A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities- Side Two of the Coin


Kibera is one of Africa’s most notorious and worse urban slums. Anyone that saw ‘The Constant Gardner’ which was filmed there, will be familiar with the scene; shanty town, open sewers, incessant noise and constant bustle. A rough count puts the population at 1 million, but with people migrating in from the rural areas daily, it is impossible to get an exact figure. Poverty under any guise is not a pretty site but urban poverty in developing country settings has to be one of the worst. When I entered Kibera via one of the main bus stations, I was told that I was in the ‘posh’ part of the slum. Small businesses conjugate around the station; tailors, auto repairs, food stalls- all bringing a bit of buzz to the place, but apparently it is not so the further in one goes.

I went to Kibera to meet a very interesting young lad, Fred Ouko, who is the director of Kibera Community Youth Programme. KCYP, do a number of things all centred around mobilising youth in the community to engage in their personal and community development. They run drama and music workshops, community clean-ups, and health education. They are not is in the business of handouts. Fred kept stressing the word, ‘sustainability’. He wants an organisation which can generate its own income and to do this he is looking at business models which can do this- already some of KCYP’s participants make jewellery to sell in local markets. The income generated can both provide salaries for the young people and a small percentage be channelled back into the organisation.

I asked Fred about what the Kibera Community think of mass influx of donor aid which has come in to the area- ‘Fatigue; they are tired’, was his immediate response. Fred commented on the fact that there has been little visible difference in the area, and that the local residents ‘feel used’; targets of camera lens, whose pictures end up in glossy reports about how their life should be different.

But Fred is not one to sit back and moan. He is passionate about the young people in his community, and firmly believes that they have potential to shift their circumstances. His other passion is putting youth with disabilities on the international development agenda, believing that they have been ‘left behind’. Fred himself suffered from polio at a young age, and as a consequence requires crutches to walk. With no proper pathways and crazy traffic, it is difficult getting around Nairobi at the best of times, so I could certainly see where he is coming from!

It is early days for Fred, as he tries to figure out the best sustainable models for KYPC, but I have every confidence that he is on the right track.

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