A few days ago Kibera was mentioned at an event I attended and the name sounded so familiar. After a moment I realized it sounded familiar because I had been there three years ago. I went on a volunteer trip to Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, with my dad and a group called Cross-Cultural Thresholds. How did I manage to completely forget about an experience that shook me to the core? Forgetting Kibera was a coping mechanism, because if I thought about it all the time I would never be able to do anything. How do I work on a novel when I know that there are 2 million people living in a slum with no electricity or running water? How do I enjoy time with my friends when I know kids are starving to death? While it serves no one to put my life on hold because there is suffering in the world, I do believe I have a responsibility to remember and share what I saw. I am reposting some of the emails I sent to Mike while I was there:
So I was having a really hard time picking out a souvenir for you. I didn’t want to get a tacky trinket, and so I got you a son! There was an adorable boy at the daycare center who needed to be sponsored. He has big, white teeth and a dimple just like you! It’s just a dollar a day and it pays for three meals a day and all his school supplies.
[In a tragic turn of events, two weeks after I left Kibera, Schwaib was hit by a car and died instantly. I shared this terrible news with my friends and family, and together we raised over $1,500 to donate to his daycare center. What happened to him was a tragedy, but there are still so many kids who need help there. Click here if you would like to make a donation in honor of Schwaib.]
Today it poured. And you don’t want to be in Kibera when it rains. There were streams of fecal waste, plastic bags and old shoes running past us. The smell is horrific. The pathways are just piles of slippery mud, and you have to hold onto the sides of the houses so you don’t fall down. When you touch the houses, the walls crumble apart.