Volunteering in Kenya | Discovering the Slums of Kibera


Volunteer in Kenya – Orphanage and Teaching

Limuru, Kenya

My Orphanage and Teaching Project was located in Limuru, Kenya. I stayed at the Brackenhurst establishment and worked at a private primary school. The day at the school started at 9:00 and ended at 15:00. The day was split into three sessions, and three subjects predominated: maths, English, and Swahili. Religious studies and some others like geography were occasionally present in the timetable. It was difficult to get involved in the Swahili classes but I taught an English class and an R.S. class, and marked the books every day in maths (as the children finished they would bring them to me for marking).

At break times one could be in the yard with the children, and they would always try to hold your hand—and not just one, either. When no more could fit on either hand they would the hold onto one-another so that up to fifteen children were attached to a single demonstrator.

By far the most memorable event while I was volunteering in Kenya was going to the slums, an area called Kibera, four square-kilometers section of Nairobi, containing one million people, a third of the capital’s total. The houses were one roughly fifteen-square-foot room, with corrugated sheets of metal for the walls and roof. A bedroom was made by bifurcating the room with a curtain.

A view from the upper part of Kibera slum

A view from the upper part of Kibera slum

The sanitation system is primitive. In theory, there are eight biogas centers between the 14 villages that make up Kibera. The biogas facility we saw was essentially a silo where wash facilities and lavatories are provided for free, where the human waste goes into a septic tank, and where the gas produced as this rots is used for cooking food and for warmth. (Atop this building is the community hall: local people can meet here just to talk or often to watch the football on the television. It can also be hired out for events—parties, christenings etcetera.)

One of the biogas centres that uses human "material" to provide gas for cooking and warmth in the slum

One of the biogas centres that uses human “material” to provide gas for cooking and warmth in the slum

Kibera is a mixed zone of predominantly Kikuyus and Luos. It was a scene of horrific violence in late 2007 and early 2008. Unlike Limuru, where the Kikuyus are still in refugee camps, they have been moved back in Kibera. Our guides were Luos, and their view of the Kikuyus was not good.

Housing in the slums

Housing in the slums

One of the small businesses operating in Kibera, using cattle bones, carved, polished, and shaped into everything from farm animals to combs, and selling them to visiting foreigners and abroad

One of the small businesses operating in Kibera, using cattle bones, carved, polished, and shaped into everything from farm animals to combs, and selling them to visiting foreigners and abroad

One of the projects we got to see was called Khasip and it was a counter-HIV program set up by 40 women whose mission is “psychological and economic empowerment” of those with the disease and those affected by friends and relatives with it. The work runs the gamut from advocacy work demanding free care to trying to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease to handing out food baskets worth 5,000 shillings (£50) each month to help keep the nutritional levels of sufferers at some kind of bare minimum. A lot of the women have also trained in micro-finance and 26 of them run some kind of small business. Probably the most important thing they do is hand out free condoms (in Kenya contraceptives are not free). They had also brought the Kenyan judiciary to bear on the unfair dismissal of people diagnosed with HIV.

Get involved and begin the journey of your lifetime! Click here for more details about the Orphanage and Teaching in Kenya!

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