I honestly don't even know how to begin this blog post. A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Kibera, the second largest slum in the world, located in Nairobi, Kenya. My husband and I reached out to an amazing organization, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), the team who runs Kibera School for Girls. We were able to deliver new curriculum from NYC to the school, as well as do a photo + video collaboration while we were visiting (big thanks to Bea who was our guide that day). I had first heard about Kibera School for Girls through NYtimes columnist, Nicholas Kristof, who produced one hell of a documentary, Half the Sky. He has also written about the school several times, most recently about A Kibera School for Girls student (just 4 years old) being raped by her neighbor and his attempt at seeking justice. If you haven't heard of Kibera, here are a few shocking bits of information that I found alarming, heart-wrenching or just horribly wrong (source: SHOFCO).
- 1.5 million people live in the space the size of Central Park
- 1 out of 5 children in Kibera do not live to see their fifth birthdays
- Kibera’s 1.5 million residents share 600 toilets, meaning that on average one toilet serves 1,300 people.
66% of girls in Kibera routinely trade sex for food by the age of 16. Many begin as early as age six
- Young women in Kibera Contract HIV at a rate 5 times that of their male counterparts.
The day we arrived, it had rained the night before. The roads, normally dirt, were slippery paths of thick mud. People trudged through the viscous puddles filled with waste and human/animal excrement. Homeless cats and puppies lay sickly throughout the alleys. Seeing the houses people called "home" were nothing more than tin, mud and concrete. A home roughly 12ft x 12ft fits about 8 people sleeping (source: kibera.org.uk). But aside from the visual overload of incredible sadness, what SHOFCO has created in the midst of this dangerous, unhealthy environment is a safe haven for young girls (and adult women with their other programs, including SWEP) is something to marvel upon. This new school that houses 177 young women to learn and grow into intelligent leaders, and who will ultimately be the ones to help bring change to their community, was a beam of light in such darkness.
Our time at Kibera School for Girls was an experience I'll remember for a lifetime. And my writing cannot do justice of what I had witnessed, and what inhumane tragedies occur on a daily basis. I won't keep blabbing on, but if you ever want to get a coffee and discuss - I'd love to tell you more about what I learned that day. Below are a mix of photos and two videos I made (with the help of my husband as 2nd camera).
I'll end with this, I feel fortunate to call NYC my home and to have the life I live. Seeing those happy girls (watch the videos!), who do not have an easy life, will continually remind me to be grateful for everything I have been given. The experience has also opened my eyes and inspired me to become more involved in organizations in and around my community helping others. My hope is that the photos + videos below inspire you to visit SHOFCO's website and make a donation (or at least, to get involved with another organization that resonates with you).
Push PLAY below (and to watch the 2nd video scroll down!).
Below is another video I made. These 2nd graders dream big. They want to be doctors, astronauts, meteorologists and teachers. There is no doubt in my mind that many of them will achieve their goal. Push PLAY!