Canadian Volunteers Ali Higgins and Memona Hossain visit a slum for the first time….

“You have to go where they are…”

Ali and Memona’s first view of Kibera through the windows of Andrew’s “Limo.” “Don’t roll down the windows all the way,” Andrew advises. “Hands may come in and help themselves to items in the car!” 

 

Ali and Memona exchange nervous glances. Their friends had warned them, “Don’t take anything you’re not prepared to lose.”  They try to tuck their i-phones surreptitiously into the crevice of the car seats .

CAP/AIDS volunteers Ali and Memona, seated in the back of Andrew’s “Limo,” are heading for Kibera, the world’s second largest slum. Leonora explains the decision to set up the Kijiji Cha Upendo (Village of Love) office within the heart of Kibera.  “If you want to work with these people, you have to go where they are.  You cannot expect them to come to you.”  

Andrew slows down frequently to nurse the ancient vehicle through ominous clanking sounds. The paved roads dissipate, replaced by narrowing dirt roads. The distance between car and pedestrians decreases. Glances transform into mutual stares.

Canadian volunteers Ali and Memona visit Evelyn’s tuck shop in Kibera.This is Kibera!

As the car continues to curve through the alleys, homes, shops and worship spaces all meld into a single, interconnected whole. How does Andrew navigate? Everything looks the same! Music, laughter, chatter, and calls to prayer intertwine into the unique melodies of Kibera.  Pungent smells of stagnant water and piles of garbage flare their nostrils. A few city Masai can be identified by the long, dangling earrings and enlarged ear holes. Laughing children play amidst garbage and raw sewage, their toys whatever is at hand: sticks, tires and plastic bottles. People walk. A few ride bicycles. There is an occasional delivery truck, but the “limo” is the only car.  

Andrew pulls up to his “special parking spot.”

Kijiji Cha Upendo GoalsTwo little girls run to grip the strangers’ hands, smiling warmly as if to welcome long lost relatives.

 

Along a narrow corridor between mud-covered homes, they duck clothes hung out to dry, jump over pools of water and swat flies from their faces, stopping eventually at a small doorway. This is the Kijiji Cha Upendo office!

It stands out from the surrounding homes with its concrete walls, corrugated tin roof and locked door, the lock resembling a suitcase travel lock. Proudly displayed on the walls are the KCU mission, values and goals along with a copy of their registration certificate as a Community Based Organization. The modest 12’ x 12’ office is furnished with a plastic table, a couple of chairs and some benches.

The purpose of the benches soon becomes apparent. For more, click EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOPS