Kenya, Kiberra Slum Orphan school, Rift Valley

Our driver, the personable and dependable Mumias, who has become a friend during my three trips to Kenya since November, took us to visit his family in their tiny two-room apartment where old airline seats, complete with unused ashtrays, serve as a loveseat. Charity, his wife, served us tea and chapatti, and his children—Ayela, Walter, and Marcy—showed me their excellent school marks and took turns reading aloud from children’s books on my IPad. The baby, Dominique, was content breastfeeding and being passed around to the siblings.

With Mumias, we made two visits to Kiberra, the largest slum in Africa. Home to a couple of million people, Kiberra is a city within a city. The slum is built along hillsides offering tremendous views of a sea of colorful tin roofs. In an effort to improve conditions, areas are being razed and families moved into concrete apartment housing. While the apartments include two bedrooms, kitchens, indoor bathrooms, and subsidized rent, the $250 per month is still higher than many can pay. Built as apartment blocks with center courtyards, no provision was made for businesses, so many residents trek back to the slum to fry and sell chapatti, style hair, sell their wares, fix machines, and attend church, which we were invited to do on Sunday.

Below steep banks runs a railroad track. A recent rain made the narrow, uneven paths even more treacherous. The mud is slippery, and the path is soft underfoot, comprised of garbage pressed solid by millions of footsteps.

We visited Little Steps Academy, a school for orphans run by one of Mumias’ friends. Mary oversees four classrooms of children from nursery through primary school. Packed shoulder to shoulder in two classrooms 40 preschoolers and 50 kindergarteners entertained us with singing and pantomime. We left a donation that they used to buy flour for chapattis and a blackboard.

We finished our days in Nairobi with a drive outside the city to take in a view of the stunning Rift Valley, arriving just before the fog rolled in. Later, we enjoyed dinner with Joseph at Habesha, the wonderful Ethiopian restaurant where we ate on our first visit in 2007. Without realizing it was the same restaurant, I ate there last November with Jeremy Groce, one of our board members, who was in Nairobi on business. We arrived after dark and were seated inside at a low round table designed to hold the platter of injerra, a spongy, sourdough flatbread used in lieu of utensils, served with lentils, meats, and vegetables.

This was the end of our time with city living. In the morning, it’s on to the village of Duk Payuel.

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