to make it to one of the Kenyan slums. The truth is, I felt challenged last year when we talked about Kibera with some of my colleagues from Norway, who seemed to have more information concerning these slums than I did . All the time we argued about something, I was reminded, “Patience, go to the slums first then come back and we can discuss about the slum life,” remarked Hovard Holme who worked for a project at the Mathare slums.
Just like many other Kenyans, I have heard and read so much about Kiberaand other slums in Kenya and imagined I knew everything about the slums. Many of the negative stories we hear about the slum dwellers scare the hell out of us and the last thing one thinks of doing is to heading to any of the slums.
The good news is, I managed to challenge my comfort zone and actually fulfilled one of my resolutions. I am excited I did it and I loved my experience. I had an invitation through a friend, Betsy Graves, an American citizen in love with Kenya. “I was in Kenya before, within me was a deep calling to come back and I looked for every opportunity to come back. I love it here and I am excited to be in Kenya.” Said Betsy.
Besty is part of KIBERA INFORMENTORS (K.I.M )which is a non- profit organization formed and run by the like-minded youths in the Kibera slum, Nairobi. This group aims at bridging the gap between the informed and uninformed in the community. By doing so, the organization taps and consolidates skills and talents existing among the children and youths in the community for the common benefit of the slum dwellers.
“As young people born and raised in Kibera slums, we saw the need of coming up with a community organization to address some of the issues faced by children and the community at large. We decided to come up with Kibera Informentors, to address some of these issues. We also felt the need to join hands as youths to offer some of our services at our disposal to a greater community.
We also believe that lack of basic and proper Education is also a contributing factor that leads to poverty. K.I.M wants to be the home, a central place to equip the youths and children that have been neglected,” read parts of the K.I.M preamble.
A Worthy Course
It’s such a clear goal that prompted me to join these youths, a clear dedication that is worthy my time. Last week on a Saturday morning, accompanied by a Norwegian girlfriend Lise, we joined Betsy Graves, Gonzag Odero and members of K.I.M to John Paul II High School for a mentorship program.
Walking through the crowded Kibera and finally having a chat with the students from his particular school, it was evident that the residents face enormous challenges, especially the school going children who lack positive information and mentorship programmes.
Our aim here was to talk to these students, mainly from form three and four, from a professional point of view, to help them identify who they are and what they want to achieve in their lives. The need to give them the exposure/platform to expose their talents so that they can realize their full potential.
We were received with excitement and ushered into a classroom with over 80 bright students, who looked quite shy at the start but later managed to open-up during our 90 minutes presentation at the school. Joined by the teachers, we had a wonderful time, a different experience all together.
One quick observation – there is extremely great potential in Kibera. This is a fact. “Why does the media write negative stories about Kibera all the time? Sometimes we read the stories and we disagree with what has been written. This makes us feel discriminated against,” remarked one of the students during my speech as a Kenyan journalist.
Many slums in Kenya have for a long time been faced by negative publicity with all sorts of wrong things said about the residents. I realized that many of these students seem to limit themselves based on their backgrounds and what has been said about them before.
“There is no lesser Kenyan. You all need to move from pitying yourselves and recognize the fact that many are times we do not have control of our backgrounds but we have a choice on who we become. Our future entirely depends on us, how well do we want to pursue our passion in life.” I encouraged these bright looking students, many with clear focus of what they want to be in life.
I am happy to be part of this mentorship program, all I am geared at, is to find out the other side of Kibera, the positive side of Kibera, the untold stories, to nurture these students to move beyond self-pity. A week ago, I watched the groundbreaking ceremony launched by President Mwai Kibaki on upgrading the Kibera slums and I am one Kenyan looking forward to its establishment.
KIBERA INFORMENTORS is like a seed -A seed well planted, watered, nurtured and given all the necessarily support successfully grows into a healthy plant-one that reaches high and stands tall!