My second week in Nairobi was very active and I got to do and see many different things. Last week we were shooting episodes for Wale Wale’s YouTube channel Hotspot. The theme was self-care, so Evette and Happiness pampered themselves with a home spa evening, exercise in the morning and a healthy breakfast to start the new day. I was taking photos while Venna took care of the filming. The final step of the self-care routine was a trip to the David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. For me it was the first time seeing elephants, so I was quite excited. We had a lot of fun watching the baby elephants and taking some photos afterwards. I bet we were an interesting sight twirling around with two cameras snapping photos and videos.
On Thursday I had my first life skills class with the kids. We were talking about the importance of being confident. We discussed what confidence means, how does confidence feel like and how does it feel when you are not confident. Venna was helping me with my class and translating some parts to Kiswahili, which encouraged the kids to take part on the conversation maybe a little bit more. When I was asked what I would be interested in doing with the kids, I chose the life skills classes because in these classes we go through a lot of important topics. A lot of topics I wish someone would have talked to me about when I was a young shy girl. In my first class we came to the conclusion that being confident means believing in yourself, your abilities and your skills. It also means that if you fail you will learn from it and try again. In the future we will touch subjects such as the importance of acquiring knowledge, study skills, dreaming, life goals, self-respect and mental health. I am sure that as I research and talk about these themes with the kids, I will also learn a lot myself.
One of my passions is photography. When I go traveling, I am the one stopping at every corner and kneeling down to the ground to get a nice photo. I enjoy taking portraits the most, because I feel like people have so many stories written in their conduct, the way they smile, the way they look at you or the face they make when they zone out thinking about something. I find taking photos of people most interesting. Last week at the office Happiness asked me why I did not take any photos while we were walking in Kibera one of my first days here and she encouraged me to do it the next time I go. I was surprised by her comment, since I had just read an article discussing the problem of poverty tourism and white people going on Kibera tours with their cameras snapping pictures of the locals. A local woman interviewed in this Al Jazeera article said she felt like an object when a tourist approached to take a picture of her. I understand the frustration. That is why I did not take any pictures in my first visit to Kibera. I did not want to be disrespectful and come disturb people’s daily routines and turn them into a touristic attraction.
Kibera is a lively and colorful community, not only an endless list of problems. Despite the issues such as poverty, unemployment, alcoholism and drug use, which are often highly emphasized in the media coverage on Kibera, people empower themselves, work hard to earn a living and the kids study and play the same way as in any other country. These positive sides are worth sharing with the world, showing what a strong and hard-working community Kibera is and how much potential the people have in themselves. Taking people to see Kibera increases the visibility of different projects run by various organizations contributing to the development of the area. This is one of the reasons Wale Wale offers the Kibera tours. Simply to show the real Kibera.
Of course, it can be heart breaking to see the problems, but it is extremely important to remember that the lives of the people living in Kibera are not solely defined by the challenges they face in their lives. When I went to Kibera for the first time, I felt powerless and sad seeing the endless piles of trash everywhere, the lack of infrastructure and the empty spots of land where people used to live before the government demolished their homes. However, I have also seen the happy, inspired and motivated kids at our center enjoying art, dancing, reading and simply having fun together. These kids do not need to be pitied or felt sad for, they just need the right tools to work with. On Saturday I spent around two hours watching the Wale Wale Slum Soka football practice in Kibera. As the kids tied their Nike and Adidas football shoes and put on their blue, red and yellow vests they turned into tiny passionate footballs players. It was a pleasure to take pictures and videos of these motivated kids as they ran back and forth the dusty field challenging themselves and each other and working together to become better. All they need is the right equipment and a place to practice.
Unfortunately, there are also people who take advantage of showing the poverty in Kibera to tourists. NGO’s that collect money in GoFundMe, but do not exists nor do anything to help the community. If you go to the GoFundMe website and write “kibera” on the search, you will get 1 149 results. Thousands of dollars collected and to be collected for various causes in Kibera. Education, football, maternity projects, a school for orphans, health care… The list goes on. But the challenge for the people wanting to donate is to find out which of these projects are actually contributing to the development of Kibera and which ones are not.
On Sunday me and Venna cooked samosas and I got to take part on making them also. It was not too difficult, and the result was delicious! Unfortunately, I have been feeling sick after the weekend, but hopefully I will get my full energy back soon.