I wanted to tell you that our trips are fun, but while we do have a little fun, we also get stuck in, get our hands dirty and do what we can with what we have. This trip along with taking 2 volunteers Bethany Barrett (18) & Grace O Donavan (36), was our first trip into Africa, Nairobi, Kenya to be exact….
The place is called Soweto Slum.
It is a slum area in Nairobi near the International Airport. It’s not nearly as big as the world famous, largest slum in the world, called Kibera, which is also located in Nairobi. This slum is one of the many forgotten slums in Nairobi, in Kenya.
Our connection on the ground there, Evans Olouch, works with widows and orphan children. He has a school in the slum (Great Hope Children Centre), and along with his 8 staff, they are trying to provide free education and a feeding programme to the children of this slum
Before we begin some information on Soweto. It is about 3 kms in length and 1 km in width. This small area has over 400,000 people living in it. This place is mostly made up of widows and children and single women and children. Prostitution and alcoholism is very high here as well.
On entering Soweto Slum, nothing had prepared me for what I was about to see…..every street is covered with garbage. The stench of human waste fills the air. Young children that should be in school are running around.
Not sure the last time white people went in to Soweto but as soon as we entered, we heard the famous word ‘Mzungu’ being shouted from all directions. We visited the school that Evans started. It’s wonderful and he is reaching out to the children of this poor place. Something that is still hard to get my head around is that in the senior class of 11 pupils, 4 were hiv positive and 3 were prostitutes….. there age between 12 and 14 years old. I must confess I did not believe it when I was told, but walking around the streets later that night confirmed that not only was this true but there are many young girls and boys caught up in this lifestyle…
Walking through the slum streets, I saw residents forming queues to use one communal tap. They say it is much better than collecting water the water pipes that are often cracked and also run through the sewage drains. One of the homes we went to was in complete ruins. The home was made up of metal sheets and it had only one room. When we arrived, the mother was gone to the dump to find food and plastic. She had left her three young children at home to fend for themselves
A quick spur of the moment decision saw us stop at what was presumably the local cash and carry to buy Ugali (cornmeal) for the orphans and widows of Soweto slum. What we bought was enough to feed over 700 people for 2 days and cost 170 euro…. (In fact we gave out over 2000 meals and all cost less than 300 euros… so it really doesn’t cost a lot)…. Word spread throughout the slum pretty quick and we were overcome by the size of the crowds that turned up.
A little info of Living in Soweto Slum
The average size of shack in this area is 10ft x 10ft built with mud walls, a corrugated tin roof with a dirt or concrete floor. The cost is about KES 700 (7 euro) per Month . These shacks often house up to 8 or more with many sleeping on the floor. Less than 20% of Soweto has electricity. In most of Soweto there are no toilet facilities. The “flying toilet” used by residents, if no toilet was available they use plastic bags which would then be thrown into the nearest river or even into the street.
The lucky residents have one toilet (hole in the ground) is shared by up to 50 shacks. Once full, young boys are employed to empty the toilet and they take the contents to the river.
No formal systems of clean water, sanitation, healthcare or schooling exist because, as far as governments are concerned, residents are squatters. Feeding programmes alone will not change the slum. Yet I feel blessed to be mentoring and partnering with Evans @ the Great Hope Children’s Centre, the Soweto Mungano One Stone youth group and other groups like this…. these youth have had some serious struggles in their young lives, from working in prostitution, drug abuse living in Soweto Slum, they have made a choice to transform themselves and the community they live in.
Consider giving “Your Change 4 Change” to the work we do. We can make a small amount go a long way. We welcome you all to partner with us, €5/€10 or whatever you can give helps us carry on the work we do in these areas, it helps put a smile on a needy child or family.
In the western world it has become common for many students to take a Gap Year out before or after college. More mature people are also now taking a year out, away from their everyday life. Many could work in Soweto Slum where they would achieve a real sense of doing some good. Soweto Slum is crying out for people to help.