The Wild Wild World of Kibera

Thursday, July 28th, 2011


I have never been in slum like Kibera. To be honest, I am not sure there are words to describe this place.

It was sunny. Fun. Full of laughter and color and life. It was filthy. Smelled like sewage and garbage and waste. It was light-hearted. Reggae music pumped into the red clay main streets. Children laughed and hugged and played. It was dark. We passed brothels and girls sniffing glue and carts of rotten produce.

We walked on.

Betty was my guide up the unprecedented garbage heaps that served as paths. She is 24 years old and a single mother of three young girls. Betty shared her experience with me. I got the lay of land, the names of the villages within the slum, Kisumu. I asked questions about her home as we walked on and on past babies playing in the ash of yesterday’s fire pit, women pealing potatoes, people standing in line to buy filthy, polluted water.

And yet it was life –it was normative for Betty and the half million people who share Kibera as home.

We passed puppies and hens with newborn chicks. We passed so many children I lost count all chanting, “How are you? How are you?” Waving, grabbing, hugging.

We passed death. Animals and people clearly sick, dying, aging, malnourished propped up against clay walls.

We finished our walk at Betty’s home — a room she shares with 10 other people. It was clean, but most importantly, it was full of love. Betty loves her small family and works hard to make money for her girls. It is her biggest goal and her biggest source of pride.

Betty and I visited in her small Kibera tin roof home. I found myself looking out the window… over a stream of sewage and an endless pathway of garbage lined with faces, smiles, and names. This is Betty’s home. She knows no other.

As Westerners we can think Betty and her girls MUST get out, but this is not what Betty wants. She wants to remain grounded and connected to her people. And so we must go to her. We must bring clean water, medical care, and educational opportunities to the wild, wild world of Kibera.

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