It is just one week since I returned from Kenya and I cannot get the image of the residents of the Mukuru slum out of my mind. I arrogantly thought that having visited several townships over the past 10 years that I had seen it all, that I would be mentally prepared for my visit. I got a very rude awakening and rightfully so. Right, because a person should never get complacent about poverty and right, because it gave me the kick in the gut that I needed to ensure that I do all that I possibly can to help those poor misfortunate men, women and children and all of the volunteers travelling with us this October.
Not dissimilar to the shacks that we visited in the Cape Town townships, the shacks in the Mukuru slum, built for entire families, are made from little more than scraps of metal and bits of newspaper and fabric. They are dark and damp; they don’t protect its occupants from the rain, cold or heat. Streams of raw sewage run throughout the slum area. Children are everywhere in the narrow, muddy, filthy corridors without shoes or proper clothing. A river runs through the centre of the slum with rubbish everywhere. Pipes on one side pour raw sewage into it. Children play on its banks and swim there in the Summer.
Unlike residents of the townships in South Africa however, residents in the Mukuru slum do not get any social assistance so every shilling that they get must be earned. You will see several small enterprises scattered all around the slum. Little stalls selling, water, fruit and sugar cane. There’s most definitely not enough food to go around. The only word to sum up the situation as I saw it is despairing.
But there is hope. Hope in the guise of St Catherine’s Primary School and The Reuben Centre. A total of 3,300 slum children attend both schools. The children are fed each day, the younger children get porridge in the morning also. It may be the only food that they get all day. There are medical centres in both schools to care not only for the children but the families from the slum also. The tiny clinic in The Reuben Centre could see over 70,000 people in a year.
What the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers are doing for the community of Mukuru is nothing short of remarkable and I shudder to think that if they did not exist how different those children’s lives would be.
Returning from Nairobi, I am filled with renewed enthusiasm, vigour and a huge determination to help the families of the Mukuru slum as much as possible. I cannot wait for our volunteers to travel to Kenya. I know that they will work tirelessly all week as they always do. I know that they will come laden down with donations of clothing, shoes, toys and other well thought of items. I know that their good humour and personalities will lend colour in an otherwise colourless world and that the legacy they leave behind will change lives for several generations to come.
Counting the days!