This June, I traveled to Kenya for a three-week volunteering stint, and took my Canon EOS 630 – and many, many rolls of film – along with me. This article is the first of a series of installments intended to document all I saw and experienced during my time there.
Volunteering with an international organization, I had the opportunity to see many things along the way; some sights were utterly beautiful and inspiring, while others – like the slum I am going to talk about in a moment – were truly heartbreaking.
Gioto Garbage Slum is situated in the town of Nakuru, a few hours away from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. It is home to approximately 150 families, all of whom live amongst piles of rubbish brought by dozens of large trucks everyday.
Upon entering the slum the stench of stale rubbish hit me almost immediately, and dozens of flies swarmed around my head. We (myself and the other volunteers) got to visit the “houses” the families live in, which are constructed entirely of scrap material found from the rubbish dump, and which do not have electricity or running water. I learned that 55% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS, that the Kenyan government routinely kicks the residents out of the landfill, leaving them to fend for themselves, and that the main source of food consists of whatever the people can scrounge from the rubbish dumped at the landfill. I heard the story of a 15 year old girl, pregnant for the third time after being raped by men from the slum.
Despite their adverse living conditions, the residents of the slum are doing some remarkable things – for example, a group of ladies have banded together to produce a series of bags for sale (all entirely made from recycled rubbish as well). There are also other ladies selling handmade necklaces, bracelets and earrings. It was extremely inspiring to see how waste could be transformed into such beautiful things.
The residents were also extremely warm and welcoming – after receiving the butter and flour we had brought to distribute to them, the chief of the village led everyone in a traditional African dance of thanks and gratitude. Overall, the expedition to the slum served as a poignant reminder to me to be grateful for all the little things I have in life that I normally take for granted (like cooked food and hot showers!!!), and all in all, I am really glad I got the opportunity to go there.
As a last note – there is currently an ongoing project started by volunteers, dedicated to improving the lives of the people at the garbage slum. If you are by any chance interested in learning more/donating/sponsoring a child, please visit the following website: http://garbageslum.org
Stay tuned for part two of my amazing Kenya adventure!!