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Monday, November 26


update from angela in kenya. if you went to the benefit, these are the people that you helped. thank you.

I went to the Kibera slums today. I walked around with a social worker from Lea Toto and visited families and homes and walked through the streets talking to people.

There can be no euphemisms for this place, and even the word "slums" fail to do it justice. It is a hillside covered with shantyshacks, trash, mud, goats, children, trains, debris, and millions of unaging plastic bags embedded into the roads. It smells like rotting food, urine, shit, burning bone. The slums are actually "owned" by members of the Parliament, who buy the land, build thousands of what one may barely call "houses" and rent out the rooms for 1000 Kshs per month. Most of the time, entire families and their extended families live in one room. And a government employee comes around every month to collect rent, and if it goes unpaid, the family easily gets kicked out. The residents must pay for everything. You have to buy clean water, and also the charcoal to heat them. If you must use actual toilets, you have to pay to take a shit too.

The children roam the streets, mostly because the parents can't afford schools. The private schools are at least 300 Ksh per month, and even at the "free" public school, the child needs uniforms, books, supplies, and so much more that the family just cannot afford. One of the worst consequences of the street kids is child "prostitution" or put more plainly, child rape. As the parents are out looking for food, the children are cajoled with 5 Ksh coins, if not just brute force, to follow strangers. To make things worse, there is an unbelievably frightening myth, that having sex with a child will transfer your HIV/AIDS to the child, and make you "clean."

Back at the Lea Toto clinic, I am struck by the look of death on the children. I don't exaggerate or poeticize. I look at them, and it seems plain that they are going to die. Every week, many do. The virus kills them in more ways than one. Too many times is a child killed simply for being found out that she has the virus. An uncle would cut open his niece for fear that she would infect his own children.

Talking to the families, their stories inevitably lead to poverty and death. In the book "My name is Red", Pamuk writes that the meaning of life is mystery and mercy. There is no mystery here in Kibera. I guess all we can hope for is mercy.




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