I visited this art class in a Nairobi slum where street youth get free enrichment programs. They had a very cool staff, very sweet kids, and lots of cool projects.
By APNWLNS payday loans
I visited this art class in a Nairobi slum where street youth get free enrichment programs. They had a very cool staff, very sweet kids, and lots of cool projects.
Have I mentioned I’m in Nairobi this week? I’m spending a week visiting different NGOs to learn about some of the projects happening around town. Mostly I’ve been concentrating on the projects in the slums where there are the direst circumstances and the most need. Can you believe some reports say an astounding 10% of Nairobi’s population live in slums? It’s quite a hard life and very sad, not to mention extremely dangerous and often hopeless for the residents.
So far I found the following agencies and visited:
- A home for girls living on the street (some are AIDS orphans, others are runaways from abusive families, others are babies born to street girls who can’t take care of them).
- A women’s promotion project teaching job skills to women from the slums. They offer classes in tailoring, knitting, industrial arts (making shampoo, soap, etc), weaving, and then follow it with health classes and business skills to help them personally and professional in the future. They also offer free day which is essential for the many single mothers trying to earn a living.
- A health program that runs a hospice, that has community based health workers, and that also trains children ages 8-14 to take care of their dying parents (mostly AIDS).
- A secondary (high) school that sits on the edge of a slum, serving mostly girls from the slum. Secondary school isn’t free anywhere in Kenya, so a school serving kids from a slum must struggle to keep fees low but also still remain afloat. They must also struggle with the social problems inherent… the girls turn to prostitution to raise school fees, the girls become orphans when their parents die, etc.
- A sports program that gets kids from the slums involved on football (soccer) teams. If they can get them involved in social activities while young, they can hope to keep them out of gangs, build friendships that cross religious lines, and help motivate them.
- A program offering day care services for slum kids suffering from severe Cerebral Palsy. Example of severe: child might be 10 years old and not able to speak, stand, walk, feed themselves, use the toilet, or sit upright on their own.
- A university program focusing on international development and research where they hope to find ways to bring people out of generational poverty.
- And on a slightly different note, I found a notice in the newspaper for a Women’s Forum to discuss the history of the women’s movement in Kenya, domestic violence in Kenya, and the rights of the girl child. It was free and I made room in the schedule to go listen to the speakers. It was very interesting and educational, but like the slums, also rather dire.
Today and tomorrow we’re off to see more sites, so I’ve got to eat a little breakfast and then head across town to an agency serving the large refugee populations that end up in Nairobi (and often in the slums). It’s time consuming to go back and forth across town, attempt to find contact info, attempt to make appointments, attempt to find the place once I’ve made the appointments, etc.
Despite feeling so tired each night, it’s been very educational and incredibly eye opening. I’m glad to have the week to learn about the needs and programs.
We went to watch our division’s Primary School dance competition a few weeks ago and I had the best time ever! We stayed for hours and hours watching tons of school kids dress up, sing their hearts out, and shake their booties. All of the songs and dances were traditional dances… mostly from Kenya, but others from Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. It was one of those oh-so-fabulous afternoons where it’s hard not to feel intoxicatingly high on life. I love days like that!
Most kids in my village don’t have toys. They don’t have stuffed animals, toy cars, coloring books, bubbles, dolls, and they definitely don’t have Nintendo. They do make their own toys though, which I think is pretty cool.
I think it’s great when I see kids running down the street chasing bicycle tires. I think it’s cool that they make their own soccer balls by mashing plastic grocery together into a tight ball and tying them with twine. However, I’m still always a bit horrified when I see parents giving their babies knives to play with. No one here seems to think it’s odd, but even after seven months it still makes me a bit nervous.
A decidedly un-Christian school… they apparently think everything God said was swill. I personally think they’re being a bit harsh on the guy.
Most people try to keep their faith even when times are hard, but not these folks. At Overcoming Faith Christian Schools, they’ll do all they can to get rid of any remnants of faith you might be mistakenly carrying around with you.
A few days ago I finished the weekly hand washing of my laundry and came inside the house to enjoy some quiet time and rest. However, I couldn’t concentrate on reading or letter writing as I was too distracted by what appeared to be a Christian rock concert starting up directly outside my bedroom window.
More accurately, upon further inspection, I found out there was a Christian Policemen’s Crusade set up on a giant stage on the dirt road in front of my house. I could see the stage and performers from my bedroom window, and the audience could see me if they looked past stage to the front of my house. And I could hear them quite clearly too… while most folks here don’t have power, the Christian Policemen’s Crusade folks brought in a generator so they could hook up mics and speakers. There were preachers, dancers, singers, people playing the synthesizer, people holding up their hands, people sobbing in prayer, and literally hundreds of our townsfolk dancing along and praying as a group. It was absolutely astounding.
My roommate opted to stay the heck away, but I found it too distracting to stay in the house so I figured if I couldn’t beat them, I might as well join them. I felt it would be too out of character to shiver with prayer, to drop to the ground sobbing, or shout out my halleluiahs like the locals were doing, but I was okay with singing and dancing and was intrigued enough to stay and watch. Between songs we were graced with preachers from across the Western Province, each with a translator who would repeat each phrase in Swahili or English. Each of the preachers was unique in their message and delivery, but all of the translators shared the common trait that Monster Truck announcers share: a crazy deep voice and a penchant for shouting. The first preacher would shout “Halleluiah!” and then the monster-truck-announcer-turned-preacher would quickly repeat “Halleluiah!” in the deepest, loudest voice they could muster. If you were there, I suspect you’d find the constant “Halleluiah! Halleluiah!” pretty funny too. I personally thought it was a riot. I also thought it was pretty funny when one of the day’s preachers offered up the wisdom that “There’s no problem bigger than Jesus!” I’m pretty sure I know what he meant, but it was enough to make me giggle.
In general, it’s a little bizarre to go from living in Seattle, one of the least religious cities in the United States, to moving to Kenya, a country where 97% of the population is Christian. I grew up in the Texas Bible Belt, worked for faith based nonprofits for four years in Seattle, and have friends and family who range from “Spiritual” to self proclaimed “Jesus freaks.” However, here in my African village, it’s different. We do prayers before starting an epilepsy clinic, before holding a staff meeting, before talking to teachers at a primary school, before eating dinner with friends, everything. People in hospital or bus terminal waiting rooms would rather watch poorly produced Christian rock videos than CNN or BBC news. People will met you on the street or in a shop, say “Praise Jesus” instead of “hello,” and then ask you if you’re saved or born again. People even come door to door to praise Jesus and invite you into their
I think I did pretty well. I smiled at the crowds of dancing kids who kept gathering to stare at me, stuck around till the closing songs and prayers, met some new people (including a guy who speaks pretty good English and is a doctor at a local health clinic), and eventually went home when it turned dark. I first thought it was a pretty crazy end to the day, but soon realized I was mistaken. It wasn’t the end, and was actually just the beginning. Apparently the singing and dancing and preaching would continue outside my front yard every single day for the next week as part of the Crusade! Ah well… even if it was a bit distracting, it was still interesting and entertaining.
Our trek to South Africa was an exciting and quick trip that was long enough to get us new visas, but wasn’t near long enough to take in all the city has to offer. Our intended purpose was immigration, but the tourism opportunity was a lovely added bonus. I’ll admit my ignorance and be honest with you: I wasn’t expecting to arrive in Johannesburg and find it to be so developed. Make no mistakes like I did… South Africa is definitely a first world/developed country and Joburg is a world class city. It was exciting to go on such a last minute trip and end up somewhere so different, not to mention someplace so brimming with history.
Kenya’s a developing country I quickly grew to love upon arrival… wonderful, gracious people and amazingly beautiful land. But in the rural areas, and for the millions living in urban slums, Kenya is largely lacking in electricity, running water, health care, and jobs. For food, in Kenya we can get sukuma and ugali (greens and maize meal porridge) at the little cafés in town. However, in Joburg you can eat Thai, sushi, or Greek food all on one city block, and follow those with happy hours anywhere you like. There are coffee shops, pastry shops, dance clubs, hip bars, cute boutiques, art galleries, and street vendors selling crafts.
In Joburg you can listen to live jazz or shop at indie record stores. I recommend Canned Applause in Melville for all your import and indie needs! We walked inside and I was absolutely stunned to see Shins t-shirts, Sub-pop posters, Postal Service CDs, ACL Fest DVDs, and more. Want to check out some South African indie bands? Try the Dirty Skirts or Eyes Wide Open. The owner was incredibly knowledgeable, sociable, and apparently knows how to throw good parties. (He also looked a lot like Austin/Tanjent and wore a corduroy suit jacket; bizarre).
Joburg was unexpected and quite a welcome burst of first world life. I took hot showers, I washed my clothes in a washing machine for the first time in six months, and I celebrated the 4th of July with a 94 year old woman from Bavaria, a fabulous woman from Boston, a 90 year old man, and a white South African hostess who couldn’t have done a better of making us feel welcome and supported. Beyond the great people and the great food for the week, the city wasn’t just developed, it was actually modern, hip, and trendy. I couldn’t tell if I was back in Seattle or Austin! Joburg, especially the Melville area where we stayed, could’ve easily been Seattle’s Fremont or Austin’s Hyde Park. However, while the food and amenities were amazing, the history was Joburg’s biggest attention grabber.
We immersed ourselves in the fractured history of the country, and saw/learned as much as we could in a few short days. We experienced:
- Apartheid Museum – Can horrify you. Some of the photos, especially the ones by Peter Magubane, made me cry. The propaganda films pissed me off. And the whole of it made me ashamed to be white, even if I wasn’t in on the British or Dutch oppression of the black African people.
- Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial – Named for the 13 year old boy who was among the first killed by police in the 1976 student uprising in Soweto. The museum shares first hand accounts of brutality and uprising from students, parents, politicians, and journalists who were there. Incredibly moving personal stories, films, and photos of the revolution.
- African Footprint – Musical in a fancy theatre that tells South Africa’s history through two hours of singing and dance, from native dance to 1950s jazz.
- Constitution Hill – One of the closed down prisons where Nelson Mandela was kept as a political prisoner is now open as a museum where horror stories abound. The site also hosts the new building for South Africa’s highest court of law and has exhibits about Mandela.
- Soweto – Africa’s largest black city, site of 1976 student protests that began the fall of apartheid, home to the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners, ex-president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
All in all, it was an unexpected and wonderful chance to go to Joburg for a few days. I was amazed by the highly developed hip city, amazed by the low cost of living (compared to the States), amazed by the hospitality we received, and amazed by the high quality museums that were so frank about the not-so-pleasant past. We flew back to Nairobi where we successfully made our way through immigration and then later bussed back to our village. We arrived on the world’s slowest Akamba bus (way longer than the normal 8 hour trek), arrived in the pouring rain and got drenched, got immediate harassment from drunk men in Kakamega, and got back to our house with rotten food in the fridge and nothing left to eat. I freely admit it was a little hard to come back to Malava after such a nice time away, but I’m thankful for the welcome break the trip gave as we crossed over the half way point of the year.
Here’s a little more history for those of you with free time on your hands or an interest in South African history.
Soweto is South Africa’s largest black township with a population of about 3.5 million. (Ie. The British government kicked the Africans off their land and sent them to small, restricted bits of lands… just like the Americans did to the Native Indians who were the original inhabitants of North America). These black townships were low income housing at best, slums at worse. Moving people to Soweto didn’t silenced the black Africans. Soweto was home to many activists who helped bring an end to apartheid, is famous for the student uprisings in 1976, and one Soweto street holds claim to the title “only street in the world to have two Nobel Peace Prize winners, ex-president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
Soweto today is home to 3 million people who speak 13 languages as well as s’camto, a street language. It houses Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest hospital in the southern hemisphere with 6,000 beds and some of the most sophisticated medical facilities in the world. Opposite the hospital is Africa’s largest taxi rank from which 10,000 vehicles depart daily. Despite an unemployment rate estimated at 45% there are many informal businesses such as roadside garages, butcheries, exhaust repairs, barber shops, spaza shops (basic groceries), shebeens (unlicensed taverns), payphones and roadside kitchens, amongst others.
Soweto came to the world’s attention on June 16, 1976 with the Soweto Riots, when student protests erupted over the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than English. Police opened fire on 10,000 students in a peaceful march and among the first to die was 13 year old Hector Pieterson. 566 people died, and there are many chilling videos and photos documenting the struggle at the Hector Pieterson museum and the Apartheid Museum. The impact of the Soweto protests reverberated through the country and across the world. In their aftermath, economic and cultural sanctions were introduced from abroad. Political activists left the country to train for guerrilla resistance. Soweto and other townships became the stage for violent state repression. These events, spurred on in large part by the first student protests, helped bring the eventual end to apartheid in the 1990s.
Recommended viewing: Rent “Tsotsi,” which won the 2005 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year.
Recommended reading: Check out Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.”
Info largely from wikipedia, and was repeated in the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum