Last week, together with some members of KiberaAID, a community based organization that runs exclusively in Kibera’s Soweto West and Gatwekera villages, we visited some families who we support their kids. We visited 8 homes in total within a period of 2 days, these were homes that we have never visited since the inception of KiberaAID in June, 2013. The homes to be visited were chosen randomly by Kelvin Jumah, secretary of the organization. In every home we visited we gave some food items and goodies to the families, but one thing would strike me the most all through the mission that was simply meant to know the homes and parents of the kids we are supporting in KiberaAID.
Most of the kids we support are from some of the neediest families in Kibera and their parents would live with less than a dollar a day or total without. For instance in the case of Caro Batseva, a very happy and well behaved girl who we support in the organization and had never visited their home from the very beginning, what I saw is a square cubicle extensively covered with rusty iron sheets and strategically placed right next to the Kenya Uganda railway tracks, an epitome that the house will be demolished in a few months to come so as to pave way for the ongoing railway relocation project in Kibera, inside the house it was total darkness, no electricity but beams of the evening light would pave their way into the house through the holes and peep-points on the rooftops and the wall. The house is such a small shack that no more extra or basic furniture like a table, could find a space through, it’s only a small 2 by 6 size bed that takes almost half of the space in the house. In the bed lies a woman, who I presumably identify as Caro’s mum. She’s just on the bed sleeping, I don’t really have an idea if am in the right or the wrong place but all the same I know am somewhere I should be. Our presence woke her up and she welcomed us. We are three, a bigger number more than enough to fill the house to the brim, I grabbed a seat for myself; a stool which initially had utensils put on it. Seems that there aren’t any more seats so Luke is forced to stand right next to me and Kelvin leant just right next to the door. Caro’s mum looks worried, possibly she’s worried that her visitors shouldn’t be standing but rather sitting. She tries to clear some old furniture next to the bed for Kelvin and Luke to sit on but then again they manage to convince her that they are still young and finding a seat for them shouldn’t worry her.
We did our introduction; my name is Bryan, the founder and chairman of KiberaAID...and the procedure would continue as such for all of us. Caro’s mum would burst in tears of melancholy and for a moment we are all silent, and in deep thoughts. Then all of a sudden the silent is all broken, she talks to us for the very first time, a woman in her mid-40s but looks very frail and very old. She narrates her story, Caro is her only daughter although she has 3 sons whom she doesn’t live with in Kibera. One is a lecturer is some university, another one is a police officer and the youngest still in form three, but Caro who is 8 years old still remains her only hope. At this moment, Caro is sitting beside her mother, coughing and coughing more, she’s had influenza for almost a week now despite frequents visits to the hospital. The cough is persistent and we try to calm her down although her mum says she hasn’t slept since it all began. She sells vegetables for survival. At times she makes 10 shillings in a day or totally nothing. But this is just the beginning of the story.
Caro studies at a mission school, a distance far away from their home in Kibera. She has to walk there every morning and back from school every evening – a journey she’s used to in pursuit of success. The mum tells us that her sons never helps her in any way, she’s a widow and the husband died in the house - she points a particular spot on the bed with tears curving down her cheeks. Her tone tells a sadder tale and at some point I feels the pain – it pinches really hard. All the same, her story tells us we should do more and in all the homes of the kids in KiberaAID that we had visited – they really need help and first foremost, a house which I can be at least call home. The house they live in, they have to pay a rent of 600 shillings which to me is really not worth it, considering that I have lived in Kibera all my life and knows how a 600 shilling house would look like.
We give Caro’s mum some food items and goodies which we had bought for her, among them wheat flour and bar soap. She says a big thank and we leave the house with a promise that we would do more in our next visit.
Bryan Jaybee was born and raised in Kibera slums where he still resides. He is 22 years old and a journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya, currently in his final year. Bryan will be sharing an insider’s view on life in Kibera every Tuesday on our blog with his photos and words. You can follow Bryan on instagram at @kiberastories for daily posts on life in Kibera.