We have driven through and walked through Kenyan slums on this ONE MOMS trip and honestly it has been life changing. It has been life changing not because people are living in abject poverty, but because I understand how people can continue to live in the slums and not question it.
I’m sure that is a hard concept to grasp, but stay with me.
Yesterday when we visited the school in the slum that is being funded by USAID I didn’t understand how people can live in such poverty and seemingly not care. But today when we walked through Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, with Carolina for Kibera, I understood. Yes, Kibera smelled of raw sewage, flies relentlessly swarmed all of their food laid out at market, and cholera can break out at any time, but as has been the case this week I have yet to see a person whose spirit is broken because of poverty. Rather, the Kenyan people are filled with a genuine spirit that I have never seen before.
Tonight at dinner I sat with two Kenyan bloggers – a husband and wife team — and they explained to us what that genuine spirit is. Kenyans believe that their situation could be worse so they appreciate the moment and circumstance they’re in now. For example, they may only eat two meals a day, but they know someone, somewhere only had one meal today. For that, they are grateful and they express it through a loving and welcoming spirit. The thing though is this: it’s not an act. It’s not for show. And it’s 100% genuine. Throughout this entire week I have seen people in sheer need of food, adequate shelter, health care, and education, but I have yet to meet any Kenyan who has lost hope because they have these needs. In the United States, for example, when people are down and out, there tends to be a lot of sadness, bitterness, and resentfulness. That just isn’t the case for Kenyans. The weird thing is I don’t think you can understand what I am saying unless you visit or have been here before.
In Kibera, we met Mercy, a single mother of a four-year-old daughter, Nicole. Her walls were made of mud and her entire house was about the size of an American bathroom. And yet, there she was happy and content with her life and her ability to sustain herself and her child. Mercy wasn’t clamoring to get out of Kibera, yet she is striving for a better life for her daughter. She lost both her mother and father and subsequently had to become the head of household and guardian of her little sister. Through Carolina for Kibera’s Binti Pamoja program Mercy has rallied a support system around her and has learned financial literacy and leadership that has helped her become a better mother.
Daily Action: Today we are meeting with a group of women farmers near Lake Naivasha, Kenya. As you’re probably aware, the Horn of Africa is currently enduring a horrible famine. Educate yourself about what’s happening on the ground, and learn more about how you can contribute by visiting our friends at InterAction.