girl child in slums

Being a girl, i wanted to share this. feel free to visit the site for more information.

Real Stories: In the harsh Mathare slum, a bright spot

Joe Mason is a ONE Regional Faith Organizer in Missouri, and recently traveled to Kenya to document the work of faith groups who are making an impact in their community.

Walking along the narrow alleys in this community of 800,000 cramped citizens, I have to maneuver carefully in order to avoid the rusty, sharp edges of makeshift roofing. But this isn’t the only hazard in navigating through one of Africa’s largest slums. My footing is unsure. There seems to be a stream of foul-smelling sewage running right under my feet. I have to cautiously be on the lookout in all directions, just to make forward progress. One misstep and I could either end up in the waste that runs through this entire neighborhood, or worse, end up with a large gash across my forehead from the jagged scraps of old metal hanging from the shacks that the poor call home. This is Mathare Valley.

slums_wide slums_mom kidswaving2Soon I begin to see little faces peeking out of open-air windows, curious about my business in their territory. Their tiny homes don’t come close to providing any type of refuge from the rampant crime that persists in this shanty town. Yet they quickly crack a smile as they spot my camera, some of them eager to take a peek in the viewfinder. I love to see their joy in such a dismal place as this.

Most of their parents have come to the city seeking work, but when they don’t find it, they are forced to live in a slum like Mathare. Unable to afford to send them to school, the parents are forced to deal with the guilt that nags at them every time they look into their children’s faces. With no education, these little ones are likely destined to follow in their parents’ footsteps and end up in a place like this, if they survive at all. I ask a young girl named Faith about what it’s like living in these conditions. Her reply comes as no surprise. “I don’t like living there. The place is dirty. You can’t sleep because of the bad smell,” she says with a cringe.


But the story doesn’t end here. Recognizing the urgent need in this part of Nairobi, Rev. Peter Nuthu and his wife Jane decided to take action. About a decade ago, Peter and Jane became pastors of the New Mathare Assembly of God church, located just a few yards from the slums. The church, a part of a vibrant network of growing congregations known as the KAG (Kenya Assemblies of God), has quickly become a symbol of hope to many in Mathare Valley. The Nuthus began serving lunch to street children in Mathare almost immediately, providing them with a much-needed meal once a week. As this couple gained the trust of the community, many children began pouring into the now-popular worship center on weekends. An increasing number of children and adults began attending worship on Sunday, quickly changing the demographic of the church forever. But Peter and Jane weren’t concerned that their new congregants were a bit rough around the edges. They knew that the children of Mathare Valley must be welcomed in church, and weren’t concerned about their ragged appearances or even occasional disruptive behavior.

boy_plate“We have to do like Christ. He fed the hungry. He welcomed the unwanted. He ministered to all kinds of people in the society. And we as Christians need to follow Jesus, because He is our example,” Jane passionately states as she looks over a new campus that was birthed out of the desire to do just this. What started as an impromptu feeding program for a dozen street children has blossomed into the Mathare Child Development Centre (MCDC), which feeds, clothes, and educates 1,156 children that live and dwell in the slums. “Mama” Jane, the director, has even overseen the addition of dormitories to house the orphans among them. “Our Father in heaven cared for us, he gave us his only Son. It is the will of our Father that we care for one another,” explains Peter, who now preaches to hundreds on Sunday mornings at the church.

classroom2 classroom1As I walk with Jane around the campus, she tells me a story about Angel, an orphaned infant who was left to die on a heap of trash nearby. A few years back, someone heard a tiny cry coming from a plastic bag among the refuse, and discovered a newborn baby inside. Appropriately named after her rescuer, Angel was dropped off at MCDC and taken in by Jane and Peter. As we approach a group of children slurping down a fresh bowl of morning porridge, Jane points out Angel to me. She is a healthy, happy young girl now, five years old. She receives three meals a day, a high-quality education, a nurturing environment, and an abundance of love. This is just one of many stories of children who were given hope and a future because of the Nuthus’ burden for the youth of Mathare.

SEE ALSO: Real stories: Maasai tribesmen adopt irrigation system to prevent food shortages

USAID administrator Dr. Raj Shah recently stated, “If you are poor, and you live in the slums of Kibera outside of Nairobi, you’re most likely going to get your healthcare and your education from institutions of faith.” I would assert that the same applies to Mathare. Faith-based organizations are playing a vital role in not only aiding the poor and destitute in and around Nairobi, but are implementing important development programs to ensure that this cycle of extreme poverty ends here.

I’m once again encouraged to see a concentrated effort, led by people of faith, to tackle the giant known as extreme poverty. I’m reminded in the book of Isaiah that God’s heart is truly for the poor and suffering, as the prophet reminds the reader to “spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry.” When I read this passage, a smile comes to my face, and I recall Peter and Jane Nuthu, who are truly “spending themselves” on behalf of the children of Mathare Valley.

Final blow

Six in the morning finds me awake. My broken window lets in breeze and I feel more cold than it really is in the small room. In the cooking pot of porridge, I empty a cup of milk and stir then sit and watch it boil. After a few minutes, I switch off the gas and empty the porridge into an old black flask and pack it in college bag. As I head out, I pick a long woolen scarf and drape it around my neck to keep off the cold.

Once outside, the reality of how cold it is hits me. It’s drizzling and the day looks sad. The clouds are covering the skies and it actually looks earlier than six thirty in the morning. Typical in any cold days, the traffic is mad. The cars don’t seem to move towards town and I count myself lucky because I am headed to the opposite of town. I find my way around the cars and cross the road to the bus station. My hands are cold and my african hair is frizzy. My throat hurts from inhaling cold air and today I am grateful my shoes aren’t leaking in any water.

After about ten minutes, I hurriedly board a Kenya bus service bus and pray that I am going to be in time for the seven thirty visit at the hospital. I seat next to a young woman who smiles at me and I quickly turn away. I am oblivious of any happening in the bus after I hand in the thirty shillings for my fare and I am grateful I can actually afford it. My thoughts drifts to the flask in my bag and I remember I haven’t eaten anything and my stomach growls at the thought. I smile at how illogic it is to be allowed to carry porridge and not food so as to avoid poisoning of patients.

My thoughts are cut short by the young lady who wants to alight and I discover we already there. I clumsily get off my feet and rush out stepping on someone in the process. I don’t have time and I can hear the person curse me. At the gate, the guard lets me in with no check up thanks to the several times I have been there in the last few days. I rush towards ward 5A and the nurse on duty gives me a pitiful look. I totally understand that. I look haggard and I feel tired. My hair which isn’t my strength is already looking worse. My eyes are red due to lack of sleep and I am sure I am lucky I don’t fall asleep when walking.

I give her a weak smile and walk into the ward. The hospital smell still gets to me but it’s much better than the chilly weather. Patients look at me as I pass by and turn away every time i say hey. I am sad for myself but put on a brave face. When I get to bed sixteen though, I am no longer sure of how strong I can be. I recheck the number again and all my strength drains out of me. The bed is neatly spread and there are new sheets. I can no longer stand on my feet. I sink into the neat bed and let the tears fall.

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Off the edge

I alight somewhere in downtown and start walking towards school. I am from a friend’s and though I am making an effort to keep walking, I feel like the ground beneath is sinking. The pain on my head is excruciating. My eyes are watery and to hide that I have my sunglasses which do not help very much. I cross the roads carefully by sticking next to a woman who from her look thinks I am a con woman and tries to shake me off by quickening her pace but it doesn’t work.

Soon as I am on the other side, I let the woman out of my sight and walk slowly along the street willing all my strength to get me safely back to my bed. The pain in my head persists and my vision is blurred. I am working hard to concentrate on the steps I am taking and I can hear myself curse the busy city people who push me when trying to get past me.

I can see the street kid with his tin of glue stuck firmly in his mouth eyeing me and I clutch my handbag tightly hoping that the sunglasses are doing a good work of creating an illusion of confidence and strength. I raise my sagging shoulders and put on a brave face and as I try to dodge him, I get to a street novels vendor.  I like reading Torey Hayden’s novels and the Ghost Child catches my eye. I feel a bit dizzy and the vendor notes it as I support myself on his arm. Determined not to look weak, I lean forward to pick  the book and the ground finally gives way. I feel myself grope for support and get nothing. I let out a scared sound and feel myself hit the ground hard.

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No to abortion

As I try to run from hard selective units, I find myself in a moral issues class simply because my friends said that we would get free A’s. I sit bored and keep hoping that the lecturer doesn’t appear, just that he does when I am just about to fall asleep. He doesn’t introduce himself but simply starts on abortion.

‘ what is abortion? One is said to have aborted if they get rid of a foetus’..he pauses and gives us time to write that down which most of us don’t. He then introduces the topic on legalizing abortion and invites contributions from the students and nobody makes an effort to comment. When he asks whether we support it, almost everyone shouts no.

‘ you know, I don’t know why it shouldn’t be legalized. When you have an unwanted growth on your body, you are free to have it removed. The government doesn’t term that as illegal. However when you have an unwanted baby in you, no big deal about it. Simply have it removed ‘  he says with finality.

I have been termed as one resistant to change but this time round I couldn’t believe it that someone was trying to convince us to be part of this. With all the family control methods, why would anyone get pregnant only to abort? Unless they are in a critical health condition and their life depended on it.  Abortion has negative health effects, both physical and mental. Any self conscious woman should at no point support abortion or be part of it. And as I write this, my heart goes out to all women who wanted a baby badly only to have the pregnancy terminated so that they could survive and all those women who want babies but can’t have any.

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Loving wrong

My friends and I are walking towards class and they are making fun if guys. One of my friends however makes a comment on how guys treat girls well when they want them to fall for them either for genuine reason or for selfish intentions..
As we discuss this, we all agree on something that most of the Kenyan men have in common ; when they have a girl’s heart, the really nice treatment is withdrawn.
‘ when you are chasing a hen, you keep running. When you get it though, you can’t keep running. ‘ one of my friends say and we all burst out. Did she just compare women to chicken?? Well, like it or not, most men do treat women thus. The good treatment is used as bait and most women fall for it. They end up in the wrong hands most times and realize that way too late. Men will treat women well because they want to spoil them, but shouldn’t be trusted and anybody who thinks only treats are a basis for a relationship might end up loving wrong.

As we walk towards class, the topic shifts to those women who are in love with a guy who has no interest in them and we all agree that it really is not fun to love and not be loved back. It feels wrong and it really does hurt especially if that guy says that in your face. I don’t know how it works but at times I think our hearts are stupid organs. We do not have a choice on who we fall for and sometimes we know it’s all wrong. We feel ourselves tripping and watch ourselves fall hard yet we can’t help it. It amuses me how everyone has an ideal partner in their head and their hearts decide to mock them by picking the direct opposite of their ideal. They simply end up loving all wrong.

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Meeting you first was an honor
Because you had all I wanted
You had more of everything
Than I could ever have in my life.
I looked up to you with admiration
I had a new idol

You walked past me, as if I never existed
You had your own to hang out with
And when you were informed I was up against you
You gave me a disgusted look
How could they waste your time??

I walked out humiliated, you enjoyed that I had no skills in my defense
You enjoyed the look on my face
You smiled at my humiliation

One year flew by and we met again
This time you took note of me
You realized I had grown better
That didn’t stop you though
From verbal insult, from that scornful look
When you were set against me,
You had already won
By pulling down my esteem..

Years go by fast, for yesterday I met you
You were still the same
But you made a mistake of thinking I am the same

Your scornful look was met by a smile
Your insults by a raised eyebrow
You should have seen the look on your face, when I plugged in earphones
And walked away from your insults

Oh dear proud one, what happened to the skills?
You walked with the same posture
But your smile wasn’t that visible
The young girl you always walked on was no more
And you lost in what you prided yourself for being best at.

You may still be too proud but I no longer care
It’s okay I didn’t learn from you
For I would have ended like you
Proud and insensitive

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Verge of insanity

That song by Lecrae background got me worried. I am a Christian and I should be glad to say that I will play the background and let God take the lead. That means everything that I am to do is that which is his will and maintaining a sane mind in morals but I find that isn’t what happens in my life. I am attending the sociology of deviant classes and arguing that in my country prostitution should be legalized. I sit in my community development class and listen for three hours to why free condoms should offered to primary school kids and it seems to make sense. As I take down my notes without paying much attention to what I am writing, I find out that I just wrote on reasons why people are gay and one reason is that some are actually born gay. This doesn’t make sense since the first thing I learned is ‘ we are human beings not by birth but by socialization ‘ .

I don’t know what to think of anymore. Almost every person around me is a Christian yet none of us say what we think. Our lecturer advises us that sex is good to keep us jovial and good health. It’s the twenty first century and I no longer seem to know what is right or wrong. When everybody pays a small or big price to have something which they deserve to be done for them. When I stand in a moral issues class and write an essay that supports abortion and listen to the lecturer say that unwanted pregnancy is that growth that you don’t want on your body and you can easily have it removed.

It’s in this place that I can’t trust a person who calls themselves a man of God, who I was raised to believe that he can be held as a parent. That surprised look that is on my face when he asks a very weird question and I no longer know if there is any trustworthy among them. My sanity looks like insanity and what I believed in as sanity is insanity.
I don’t know how to maintain my sanity any longer. The world’s moral decay has started leaking and soiling me and it feels like ‘ fiddlers on a roof’ and is struggling really hard to keep his balance. The world feels like a circus and I am darn dizzy and tempted to let go of sanity. My trail of thought is corrupted by the decay and I hope it wouldn’t start oozing of insanity before I get a grip of my sanity.
I tune on the song ‘ at your feet’ by Casting Crowns and think of how much I will lose if I let go of sanity. I decide to fight with all I got before letting go and declaring defeat, but I can still feel it inside me.. I am at the verge of insanity

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Down the memory lane

Just from a long walk and I stink of sweat. I don’t feel like taking a shower and I feel moody so  I am sitting on the rooftop of hall 20. Down is the beautiful view of the city. I am thinking of my life and listening to music. The first song in my playlist is by Matt Maher and the lyrics in the first line are catching ‘ you are not alone, if you are lonely, when you feel afraid you are not the only. We are all the same…’  I keep listening until one song takes me back to last year.

This song is a simple song with strong beats and why it takes me back is because it was forwarded to me by a friend I made when we had all Africa universities games. I can’t help but smile and those memories. Walking around town and discussing the similarity between Kenya’s capital and Ghanaian capital. Standing at a pedestrian crossing sign and waiting for buses to pass, avoiding being hit by people of the city who always seem to be in a hurry.

Meeting the young girl who was twelve who had her own kid. Helping our friend pick a cover for her phone and talking about the way a Nairobi hawker ran away from the city council and I had to run after her because she had my money. Talking about how one settled their debt in a hotel the Kenyan way if you had no money.. the hotel owners make you peel potatoes.

As I remember this, my mind seems to be diverting to the present. I wish we could go back to that year when all I did worry about is winning the African games. All I did was jog to keep fit. I know you can’t get. But times I feel lost. I do not know where I am going , that is if I am going anywhere. When I try to evaluate if I am really happy or I have let people around me define what is happiness. I wonder what I really love doing and whether I do it or do I do what I have been made to believe I love. That feeling like I no longer know anything about myself. When I reflect and remember that I have been laughing hollow laughs and nothing touched my heart. It was just on my lips. That feeling that everybody around me expects something of me and I am being pulled down by their expectations. When I don’t know if I am living the present or just waking up and reliving the past.

Finally my playlist wakes me up ‘ life gets tough, it times gets hard…. ‘ that’s the song Seventh time down. I am giving the beautiful city one last glance before I get off the roof. Off the memory lane.

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Give thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. For his mercies endures forever

Let Israel say his mercy endures forever

Let the house of Aaron say, his mercies endure forever

Let those who fear him say his mercies endures forever

I called on the Lord on my day of distress and he answered me and set me on a broad place

The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me??

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