When I travel I like see the diversity of a city. I want to see touristy things, but also how local people live. This time I found an organization in Nairobi that supports people from the Kibera slum by giving tours, so I signed up with the hope that I’m giving to the community. This is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. Two men led me through markets, a bone factory, a women’s center where women raise money to support those in the community with HIV, and finally to the slum.
I’ve seen poverty before, I’ve been in favelas in Brazil , and slums in Latin America, but this one was very emotional for me. The pictures will tell you more than I can in words. Truthfully, I felt like a selfish asshole as I walked through the slum. How dare I ever complain about being uncomfortable? I wanted badly to cry, and then was mad at myself for feeling that way. I was mad at myself for thinking it’s hard to see children playing in trash because it’s harder to live in it. I refuse to have pity for anyone, we are all equals, despite what we may or may not have.
All houses are mud, rock, and tin. A mud house or a tin house is about $800 Kenyan shillings ($8 USD). Unlike the favelas in Brazil, people in this slum pay taxes.The government put in a water tank, but people in the slum have to pay to use the water. A shower is $10-20 shillings. The government also installed public toilets that cost about $5 shillings each use. If you can’t pay, you find another bathroom alternative. It’s very hard to find employment and most people find some type of work in the slum.
The rainy season is rough (mud houses) and many houses collapse. Deep in the village the lower area also floods, and many get sick during the rainy season as disease spreads quickly. My guides answered all my questions with a smile and even took me to their homes. They then put me on a matatu home (like a crazy party bus).
I’m traveling by myself, but I haven’t felt alone in Nairobi. I met a woman named Grace on the bus who I started talking with. We talked about the slum and what I was doing there (she was very curious). She gracefully put into words my thoughts about my experience- I want to help so badly, but what can I do? If you feed 100 children, there are 1,000 more that are hungry. Individuals can help, but the government could influence change. We laughed and shared stories, and eventually exchanged numbers.
I think it’s important to see and understand how people live all over the world. I don’t want to exploit, I want to understand. I want to educate. Ultimately, I want to make a difference. I might not be able to offer money or food, but I can offer a smile. I can offer kindness.
For more info or a tour- firstname.lastname@example.org
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