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April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day?

I went to Kibera Slum today, where I went on my first full day in Africa, three months ago. I went back to catch up with Michael, who is involved with a vibrant youth group in "Soweto East" area of Kibera.

Now that I've been to ghetto areas in four other African countries, I really see that Kibera is by far the worst, most out of control, horrific place.

Literally, every pathway/streetway is filled with trash (of all kinds--from plastic to human waste). There is no sanitation facilities, very little water and electricity, and more than 1,000,000 people cramped into tiny tin or mud/stick shacks piled on top of each other. Every square inch has people or trash or goats... or children playing in the trash. It's more than a mess--it's completely inhumane.

And, how ironic that there are TWO THOUSAND NGOs "working" in this small corner of Kibera Slum. I asked Michael what they were doing, and he said that all of them except *two* are completely ineffective. They take their rich donor money, make nice maps and plans for projects, but either don't do them or do them without real knowledge of how things work in Kibera, and therefore their projects don't work.

Two examples: I sat in on a "leadership training" that Michael was attending in the UN Habitat center in Kibera... it was teaching people how to make business plans. At the end of the three-hour lecture, one of the students said, "we still don't understand how to make a business plan--can you come back and help us?" And the trainer replied that this was just supposed to be an introduction, and that until they get more funding to do more lectures (not effective teaching/learning anyway) he can't help. So what was the point?

Second example: UN wants to build new housing, but it would cost *way* too much for anyone to live there, and people would be perpetual renters without a chance to own. It just doesn't work.

So Michael and the Soweto Youth Group are starting their own micro-enterprise collecting and sorting garbage and compost. They can sell the recyclable plastic and compost. This photo is of the site that they secured in partnership with one of the two "good" NGOs, "Maji na Ufanisi" (water and sanitation).

The other effective NGO is the Pamoja Trust, which, SUPRISE, is the local affiliate of Shack Dwellers International!!! (see my previous posts about this very cool group.) We bumped into Stephen, pictured here on the right, who is involved with one of the savings schemes and he told me about the Kenyan structure of the organization.

One of the major efforts, and successes, of Pamoja and the local savings groups, was the prevention of evictions along this railway.

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