Click here to sign up for Village e-newsletterA TDSB Principal’s First Impressions

Judy Whitfield reports on her visit to Kibera

A Surprise Opportunity To Visit Village Of Love!

One issue that most disturbed Ms Whitfield was the lack of sanitation facilities in Kibera.This summer while participating in a 6,000 strong conference for Kenyan School Principals, TDSB Principal Judy Whitfield had a surprise opportunity to visit Kijiji Cha Upendo (Village of Love) when a gap of three hours suddenly became free in her busy schedule. 

With a brief call to Andrew Obara, Volunteer Project Administrator for KCU, within the hour Ms Whitfield was launched into an unplanned and eye opening adventure! Accompanied by Isabella Obara, now a law student and in Ms Whitfield’s words, “a lovely young woman,” together with Leonora and Andrew Obara, Kevin Garo and some other volunteers, Ms Whitfield was escorted to meet some Village of Love beneficiaries living in the heart of Kibera.

Kibera, An Eye Opener!

For Ms Whitfield, Kibera was a new experience and an eye opener. The closeness of the buildings, if one could use that term for corrugated iron shacks, and the lack of amenities surprised and disturbed her.  She describes one house that was apparently better than most since it had two rooms and a plastic covering on the walls. A single electric bulb dangled from the ceiling. A small TV stood on a table. The entrance led off from a tiny common square with several openings to dwellings of some kind. For water there was a common neighbourhood tap.

Village of Love Beneficiaries receive small business micro-loans to increase their income generating capacity and be able to feed their children through their own enterprise and send them to school. Here we see Mama Faith’s ingenious use of space- her stall straddling the open sewer running through the street.Two things shocked Ms Whitfield: that people so obviously without material means had to pay for access to the tap, which was their only drinking water; and that there were no toilets at all.

The Dangers For Women

As Ms Whitfield reported all this to our Village of Love organizing committee back in Toronto, one of the Kenyans in our group remarked that since there were no toilets, people went into the bushes, and that this was very dangerous for women, especially at night when there are no street lights. Indeed it is dangerous for women to walk alone at all.  Statistics indicate 45 rapes per hour in Kibera. It is common for women to band together in large groups to go into the bush to relieve themselves.

Ms Whitfield commented that even in Nairobi there were personal security checks whenever one entered the hotel. Men with mirrors on sticks, examined the underside of cars.

New Beneficiaries

Esther (right), one of the beneficiaries in the newly formed second cooperative, enthusiastically joined the group escorting the Canadian vistor through Kibera.In Kibera, Ms Whitfield met one of the latest beneficiaries, Esther, who is part of the new cooperative of families that was set up in July. Esther has three biological children and has taken in one orphaned child. Her eldest boy is in standard seven. To feed her family and keep the children in school, she sells odds and sods, toys and knick knacks.  When the visitors arrived, Esther was cooking the day’s meal over some charcoal briquettes, the usual way of cooking in Kibera. 

Leadership Role Model for Beneficiaries

We were glad to also hear a report from Ms Whitfield on the livelihood activities of Leonora Obara, one of the founders of Kijiji Cha Upendo, who volunteers her social work skills with the project. Recently Leonora’s former employers WOFAK (Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya ) were forced to let her go, as some of their European funding sources had dried up. Leonora, however, remains positive. She says she likes to be a role model for what she asks others to do. And so she also has a shop. She partners with a woman who has a sewing machine, and who makes bedcovers, table tops and embroidery work. Leonora sells these once a week. Her current hope is that she may find some way to purchase her own sewing machine.

Playing Beside The Railway Tracks!

After an eye opening and sometimes disturbing visit to Kibera, Ms Whitfield says goodbye to Isabella, Leonora and Andrew on the steps fo her hotel.Amazing to a Canadian visitor is the fact that the railway tracks run right through Kibera. Twice a day a freight train passes by. There are no guards, nothing to protect children from playing on the tracks.  Ms Whitfield observed unsupervised toddlers right beside the tracks.  Their safety does not seem to be of any kind of official concern. Nor does it apparently concern officialdom that people often dig up the tracks in order to get government attention!

Kijiji Cha Upendo On The Right Track!

These railway tracks can serve perhaps as a metaphor for the problems of poverty, where the struggles and dangers the poor  contend with are invisible to those bent on furthering their own economic advancement- the world rushes along like a train, with no sideways glance for those who lack the means of livelihood.

The only way out of the Kiberan slum is to get off the tracks and onto the train- the train that represents those who are able to make a living, feed their children and send them to school.

How encouraging it is to be able to support a project that is on the right track!

Poverty is made up of individual people and can only be overcome one person at a time. Each child that receives an education receives a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty and to take their families with them. Through the actions of Kijiji Cha Upendo, caregivers are empowered to feed their children and every child in the cooperative has the chance to go to school.

We’re proud in Village of Love Canada to be able to support people with such vision, commitment and perseverence in making the world a better place for our children, and raising better children for our world!

 

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Charitable Status

“Kijiji Cha Upendo”  is registered as a community based organization with the Kenyan Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Services, #11849 .

“Village of Love Canada”  is part of the Canada Africa Partnership on AIDS (CAP/AIDS), registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, #88898 7500 RR0001.