A Voice For the Voiceless


The Advocacy Project (AP) recruits students to help marginalized communities tell their story and claim their rights.

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Posts tagged settlements

Beatrice Atieno Oginga

Kristen Maryn | Posted August 24th, 2011 | Africa

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During my time with Hakijamii, I was lucky to meet Beatrice.  She quickly became a friend to me, as well as a surprising source of information and support.

Beatrice taught me about life in the slums, made the best cup of tea in Kenya, introduced me to the women at Kibera Paper, and routinely confused me by switching between Kiswahili and Luo.  She has not led the easiest life, but not once did she seem to resent her lot.

I was able to talk to Beatrice a lot throughout my time at Hakijamii, and once she allowed me to interview her.  With the help of Marcy, the Community Outreach Officer, I was able to talk to Beatrice about living in Kibera, what stable work has meant to her, raising a disabled child, and the post-election violence.


Beatrice cleans the offices at Hakijamii two days a week.  Before Hakijamii, she worked at Kibera Paper making cards.  And before that she did odd jobs around Kibera, selling chapati and porridge.  This income is the solitary income for her family.  She says that most women in Kibera are single mothers not by choice, but by circumstance.  Either the fathers die or leave the women to start other families.  It is common for the same man to start many families, and leave the women the work of supporting them.  At 49, Beatrice has been a widow for many years.

Beatrice’s youngest son, Eric, has a disability.  Beatrice spoke to Hakijamii about the difficulties raising a disabled son and the lack of education support in Kenya for these children (hyperlink: ).  Beatrice plays the roles of mother, father, and caregiver for Eric, when she can.  She could not afford the cost of transport to take Eric to and from school, so she had to send him to a boarding school called Nakuru Hill.  His medication costs are Ksh 200 a day, and the balance she owes the school nears Ksh 13,000.  These costs are well beyond her daily intake.

When Eric is home, he shares her living space, a one-room 10x10 in Kibera.  It is difficult living in the slums with a disability.  There are people who walk on their hands through the sewage, but there are no special amenities, like toilets.  Disabled children regularly get sick from what they touch and eat.  The children will wander off in the slums because they don’t know any better; Beatrice said she just had to hope someone would recognize Eric and bring him back when it happened to her.  It takes a lot of work to raise a disabled child, and she has seen some parents let the children starve, rather than deal with them.

But Beatrice feels that God had a reason for bringing her Eric.  And that is how she dealt with her life, acceptance without anger or resentment.  Beatrice just raises her head high and works.

I put together a video of Beatrice talking about these topics, with Marcy’s help translating.  [So the disclaimer is that if you speak Kiswahili, you will probably notice inaccuracies, so please be patient with the rough translation!  And if you do not speak Kiswahili, just know that you are getting a solid summary of what Beatrice said, even though it might not line up perfectly with her words.]

Beatrice did say a lot of valuable and insightful things, and unfortunately I had to limit what I put in the video.  But here is some more of what she had to say:

Sweet Soweto

Kristen Maryn | Posted August 20th, 2011 | Africa

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I had the pleasure of meeting Soweto Forum in Kibera during one of its typical Friday meetings.  John Mwihia Karanja, the Chairperson, had come by Hakijamii the day before so he could prep the group on what I was interested in learning about.  The goal was easy: Tell me what you do.  They meet in a small cement room in Soweto East, in the middle of the Government’s first phase of the Kenya Slum Upgrading Program (KENSUP).

Soweto Forum: Meetings
Soweto Forum: Meetings

KENSUP was started in 2004 as the Government’s major plan for improving the settlements, one by one.  The Government targets a settlement, divides it into zones, then zone by zone, hands out eviction notices and demolishes the buildings left behind.  The former occupants are moved into what are called decanting sites; these are essentially large apartment complexes.  The former settlements are now available for other development, like high-demand luxury apartments.

The decanting sites are where a lot of the trouble sets in.  Until the Eviction and Resettlement Guidelines are passed, the Government has no obligations to the victims at all.  The Constitution guarantees basic rights, like a right to adequate housing, but until there are guidelines, the Government can decide the limits arbitrarily.

In theory, the decanting sites do not seem all too terrible.  They are nice facilities, at least; adequate housing by any standard.  But they are set many kilometers from the original location.  The resettled people are not given opportunity to reorganize businesses and schools.  There is no measurement of compensation at all.  In actuality, the rent and cost of utilities in the decanting sites are higher than most people can afford, so many get evicted for defaulting on rent payments.

Zone A of Soweto East was relocated to decanting sites in August 2009.  The leftover land lays abandoned, structures intact, as the structure owners have taken the issue to court (HCCC No. 498 of 2009 Joseph Mwaura vs. Hon. Attorney General, the Minister for Lands and the Commissioner for Lands).  They want compensation.  The community just wants to move home.

Much like the railroad expansion, this is a development-based forced eviction.  And it is having real effects on the community members.  One man at the meeting only said, “If I talk about slum upgrading, I will only have bitter words, because I am a victim.  I lost everything.”

KENSUP is in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, which is mandated to be the UN’s resettlement agency, ensuring adequate shelter for all.  Additionally, there is the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (KISIP), which is funded by the World Bank.  KISIP is also geared toward slum upgrading, but the intersect between KISIP and KENSUP is complicated and beyond my cursory knowledge.  But I do know that both UN-HABITAT and the World Bank require equitable resettlement, so Shelter Forum has a good chance of making their contentions heard.

Soweto Forum
Soweto Forum

Besides fighting to right the slum upgrading, Soweto Forum is actively involved in the community.  They provide adult education courses, advocate for better access to care for HIV/AIDS patients, and created Youth Building Bridges for Peace in Kibera to build entrepreneurship in the children of Kibera.

Soweto women have also created Gender Defenders, which works to improve women’s empowerment and security in the settlements.  In particular, they work with young girls to end gender-based violence.  They do fun empowerment exercises, like cat walking and are working to create a security station.  They are also teaching the women to improve their socio-economic status by teaching them skills to become financially stable.  They raise chickens and sell various beaded goods, like necklaces and purses.  They also work on urban gardening, one of many projects Christy highlighted last year.

Soweto Forum + Advocacy Project
Soweto Forum + Advocacy Project

Soweto Forum has a lot of activity in the works.  They are primarily focused on an eviction moratorium.  They also want to see the Eviction and Resettlement Guidelines adopted.  But despite their busy schedules, they took time to spend their entire meeting welcoming me and making sure I had all my questions answered.  I was not able to visit Soweto Forum again, mainly due to the increased violence in Kibera, due to the Ngazi elections, but I am hoping to work with Hakijamii Community Outreach Officer Marcy to find some resources and funding for this group.

The Railway Dwellers: Mary

Kristen Maryn | Posted July 25th, 2011 | Africa

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On Thursday, July 21st, I went to Kisumu Ndogo for a second time to meet with Ngazi ya Chini.  Kisumu Ndogo is an area in Kibera that functions on its proximity to the railroad.

Kibera: Kisumu Ndogo
Kibera: Kisumu Ndogo

People work off the line; they live off the line. It is a mainstay of their livelihoods.  Yet, this thriving community is set to be fractured.  Everyone on 100 feet of either side of the railroad will be displaced.  Large metal poles mark the 100-foot (or 30 meter) point.  These poles are signs of certain doom for people living on one side, and they are handy fixtures for drying clothing for people lucky enough to be living on the other side.

Kibera: Boundary
Kibera: Boundary

I was taken around to speak to some of the affected people.  I asked them each for permission to film the interview, but many were skeptical of me and insisted I didn’t.  I tried a different tactic of asking my questions first, and then requesting again that I could at least take a photo.  They all obliged to the photo after the fact.

Many times I have tried to imagine what this would mean to me.  If the US government came by one evening, with a piece of paper, which dictated that, my home/business/school/church was in the way of a new highway system.  The thought of moving makes my head hurt already.

Then I try adding in factors.  I have lived in the same home for 20 years.  I have built it with my bare hands, and it is the source of my income.  I am a widow with two children, and I also support my sister’s three children.  My income feeds us, clothes us, pays the rent, and pays the school fees.  I live in a community built on habits and conveniences.  I have no reliable means of travel, and a matter of kilometers is a barrier to movement and business.  One customer is the difference between eating that night and not.  I can’t afford to live anywhere else in the city, which has left me behind.  A city that has a cost of living greater than that of my entire neighborhood’s monthly income.  I am receiving promises from a government that is not concerned with living up to them.

But even then I can’t imagine the feelings of insecurity or apprehension that these people know.

Their stories are very similar, but each left a lasting impression; each put a human face on this abstract group of railway dwellers.  Each is being told that they cannot sustain the lives they have built up.  And each unknowingly emphasized the lack of consistent information shared between those planning this expansion and those who will be affected by it.


Hard at work, Mary quietly stepped out from behind the glass of her butcher shop to speak to me.  She had been chopping up cubes of steak for a convenient sell, and they were displayed prominently behind her window, enticing the passer-bys with the promise of dinner.  Her hands were stained with blood, and she shyly smiled when she realized she was still clutching the large knife in her hand while she softly spoke.

Kibera: Mary
Kibera: Mary

Kibera: Butcher Shop
Kibera: Butcher Shop

The butcher shop is about 10 meters from the tracks, and her family has run the business since 1991.  600 shillings ($6.64) a day is enough to provide some basics for herself and her 21-month-old child, as well as other family members.  The family depends on this business, and without it, they will suffer.  Mary spoke of her fear of resettlement; the fear that even though she will be taken away from her neighborhood, her home, the customers will stay behind.  She doesn’t just fear it; she knows it will happen.

She seems tired, but not completely without hope.  Since 2005, they have been threatened with eviction, and six years of anxiety is a lot for a 26-year-old breadwinner to handle.  She has seen movement and growth in Kisumu Ndogo since May 2010, the second time the railroad people came by to assign them a number.  But besides that brief contact, no one has been by to speak to her.  No one has made an effort to help her understand.

Mary didn’t speak much English, but as I thanked her and began to walk away, she quietly said, “Please help us.”  That message I understood perfectly.

Speeding Up…

Kristen Maryn | Posted July 22nd, 2011 | Africa

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Meetings are picking up around Nairobi for me, and posts are in the works to explain all of them.  Yesterday, I met with Ngazi ya Chini and was able to speak to some people who will be affected by the relocation (unfortunately they were a bit camera-shy, but I snapped some photos after the interviews - with permission of course!).  Today, I met with a group called Soweto Forum, dedicated to righting the injustices of the government’s slum upgrading program.  After that, I met with the Executive Director of Pamoja Trust and gained a bit of perspective on the entire project, including the Relocation Action Plan and how the railroad expansion is actually going to unfold.

Additionally, my director, Iain Guest, will be on his way to Kenya in ten short days, and I have been getting to know this beautiful country better - including a short safari in the Maasai Mara last week and a day trip into the Rift Valley tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to sharing all of the above.  But in a little bit of time.

Also of note, Pamoja Trust released a progress report on the relocation, which included a timeline for the remainder of the project.  The construction phase (that would be demolition) is set to begin in November OF THIS YEAR.  That’s pretty soon for my scale, but considering the first eviction notices were handed out in 2004, it must feel like the end of the longest waiting game ever to all the railway dwellers.

I leave you with these interesting and related stories.  My flatmate this summer has listened to my railroad jabber all along, and she kindly sent me these two about life along the tracks:

People in Indonesia using the railroad for its healing powers.

This market in Thailand:

And a project I have been obsessed with before Kenya was even a possibility in my mind.  Little did I know this area, Kisumu Ndogo, would become my most familiar area in Kibera, and the remnants of the photo project are still around.  See more here.


Kristen Maryn | Posted July 20th, 2011 | Africa

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The railroad expansion will affect an area much broader than just Kibera.  Kibera gets a lot of attention for various reasons, but it is important to remember the other populations, which will also be displaced.  This includes communities in Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and Mukuru, a settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi.

On July 14th, the secretary of Ngazi ya Chini picked Sally, the Hakijamii intern, and me up from the office, and we started the drive to Mukuru.  Mukuru is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside of Nairobi.  The population estimates for the entire area range, but normally fall around the half million mark.  From what I can gather, Mukuru is Kiswahili for “dumping site,” and that is exactly what Mukuru started as – and to a large extent, still remains.  The area started as a quarry; as Nairobi developed faster than its means, due to the mining, the site was deemed as unfit for development, so instead it became a garbage dump.

The trip back to the car
The trip back to the car

As abandoned resources grew, people scavenged the dump more and more and began building their homes in the area.  The Mukuru settlement was born.  The area is still heavily industrial, and the buildings now center on the railroad, the old quarry, and manufacturing sites.  Large lorries carrying dirt and rocks, apparently for a purpose, frequent the roads, though that purpose remains unseen for the casual visitor.

Land of Industry
Land of Industry

The settlement faces the same issues as the others; tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS are common, life expectancy hovers around 40 years, the population density is something like 50,000 per square mile, and the average income is around $1 a day.

The Walk
The Walk


We were dropped off at a roundabout near the settlement in an industrial area, and there we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Waited long enough for this mzungu to sunburn under a winter sun (granted, that is not new to me).  We eventually realized we had been plopped down on the opposite end of the settlement from the community meeting, so we began to walk.

I followed the lead of the community, using the railroad as a path.  The other options were to walk through standing wastewater or on dirt frequently used as a makeshift toilet, so the threat of moving for a rumbling train was worth it (only two come through a day – a figure the government wants to increase).  The further into Mukuru we walked, the closer the structures crept toward the railroad.  Especially once we made it to one of the market sections of the settlement, the railroad and the market became inextricable.

Market Central
Market Central

More Vendors
More Vendors

I was not as comfortable in Mukuru as I have been in other areas (can you really be comfortable in the settlements, as an outsider?).  Maybe it was because my community liaison is not a member of the community (he is from Kibera), or maybe it was because the slum was so far out of Nairobi, it didn’t seem to be frequented by visitors.  I normally use children as a benchmark, and the children of Mukuru tended to either hide from my gaze or glare at me suspiciously.  It also didn’t help that adults yelled things at me more than I had encountered anywhere else in Kenya, and one woman conveniently tossed her trash into the sewage at my feet.  The community, though, was thriving and lively, and it was easy to see how entrenched the railroad has become as an everyday part of life.

Children of Mukuru
Children of Mukuru

The meeting took place in a community of Mukuru called Sinai, an area where the buildings relax their grip on the railroad.  Within the first ten minutes of the meeting, a bare engine rumbled by, shaking the corrugated metal siding and drowning out the voices of the facilitators.  Just part of the reality of life here.  The participants in the meeting were impassioned and emphatic, and it was obvious this would be one of the livelier meetings I had attended; few people were able to speak uninterrupted.  I received brief translations, and it became apparent that Mukuru had not mobilized behind a single leader, and there was discontent about the current status of organization.

Pamoja Trust plays a murky role in the relocation, as it was a key contributor to the writing of the Relocation Action Plan (read as: they were hired by Kenya Railways), but they also play a key role as rights protectors in the settlements.  Things get even more complicated because certain members of Pamoja have shifted around and created a new organization, charging themselves with responsibilities too cannily similar to be pure coincidence.  Opiata, the ED of Hakijamii, told me afterwards that it would take months to catch up on the intricacies of these organizations’ interplays and roles.  Needless to say, the community seems divided, and my experience at the meeting was cut short as the two groups came to a head and fighting broke out.  Sally was quick to react when the tension started rising and ushered me out of the building.

My overall impression was simply that the community does not seem ready to move at the pace that is necessary to respond to the RAP.  Implementation is imminent, yet they cannot rally behind a figurehead, or even yet, an organization.  Kibera faces similar issues, but not nearly so polarized.  From what I have read on successful inspections on World Bank programs, unity is necessary, and a lot of the settlements’ strength rests in their sheer numbers.  Thousands of people are hard to ignore, especially when they speak with one voice.


**Also of note, due to government cutbacks, Hakijamii is losing a long-time and committed international donor.  They have to restructure and reevaluate programs for the next three years, which could have a terrible ripple effect in the settlements.  If anyone knows any organizations active in securing economic, social, and cultural rights in developing nations, send them our way!

Entrepreneurship and Craft in Kibera

Kristen Maryn | Posted July 13th, 2011 | Africa

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This blog is more than just a travelogue, as my goal is to attempt to delve into the complexities of housing rights…the fight to fix them, the Kenyan Government, IGOs, development plans, indigenous populations, and diminishing resources…but still to present Kenya through my eyes.

This is a great opportunity to explore a beautiful and diverse country (and people), whose image has been marred by unfortunate events and nicknames like “Nairobbery.”  Kenya is more than safaris (though what an amazing experience, right??) and Obama, just as the settlements are more than human suffering and bleak conditions.  I had told myself before getting to Kenya that I want to show what life is like here.  So in addition to showing the inequality and despair of the settlements, I was going to make a concerted effort to show more of the culture and hope that comes out of them, too.  Because, let’s face it, you don’t find a lack of culture and personality anywhere in Kenya – in Mombasa, Turkana, the Mara, or the settlements.

So then there is Kibera.  Kibera takes on many faces, depending on who you talk to.  To government officials, it is an eyesore and a problem (but also votes).  To people from other areas, it is a place filled with trouble-makers and whiners (“Just look at how they rip up the railroad at the slightest instigation!  They are babied by the government,” they say).  To the people of Kibera, it is home.  One look at the Kibera News Network site gives a glimpse of all the community-building, encouraging, and cultural things to come out of Nairobi’s biggest settlement.  Fashion shows, picnics, and artisans all abound in the area.

People just seem not to look for these aspects of life, or maybe they are overshadowed by the extreme poverty.  We have a tendency to be fascinated with human suffering – the train-wreck effect.  We can’t look away.  Life in these settlements is so hard for us to comprehend – “us” being the typical Westerner,  we focus on those aspects that make us feel pity, even make us feel compelled to act, to pressure for change, or just to give thanks for our own status in life.  Isn’t this the main compulsion behind the slum tours mentioned before (here and here)?  I am not saying that this is bad, necessarily; actually, it is amazing that despite thousands of miles, differences in culture and language, we can still feel connected to each other through the human aspect.  True, life in these settlements is hard.  It is dangerous.  It is inequitable, and there can be a sad complacency for their “lot in life,” but there is also that resiliency.  These are still people, and they are beautiful and diverse and active.  They don’t lose that because they live in a slum.


My first week in Kenya, while perusing an ex-pat haven of a market, I came across a group of women selling cards.  Their tent was bare, not filled with the marketing ploys and gimmicks of the other more savvy artisans.  They simply had two boxes of cards and a sign.  The cards were beautiful, hand-painted on recycled paper, each signed by the woman who put the time into its creation, each artist a woman of Kibera.  After doing some research on Kibera Paper, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it calls my own base of Kenyatta Market home.  And then I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that Hakijamii’s resident part-time office assistant, Beatrice, also used to work at Kibera Paper.

St. Luke's Kenyatta Parish
St. Luke's Kenyatta Parish

On two separate days, Beatrice clasped my hand in hers and marched me across the street to St. Luke’s Kenyatta Parish to introduce me to her other “family.”  The women of Kibera Paper are sweet, welcoming, and humble.  The operation, started in 2001, is tiny and shares space with the church and with a school, but it employs 24 women, single mothers and widows, and allows them the flexibility of a steady wage – to pay for rent, dinner, and school fees.  Most of these women have worked for Kibera Paper for 7+ years.

Office at Kibera Paper
Office at Kibera Paper

Spreading out the Paper
Spreading out the Paper

Recycled Paper
Recycled Paper

The idea is simple, but resourceful – take scraps of office paper off of business’ hands.  Turn it into a pulp, dye it, turn it back into paper, and personalize it as a Kenyan piece of art.  And for 100 shillings each (around $1.20), they are cheaper than any greeting card I’ve seen in Target.




Like Kazuri Beads, Kibera Paper saw an opportunity to help a marginalized and vulnerable group, single mothers, empowered them to learn a skill, and improved, at least slightly, the monthly income they bring home.  They are not receiving hand-outs.  No one I have met from Kibera has ever asked for a hand-out.  They are making an honest living and are happy for that.

Welcome to Mathare, would you like a drink?

Kristen Maryn | Posted June 17th, 2011 | Africa

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(I apologize in advance for the length of this blog…I know I promised brevity.  I lied, just this once.  I’ll make it up to you with lots of photos?)

This past week, I have attended three meetings and am still attempting to get a grasp on the multiple issues facing slum-dwellers and the solutions.  A meeting on June 15th was the launch of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights’ report on the state of human rights in Kenya.  I haven’t read the full report yet, and it isn’t available online as of now, but I will report back on this one.

The other two meetings were community workshops on water tariffs.

Welcome to the Workshop!
Welcome to the Workshop!

Hakijamii, in collaboration with NPSN, plans different workshops in neighborhoods around Nairobi to educate people on the importance of clean water, their rights (there is a lot of buzz around the new constitution), and the costs associated.  Water in Nairobi is controlled by Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, which like many utilities companies, seemingly runs a monopoly.  Needless to say, people in the settlements have not seen much progress by the government nor actualized provisions, so trusting and paying NCWSC is not the instinct.

Teaching the Community
Teaching the Community

There are so many issues facing Kenya’s water, it is kind of difficult to find a starting point.  First of all, a lot of natural sources are contaminated.  Sewage drains directly into the rivers.  Clean-up efforts are in place, and there are treatment facilities capable of creating potable water, but costs are prohibitive.  NCWSC has committed to installing more water lines in the settlements, and they have plans to install proper sewage lines, but convincing the people to pay the high start-up costs is a challenge.  This is particularly so when they are paying a monthly fee for a sewage line that does not exist yet.

Additionally, water costs up-front seem unaffordable.  The cost to purchase a water meter for one’s home (in order to tap water directly into the home) is 5,000 shillings (around $57).  For many people, that is more than their monthly salaries.  After the start-up cost, the fees get more reasonable.  Monthly, they will pay a fee for water, depending on usage, but typically around 19 shillings for 10 m3 and another 14 shillings for sewage (for a total around 30 cents).  Problems arise because the promises of additional pipes are not fulfilled yet, and those that are are easily tapped.  NCWSC is also setting up water kiosks around the settlements for people to pay to access, but the cost of these are more expensive over longer periods of time, and many do not have water in them yet.

Water Projects on Hold
Water Projects on Hold

That is a really primitive explanation.  But hopefully, the idea comes across.  The goal is to make water affordable and accessible to the majority of urban homes.  So in a nutshell, that is how I was introduced to the Mathare settlement.

Mathare Far
Mathare Far

Mathare is a collection of settlements, and it is largely believed to be the second largest in Nairobi (after Kibera).  Population estimates range anywhere from 500,000 to one million.  And while Mathare is not famous like Kibera (which has roles on tv shows and was the filming location for The Constant Gardener), it is no less striking.  It was one of the hardest hit areas during the post election violence, but despite only three years time, it seems to have collected itself from the ashes.

(Photo from NYT Online)


I had been told I was going to a community workshop.  So dressed in a skirt and sandals (so inappropriate for a walking tour of a settlement!), we drove to Mathare Worship Centre.  What I was not told was that the regional NPSN director for the area, Christopher Maina, planned to take us around Mathare.  Besides the wardrobe miscommunication, I was thrilled.  As I mentioned in my blog about slum tourism, I am very mixed about the attributes of leading Westerners around settlements, but then again, this is what I am here to do…to learn about the actuality of life here and to try to impact changes, to advocate for these people.

We began with a tour of Kiboro Primary School, a government-sponsored school for kindergarten through 8th grade.  After touring the grounds and the water/sanitation facilities, the Head Teacher, Dorcus Mutinda, welcomed us into her office.  Of the 891 students, 30% are orphans.  Food is supplied by the World Food Programme and textbooks by the government.  Healthy habits are a large focus of the school, but water constraints make it difficult to follow everyday.  She told us, for example, that the smaller children tend to be pushed out of the way in the hand-washing line.  She spoke of the school’s challenges and needs, but also seemed very hopeful.

Dorcus Mutinda
Dorcus Mutinda

A Sea of Blue
A Sea of Blue

The children were excited and friendly and swarmed me, as usual.  Children are always a joy.  They don’t see me and think of what they do and don’t have.  They don’t see their socio-economic status, or feel bitter about my presence.  They see me and see a novelty.  A mzungu in their midst, willing to talk to them and interact with them.  For me, that unabashed curiosity and joy is the best way to temper the overwhelming feelings of sadness.  And unlike my time in the Nigerian Delta, the sight of me didn’t make any of them cry!  Already this visit was going smoothly.

"Clean" Water
"Clean" Water

Christopher then led us deeper into Mathare, in order to really grasp the water issues.  He showed us where the sewage runs into the river and the water lines that get tapped.  After about an hour, we headed back to the Centre to start the meeting.

I will save the descriptions of the disparaging conditions for another blog, especially since everyone always writes about how sad/dirty/poor/fill-in-your-word-of-choice the settlements are; I will have plenty of time for that with Kibera.  I will leave you with the positive attributes of Mathare.  These people are living.  Yes, the conditions are bad and the government needs to step up efforts to confront these issues.  Yes, more could be done by the people of Mathare to improve such issues like waste disposal, but these people are making the best of what they have.  I didn’t hear one complaint; I didn’t have a single person ask me for anything.  I was welcomed, by adults and children alike, into their lives.  I saw people working, relaxing, doing chores, laughing, getting on with life.  Three years ago, this settlement was torn apart by factionalism and violence.  I have been so impressed with the resiliency of the Kenyan people.  They are educated on the issues; they know the reality of the situation, and they are working for change.  But do they whine about it?  No.  A ray of hope that community efforts, spearheaded by groups like Hakijamii and NPSN, are giving them an outlet to try to actualize change.  And that is beautiful.

I have droned on enough now.  As always, my Flickr set has more photos and information accompanying each photo.

Fellow: Kristen Maryn



Africa art Budget cards children Coalition debate dogs eviction Evictions expansion Gigiri government hair salon Hakijamii Home housing Kenya Kenyatta Kibera market Mathare Ministry Mukuru Nairobi Ngazi Ya Chini NPSN Pamoja Trust plants railroad Railway Rights river school settlements slum slums Swahili The Advocacy Project Title tourism water women work plan World Bank




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Kristen Maryn
Rebecca Scherpelz
Scarlett Chidgey
Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
Meredith Williams
Ryan McGovern
Samantha Syverson


Beth Wofford
Julia Dowling
Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
Dina Buck
Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
Kerry McBroom
Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
Zarin Hamid


Laila Zulkaphil
Susan Craig-Greene
Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
Oscar Alvarado

2009 Fellows


Adam Welti
Alixa Sharkey
Barbara Dziedzic
Bryan Lupton

Courtney Chance
Elisa Garcia
Helah Robinson
Johanna Paillet
Johanna Wilkie
Kate Cummings
Laura Gordon
Lisa Rogoff
Luna Liu
Ned Meerdink
Walter James


Abhilash Medhi
Gretchen Murphy
Isha Mehmood
Jacqui Kotyk
Jessica Tirado
Kan Yan
Morgan St. Clair
Ted Mathys


Alison Sluiter
Christina Hooson
Donna Harati
Fanny Grandchamp
Kelsey Bristow
Simran Sachdev
Susan Craig-Greene
Tiffany Ommundsen

Latin America

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Carolyn Ramsdell
Jessica Varat
Lindsey Crifasi
Rebecca Gerome
Zachary Parker

Middle East

Corrine Schneider
Rachel Brown
Rangineh Azimzadeh

North America

Elizabeth Mandelman
Farzin Farzad

2008 Fellows

Adam Nord
Annelieke van de Wiel
Juliet Hutchings
Kristina Rosinsky
Lucas Wolf
Chi Vu
Danita Topcagic
Heather Gilberds
Jes Therkelsen
Libby Abbott
Mackenzie Berg
Nicole Farkouh
Ola Duru
Paul Colombini
Raka Banerjee
Shubha Bala
Antigona Kukaj
Colby Pacheco
James Dasinger
Janet Rabin
Nicole Slezak
Shweta Dewan
Amy Offner
Ash Kosiewicz
Hannah McKeeth
Heidi McKinnon
Larissa Hotra
Hannah Wright
Krystal Sirman
Rianne Van Doeveren
Willow Heske

2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
Madeline England
Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
Tassos Coulaloglou
Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
Tatsiana Hulko

2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
Alison Long
Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
Nicole Cordeau
Stacey Spivey
Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch