Monday, February 6, 2012
After a few 'This is Africa' moments, I finally found my way to my first day in Kibera. I was feeling a bit anxious pre-arrival, but tried to put that off a bit. Luckily, I arrived quite early and that gave me some time to collect my thoughts.
And there were many of them. I arrived on the other side of Kibera (Technically, I live in Kibera, just not 'Kibera Slum'. It took 2 matatus to get there!) at around 7:30am--just in time for the sun to finish rising over the homes there. Some of the things running through my mind were : 'This is beautiful', 'This is unlike many of the stereotypes from home', and 'Finally, what I moved halfway across the world for'. All of these things are true. There is something so wonderful about Kibera, in contrast to the poverty that envelops its citizens. Like I've said before, it can be unlike the stereotypes of 'slum' or 'Africa' that the west is so accustomed to--No old man wandering the alleyways asking you to donate to World Vision, no Sarah McLachlan strumming the acoustic guitar from somewhere out of sight. Its a bustling place, where friends greet each other with a friendly 'Habari asubuhi?' (Whats the news this morning?) and a handshake, where small businesses dot the way to and from wherever your destination, selling nearly any thing you can think of (Knockoff Adidas and Gucci not exempt). Where I become acutely aware that 'Mimi ni Mzungu'(The greetings, stares, and handshakes from children tell me this).
But despite all these things, I was there to assist. Yes, Kibera is unlike many of the stereotypes that are common for westerners to hold. Yet many things ARE true--the piles of burning garbage polluting the air, the stench of open ditches, the high incidence of HIV/AIDS, orphaned children, tin roofed shacks, people suffering from hunger, and oftentimes, a lack of hope.
The day started with an impromptu meeting ('Meet Kayla!') and prayer. You'd be hard pressed to find an organization free of religious affiliation here, although I'm beginning to see this as an okay thing. More on this in some future post. The day saw me in the pharmacy, doing something I felt extremely unqualified for (Kayla the pharmacist? Go figure.). But 3000 pills later, the clinic was prepared for at least a week of children needing medication to combat infection. Wonderful.
Since the social worker I am going to be shadowing, Juliette, was still upcountry, I got to take tea with the staff and learn about the goings on of Nyumbani in a more relaxed atmosphere. The nurse told me they have a pharmacist only a select few days of the week, so he often goes back and forth between testing, diagnosing, prescribing, and then filling prescriptions. I was glad to have assisted him in some small way.
If you want to check out a bit more about where I'm at, visit: www.nyumbani.org/lea_need.htm.
In short, they are an awesome organization, funded by US AID, that cares for HIV + children in low income areas of Nairobi. The great thing is that in addition to that, they take care of malnutrition, housing, school, food, and medical issues. I think it's great they address all of these, as opposed to one specific thing--a total life enrichment.
More to come! Asante for reading.