This Place is Too Dangerous

8 November 2009

On our first trip to Kenya, we arrived in the city of Nairobi. We were being toured around the city by the former Foreign Minister. I asked to go and visit Kibera which is the largest slum in east Africa with over 1,300,000 people living there. We were told that it was far too dangerous to go there and that he wouldn’t even go there and he was from Nairobi. I repeated the request and he agreed that he would drive us around the perimeter but he would not stop the car and we must keep our windows up and our doors locked. I didn’t see much point in driving around without going in but he was quite insistent. At the end of our day he returned us to our hotel. The next morning I went to the desk clerk and explained that I wanted to go to Kibera. The clerk shook his head and informed me that it was far too dangerous to go there and that white people never go into that slum. Frustrated at my inability to get to the slum I went to the street and hailed a cab. I instructed him that I wanted to go to Kibera. He leaned over, looked up at me and said,”White man no go to Kibera” . Annoyed, I asked him which way it was and he pointed over his shoulder. As he drove off I determined that I would walk there and I headed off.

It took me about two hours to reach the slum and I must admit I was a bit concerned but I knew it was where we were needed so in I went. What I saw was very disheartening. The people were living in no more than shanties. Scraps of sheet metal patched together to form walls and a roof of sorts. There were children everywhere, poorly dressed and obviously not in school. With no sanitation services there was garbage everywhere you looked with great numbers of people having nothing to do.

After a while I started talking to people trying to understand their situation. As I approached one man he explained that he was a minister and he invited me into his church which was no more than a tin shack with one room for his bed and the other for preaching. There were four ladies sitting on a bench and I asked what they were doing. He explained that they were praying in the hope that someone would hire them for the day so they could buy food for their family. I had truly found the poorest of the poor. Here we would work and now we sustain 12 orphanages in Kibera.