The Great Needs of Kibera
By Scott Dye
When envisioning Kenya, your imagination creates a scene of expansive golden grasslands roamed by wild creatures. Thoughts of adventurous safari days mixed with peaceful rustic evenings illuminate the mind’s eye. This is the Africa we’ve seen on our screens.
Beyond this idealized setting, a harsh reality exists for many Kenyans residing in Kibera, Nairobi, one of the world’s most densely populated urban slums. As you walk here, the urine and feces of roughly 200,000 people flows haphazardly through the street. A one toilet per 300 people ratio has created this lack of sanitation.
Tiny mud-walled shacks line the street for as far as the eye can see in both directions. Your curiosity gets the best of you, so you subtly peer into a home with no front door. Shockingly, the 12’x12’ structure appears to house nearly a dozen locals. As you scan the interior, your gaze meets that of an adolescent girl. Her warm smile is genuine, but hints of life experiences no teenager should face.
Ummy, 14, is a refugee of the Congo and was abandoned by her mother three years ago. Abject poverty means she and her three younger siblings sleep nightly on the shack’s dirt floor. With an unemployment rate of over 50% in Kibera, Ummy’s father is fortunate to have a job repairing electronics. His 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. work schedule, however, means his daughter is left to care for her siblings full-time. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the challenges for Ummy and her peers. By the age of 16, 60% of girls in Kibera will have been manipulated into sex trade, often just for enough food to survive.
Kenyan law stipulates the government as the sole landowner, which leaves the people of Kibera in a constant state of flux. This is exemplified by the displacement of 30,000 Kiberan dwellers due to government-initiated demolition in July 2018. The rapid growth of the capital city Nairobi moved officials to expand the highway system and residents were given little notice prior to road construction that forcefully barged through their homes. This was also the case in 2017 when a school created by the organization Nurturing Hope for the Nations (NHFTN) was forced to resettle to avoid being bulldozed.
“Due to the current politics, the people of Kibera have no sense of ownership,” says the Director of NHFTN Cameo Godinho. “These are the worst living conditions I’ve ever witnessed.”
Despite these obstacles, the NHFTN School has persevered and relocated to a new site. It’s continued operation has filled a critical need of basic resources for children in the community. All students, including Ummy, receive Gospel lessons, daily nutrient-rich meals and education through class 8. The school also provides safety and counseling for the children to protect them from a dangerous environment in which criminals often disappear into the massive crowds of people.
To learn more about Nurturing Hope for the Nations, please visit their website here. Also, please note that Sanctuary Tiny Homes donates 10% of every tiny home purchased to NHFTN to support the Kibera School.
“Our students are considered the untouchables of Kenya,” says Godinho, “but we see their hearts and true identities. Above all else, we want to provide restoration and hope.”
African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC). 2014. Population and Health Dynamics in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements: Report of the Nairobi Cross-sectional Slums Survey. (NCSS) 2012. Nairobi: APHRC