Kibera

My wife is asleep as I write this, the victim of an exhausting day compounded by jetlag. We spent our first day in Kenya in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and the third largest in Africa I believe. I was here four years ago, and to be quite honest, I was not looking forward to coming back. Four years ago, we did little more than tour through it. If you see Kibera that way, you will get a sense of little more than hopelessness, poverty, and gut-wrenching filth. Many people who live in Nairobi have never been to Kibera, preferring to act like it does not exist. This is where the poorest of the poor live, because you can rent a ten by ten foot shack for about ten dollars a month.
But today I saw new things. Walking through the winding maze of alleys between cardboard and plywood sided shacks, we came to a place where a pastor watches people’s children so that the parents can go to work during the day and not wonder what is happening to their children in a place where physical and sexual abuse are common. He teaches them songs, and engages their minds through teaching that these children would not normally be getting. He sets them on a path to learning from infants up to about age six because without that start, they’re finding that the children from Kibera who do go to school are already behind by the start of kindergarten, having missed out on the basic skills other children learn from their parents by age three. He is cutting off the developmental disability, victim mentality, lack of reasoning skills, and feeling of hopelessness that pervades this place.
As my friend Jimmy pointed out, people believe there is nothing they can do for so long, that the mentality becomes the thing holding them back even when there is a way. It’s like the donkey who stands where he is because he’s tied to a plastic chair. Today I saw hope where I saw none before, and came out with a much greater understanding of where poverty comes from. Today I had little to teach and very much to learn. There was much more to this day, but too much for one post. I will have to ponder a lot of it as well before coming to conclusions worth writing down.
On one last note, to prove that truth is stranger than fiction, today I shot a music video in Kibera for a local rap artist who grew up in the slum.

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