Don’t let everybody see your big camera when travelling. Never take the camera or other valuables to a slum. Better don’t even go to a slum. These kinds of advices I threw completely over board. I had the great opportunity to visit Southlands Slum in Nairobi with my friend Tomo. She works for the Japanese NGO Child Doctor. The organization provides medicine and therapeutical treatment for poor children and their mothers.
They were in touch with the chief of the slum. The chief was fine with us taking pictures and videos inside the slum and therefore send Moses to walk around with us and protect us. Moses is a young man who is well-trusted by the community and co-leads a youth group in the slum.
Safe and Secure with Moses
With him, it was no problem at all to take not only my camera but also my audio recorder and a tripod into the slum. I felt safe the entire time and nobody every tried to harm me or anyone of our group in any way.
It was a very touching experience to visit the slum. The short November rainy season had started. It rained several times a day and temperatures had dropped to as low as 15°C during the day. In Southlands slum all pathways were super muddy with puddles and little runlets in the middle. I saw a little boy pee into the standing water. In the path ways, there was garbage all over. Many people all over Kenya just drop their litter wherever they stand or sit. I haven’t seen many dustbins and it is no secret that plastic never rots.
Homes of Children and Mothers
We visited a couple of homes of children that receive treatment from Child Doctor. One disorder that occurs very often is cerebral palsy. It occurs when the child doesn’t get enough oxygen during the birthing process. The homes usually had only one room in which the mother lived with around 2-5 children. Mostly the men had left their wife and disabled child behind. In the rooms, I did see light bulbs but at the time we were there no energy was available and therefore no light.
Little Drinking Water – Lots of Waste Water
Water is a huge issue in the slum. People have to stand in long lines to get some drinking water from the tanks. The washing of clothes is usually done in washing places inside the slum. The shacks usually don’t have toilets. There is a public toilet. I was told that going there costs 5 Shillings, around 5 Euro cents. Supposedly the place is not exactly clean and it is not safe to leave the house after dark (the sun sets around 6 pm).
Despite the conditions, many kids seemed to make the best of it and were happy anyway. They danced and laughed and cheered when they saw us foreigners. Grown-ups didn’t always look so happy but also made the best of it. One mother said she liked living in Southlands because she could always rely on the neighbours and they would always lend her whatever she needed. Another mother said she liked the place for the small rent, which is around 30 Euros a month. Noise and lack of water were issues the women raised as sometimes not so easy.
The Way Out
Life in the slum is tough, no doubt about that. But moving up is possible even for people who grow up under the most modest conditions: Moses told us his parents had just made enough money to buy land on the outskirts of Nairobi and finally build their own house. However, water shortage, garbage and lack of energy will remain problems there as well. These are the problems Kenya faces as a nation.