Totos in Kayole Slums
Jambo Jambo everyone! Sadly my blogging and Kiva time has come to an end, I am actually writing this from home as I thought it would be interesting to compose my final installment from the perspective of being back in the ‘developed’ world. But before I launch into the big spiel I prepared about my amazing time in Africa, I will first delve into my last week working at Action Now Kenya.
My last week was pretty busy, seeing the last few clients and wrapping things up. We managed two trips into the field, firstly to Kibera to visit the last few clients there I had not seen, and then to another informal settlement called Mlongoro. This slum area is on the bustling Nairobi to Mombasa highway; I say highway in the loosest sense of the word since it does not resemble any highway you would ever had seen, its basically you’re average (sometimes) paved road. They are currently expanding it to make it into a dual carriageway, and in the process destroying all the settlements along the road. Anyway, so it’s not exactly a ‘slum’ area, since the housing is more formal, with real buildings made from concrete. But like the other slum areas I have visited, Mlongoro too has its own flavor. And man was that flavor funky smelling, you see, unlike Kibera or Kayole, Mlongoro has no semblance of a sewage system. In the other slums trenches are dug that act as rudimentary vessels to carry away waste and garbage- or as usually is the case just let it sit there- but at least its not in the road. However, in Mlongoro the waste and sewage was everywhere, and of course with my luck we visited on a particularly hot day so let’s just say things were festering and bubbling in a way that it funnily enough made me think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Don’t ask me why, but I had the theme tune in my head all morning!
Mlongoro settlement grew from the busy road as an area for the truck drivers to stop off before hitting Nairobi, or after it if they are on their way to Mombasa. This is also an area where HIV/AIDS is a increasingly becoming more endemic, as there is also a lot of prostitution. As a consequence of this growing trend, a number of NGOs have set up Health clinics, and we were lucky enough to visit one, and also visit with some of the people trying to combat the problem, by educating young people and trying to support them with vocational training. We met with a wonderful gentleman who had also started up a Microfinance institution and we met with him for a while, learning about the vocational and business training he provides.Then alas, the next day at work was my last one, and I had to say goodbye to the amazing women I have had the honor of working with for the last two months, I am including a photo of a few of them in this blog! A few of us went out for a nice long lunch of nyoma choma the famous Kenyan barbeque meat feast! Then I hopped on the Citi Hoppa bus back to the suburbs and spent my last weekend saying goodbye to friends, visiting an amazing Maasai market, and feeding giraffes at the giraffe centre which was really cool, except I learned that giraffe tongues are really quite foul, purple and gooyey! But I would highly recommend it since its not often that one gets to spend a Sunday afternoon feeding giraffes who were roaming free around this amazing hotel in Nairobi!
I have worked in Africa before, in Tanzania, another amazing country. But my experience in Kenya was totally different. I was able to work with some really inspirational people, both the Kiva clients and the ANK staff, and I did not feel like a tourist or a traveler I felt like I was really living there, if that makes any sense! Having left Kenya almost 2 weeks ago now, I still really miss it. Even though it was chaotic, messy, smelly, hard, and trying at times, I really miss it. Because Africa is exciting, fresh, exhilarating, challenging and beautiful; everyone wants to speak to you and know you. You could be waiting for the bus on a cold and smoggy Nairobi morning, but your fellow commuter wants to meet you and discuss once again why the bus is so late; if that happened at home I would be scared that the person was going to rob me or something silly; in Kenya I never felt that. They would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, there is a certain solidarity there that I feel missing in the industrialized world.
What I am clumsily trying to say is this: Go there, don’t be hesitant because of what you hear on the news; Africa is an amazing place and anyone you will meet who has been there will tell you the same exact thing. There is just something about that place that sticks with you, Africa gets into your head; it’s the red dirt that stays under your fingernails, it’s the totos that follow you around and just want a snippet of your attention, it really is the ‘cradle of humanity’. But Africa also has a long way to go, working there has enabled me to see how much there is still left to be done to help people out of poverty. I really believe that Microfinance is an invaluable tool in helping people, in a dignified manner, of lifting themselves out of the trappings of modern day poverty.Ok enough of my lecturing. I hope you all have enjoyed reading my blogs as much as I have enjoyed portraying my time in Kenya with you, and I would like to send out a big thanks to all the Kiva Staff who gave me this wonderful opportunity, to the staff of ANK for supporting me and teaching me so much, a big thank you to the Kiva Clients whom I had the pleasure to meet, and lastly, to all the lenders out there all over the world who are supporting these people. Your loans are really making a big difference in a lot of people’s lives, so thank you.
This is where my journey comes to an end, so, Kwa Heri!