Kibera, the slum which houses nearly 1 million inhabitants, is Kenya’s biggest slum burrowed in the heart of Nairobi city with the river Kibera flowing through it. Over the years, it has seen its fair share of development interventions but poverty, health, crime and violence are the main factors that afflict Kibera residence.
The cycle of poverty here is virtually unbroken. There are schools, but a lack of financial resources makes it very difficult to provide children with the education they need to escape the slum. To help tackle this problem, Maha, a 29 year old Saudi girl has committed to refurbishing a school and orphanage in Kibera to provide a safe and clean environment for the children, build proper drainage, classrooms with ventilations, a safe roof top, a functioning kitchen with water supply, a drainage and water supply for active bathrooms with showers and build a well structured foundation.
Maha learnt about the situation of the orphanage through a very famous Arabic presenter – Ahmed Shugairy. Ahmed shared his experience during his trip to Kenya and mentioned the tough situation people in Kibera are going through. This is when Maha, her husband (Hilal Al Harithy) and friend (Modar Hazer) decided to go to Kenya and help.
On arrival to Kenya, Maha visited the school/orphanage to meet the children and access their situation in order to see what was required to be done. She says that the residence in Kibera were happy to see people visiting with the intentions of helping. They were kind, cheerful, helpful, smiling and welcoming. The children hugged, kissed and danced with them.
After reconstruction of the school, Maha wants to establish a sponsoring program for the children where individuals can sponsor their yearly uniforms, books and supplies which all comes down to $300 a year per student. The project will not only dramatically improve the learning environment for the students but also provide teachers with proper classrooms to deliver.
I asked Maha a few question based on her experience in Kibera, and this is what she had to say:
How did you pick the country and why?
I travel to countries based on different elements, for example – a failed economy like Zimbabwe where there is ridiculous inflation, people need to trade items in exchange for food, materials or services. Based on educational needs like Kenya’s school and other reasons like poverty alleviation, sustainable development, employment and agriculture. Every trip is different.
Are you planning to travel to another country?
Yes, I’ve visited Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and now Kenya, my travels will continue, god willingly, as long as I have the health and means to do so. In April, we will be going to Kenya again for the evaluation of quality control and to assure the project is progressing as planned. Any volunteers are welcome to join.
How has this project made you feel in terms of doing something that will actually change the lives of children who live in poverty?
Education is the best investment, we want to help the children, the future of tomorrow, giving them an equal opportunity to learn and prosper so they can help their families, community, society, country and the world. One mans success is his community’s success if he shares it.
Ive learnt that we are beyond blessed and god gave us health, wealth, youth and education for a reason, I believe it is to share it with others that need it. Life is a temporary test and every action we take counts so we have to act swiftly and create an impact because others in less fortunate circumstance definitely need our help. Distribution of wealth is distorted and everyone blessed is responsible for helping others.
Tell me one memorable moment about the children
They called us mzungu, which means white people, every time we turned in an alley in the slums we heard kids laughing & singing MUZUNGuuuuu MUZUNGuuuuu.
How did this trip change your personality?
Every trip makes me more appreciative. I thank god everyday for brushing my teeth in clean water, for clean warm clothes, for owning a pen at work after seeing kids fight for pens to write in school, transportation, electricity, safety, healthcare, education, and much more. I thank god all the time for the entire blessing he has given us. Words can’t begin to describe how grateful I am and how responsible I feel for helping others. I urge and beg everyone to give as much as you can while you have the chance to do so.
The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all – Leo Rosten
Until my next post.