STORY // Kenya :: Nairobi Slums

Last month I spent some time covering a BHW partnership that is working in a couple slums in nairobi. Daniel Ogutu and his wife began a ministry here that now encompasses a church, several schools, an orphanage, HIV/AIDS awareness, education, and training with treatment, and recovery programs for addicts that flock to the slums.

They have started schools with the hope and vision of investing in children and equipping them to get themselves out of the slums.  These guys realize it’s a long-term project and they are in it for the long haul.  Having spent the last 20 years investing in this community, they are beginning to see the fruit.  I interviewed a girl named Zainabu who is in her 3rd year of university getting a journalism degree.  She has lived her whole life in the slums.  Both of her parents passed away due to AIDS years ago and her 2 older siblings married and moved away.  Leaving her to look after her younger sisters and brother.  She went through the school’s the BHW partner has started and is active in that church.  Her hope is that one day her education will enable her to provide a better life for her and her siblings.

The slums are a crazy place.  Alcoholism and drug abuse is a huge issue within the slums.  HIV is very prevalent.  Crime is prevalent.  Trash is everywhere, up to your waste in many places that you walk.  The smell is impossible to explain.  People live in… well… Shacks really.  Typically like a 10ft by 8ft room with rusted tin walls and roof.  A lot of times 7-10 people living in one room.  In order to all sleep they arrange a schedule and people sleep in shifts.  There are a few public outhouses that everyone has to pay a fee to use.  If someone doesn’t have the money they often times go in plastic bags and toss it into the river running through the middle of the slum.  The Nairobi River runs through the Mathare slum.  If there isn’t enough waste, trash and chemicals in the river from the industrial section just before the slum, it only gets worse as it goes through the slums.  As you walk over the bridge across the river and see all the trash and smell the wretchedness of the decaying feces and trash flowing through the river and laying piled up on the banks, you look one direction and see a bunch of ladies washing their clothes in the same water.  As you look the other direction, you see a group of guys making illegal alcohol using the same water.

Yet Daniel and his wife have chosen to invest their life into the people of these slums.  To give children a chance for education and equip them to get themselves out of the slums, to provide support and education for those with HIV/AIDS, provide recovery programs for those battling addictions, offer bible classes and even have a church in the slum.  It is a picture of the church being the hands and feet, of caring for the least of these, of holistically presenting the gospel.  And to see the faces, smiles, hope and joy of the children that Daniel and his wife have reached is impossible to miss.

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