By Regina Mburu, CFCA communications liaison for Africa
Walking along narrow paths, jumping over open sewers and bearing the stench from piles of garbage all over the footpaths opens my eyes to a reality that most of us do not see.
The harsh reality of living in a slum.
The Kibera slum is the largest slum in Kenya and one of the largest in Africa. It has a population of more than 170,000, according to the Kenyan government. Other estimates put the number of residents at a quarter million or more.
The houses in Kibera are built mainly of mud and iron sheets.
I have been to the slum a number of times collecting stories from CFCA sponsored friends and their families.
Every time I visit the slum I am reminded that I should be grateful for those things that I take for granted.
A roof over my head, access to clean water and a bathroom to use are some of those things.
But people who live in the Kibera slums do not have access to these basic life necessities.
“We use a public toilet, and we have to pay 6 cents each visit,” said Elizabeth, a sponsored child in CFCA’s Hope for a family program. “The toilet is only open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The rest of the time you have to use polythene bags or tins when nature calls.”
For those living in Kibera, Elizabeth’s story is nothing out of the ordinary.
If I had to walk a mile in their shoes and cope in this kind of environment, I am sure I would not make it — not even a few steps.
It is a harsh life.
Yet the smile on Elizabeth’s face as she ushers me into her humble home makes me admire her strength and positive attitude, despite her surroundings.
“I do not like living in this slum, but we cannot afford a more decent house,” Elizabeth said. “I work hard in school, so that one day I will get a good-paying job and move my family from this neighborhood.”
Spending the afternoon with Elizabeth and her family at their home was an experience that will linger in my mind for a long time.
Making my way through the neighborhood that Elizabeth calls home, I felt so much despair.
But as I was leaving my spirit was lifted because in the eyes of this young girl, all I could see was hope.
Hope for a bright future away from the slum.
Hope that shines bright even in the darkest of circumstances.