Day 14: Time to say goodbye…

Tuesday was a full day, filled with goodbyes and emotion. It is always difficult to leave a place where it feels like home. And I can say that these two weeks have been another life changing experience for my friends and I. We accomplished all of the projects we prepared before coming to Kibera and made so many new friendships. The Kenyans that I have met these last three years are the biggest reason why I keep coming back. I am always blown away by their kindness and warmth of heart. It really touches me.

Saying goodbye to the children from Kibera, see you next year…

Bye Red Rose teachers…You are doing amazing work to make sure everyone receives a good level of education! Thank you for letting us teach the students in your classroom. They showed us their amazing resilience, sense of community and despite their daily challenges, a joy for life. We know you play a big role in creating this attitude.

Bye bye grade 1 at Red Rose…we loved singing “123, nous irons au bois..” and creating the scary story about you being chased by a lion while picking berries in the forest. You laughed so much that it made us forget the sadness in our hearts.

Bye bye to all the 34 kids Project Kenya has sponsored this year. Almost 20 at Red Rose, while the rest are boarding at high schools. Thank you to all of the donors from New York or Los Angeles who are supporting our sponsorship program.

A big thank you to Vincent from the Center for Community Development and Human Rights, to Jeff Okoth from Uweza, to Mike Mutungi from I choose Life Africa for helping me and my friend Malo to organize the pitch competition. It was an amazing experience for all of us! We are very proud to be able to support eight groups of young entrepreneurs selected by our professional jury. We will follow their training and help them with their business plans until they receive our grant in December.

We were sorry to hear that Brian from Guetto Clean Project got severely wounded while trying to extinguish a fire outbreak in the slum. Brian and his friends on metal sheet roofs last night while helping. Now they are facing a huge hospital bill and won’t be able to work for a while. One of Kibera’s sad realities…

Bye bye Grade 8 at Red Rose. The photojournalist Brian Otieno and I enjoyed talking to you about the difference between fine art photography and documentary photography. We encourage you to join the photography class we created at Uweza Foundation to learn now how to use a camera or edit photos and videos.

We wish you the best for your KCPE exam which will determine the high school you will be able to attend.

Bye bye Brian Otieno! Thank you for taking us to the place where you grew up and the community library that you opened a couple of years ago with some friends. What a nice place to go to and study in calm, surrounded by books.

Bye bye Jaypee, bye bye Jeff…both of you have been amazing and made this trip incredibly special. Thank you to everyone who has been there for us during these two weeks. We had such a great time and accomplished a lot. It is just the beginning. See you next year!

Day 13: It all starts with books

Today we had to say goodbye to Alice, Dimitri and Paul who left for Europe. Only Malo and I are still left here in Kibera for two more days.

During our stay, some children at the Red Rose School asked us for books and dictionaries. The shelves of their library were almost empty. After hearing this and seing how interested they were when we read Charlotte’s Web together, we decided to find a bookstore and get some story books, novels, atlases, and encyclopedias to start filling their bookshelves. When we arrived, it was amazing to see the kids fighting to be able to read the Encyclopedia. These children are asking for only one thing: to broaden their knowledge and learn more things beyond the Kenyan curriculum and beyond Kibera border! We need your help to get more books on the shelves! You can either donate on or put them away until we can send them to Red Rose. The easiest of course, is to donate money so we can buy the books in Nairobi as the weight makes shipping difficult.

Today was also the day we finalized the budget from all the donations we received this year. With the money raised, we succeeded to:

– to pay for 34 students sponsorships

– to renovate the classrooms at Red Rose

– to buy a ping-pong table

– to buy a TV and supplies for Red Rose Safe house

– to launch the project of building a new floor at Red Rose for a music room and after school activities room.

– to organize Kibera Art Fest and distribute prizes to the best three artwork selected by a professional jury ($3,000)

– to organize a Pitch Competition and allocate micro-credits ($5,000)

– to initiate the project of building an upstairs level at Uweza Foundation for a computer room, conference room and offices

Day 12: Last day in Kibera for some of us

Tomorrow Alice, Paul and Dimitri will fly to France. So today was a relaxation day. It’s Sunday, sunny, everyone is outside on the streets, dressed up to go to church wearing their best dresses, gospels and songs are blasted from the chapels…Sunday is definitely a special day in Kibera! A day where you can see all the togetherness of the community. Everyone is talking outside, playing in the streets, shopping with their family, eating chapati or grilled corn around the corner, playing soccer on the fields, sacco sacco motocyclistes waiting for their clients…this is a day where you can feel Kibera’s vibes.

We had a late start but still accomplished a lot. We first stopped by the Red Rose safe house to give the girls some books and games, shampoos, soaps and conditioners we bought for them. They seem to be doing better. It was their third night at the facility.

We then went to pick up Janet at her house. She is a former Red Rose student now in high school who I kept contact with. We visited her house then took her with us to the Yaya center mall in matatus (local taxi vans for 14 persons). Everyone had the chance to bargain for a few items at the Masai Market. We then met Betty Robin, a French lady who has been living in Kenya for more than 40 years and a friend of Dimitri’s grandmother.

We visited Janet’s high school, Olympic, which is located not far from Red Rose. There are 50 kids for one teacher in each classroom. We admired the nice garden full of kale planted in an hydroponic system and maintained by the students. And if you scrolled down, you will see some very interesting signs placed around the school…

We finished the day at Uweza with the Golden Girls empowerment program. This club provides a safe place for girls between 7 and 15 years old, where they form friendships, learn life skills and discuss important issues they encounter in the slum. We distributed toys, ballet costumes, shoes, soccer equipment, crayons that we brought from Los Angeles…Each of the girls picked 2-3 items. Big smile on their faces! Barbies were quite a hit…

Good night, Kibera !

Day 11 morning : Safari in Nairobi

Yesterday we had the opportunity to get out of the slum and spend the day in the wilderness of Kenya.

We started very early with a safari at the National Park which is located in the outskirts of Nairobi. We saw rhinos, lionesses, buffalos, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, gazelles, antelopes, marabuts and crocodiles. Everyone was amazed by the huge size of the rhinos. We saw a lioness who had taken a buffalo horn in her thigh and was bleeding heavily but still chasing for food!

Then we went to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage where we had the chance to see 12 baby elephants being fed with a bottle containing 24 liters of baby formula and playing together in the mud. So much fun!

Finally, we stopped at the Giraffe Center where Dimitri fed a girafe with his mouth. When we came back everyone was exhausted.

Day 11: Twirling Dust

Imagine more than 200 ballet costumes twirling on the dusty roads of Kibera…

In our luggage, we brought a lot of donated items and most of them were ballet costumes and leotards that we collected from our friends, neighbors and dance schools. Just to give you a sense, Raphaele brought 200 costumes in three large duffle bags from NY. The leotards were given to Red Rose School for the ballet class that Alice taught but for the costumes, we had to find a ballet school in the slum with lots of kids. With the help of Brian Otieno who took this amazing shot of Ballerina Elsie, we knock at Project Elimu’s doors and below is what we saw…

What we saw was literally breathtaking, there were more than 250 kids dancing under a corrugated roof responding to Mike, a former dancer who started this program 1.5 years ago. They were preparing to stage the show they produce every year.

They welcomed us as angels because many of the girls had never worn a ballet costumes. Mike asked them each to pick one, dress up and go outside in the square to show us some parts of the show from last year. It was like Christmas time!

On the dusty road outside the school, they presented us this great spectacle to the rhythm of the music of Black Panther.

Day 10: Time to say good bye to Red Rose for some of us

Alice, Paul and Dimitri are leaving on Sunday. So today was a special day at Red Rose, it was the day it was time to have fun all together before saying good bye.

First, we all danced together, then organized a ping-pong tournament with the table we bought yesterday and won at tug of war…so much fun. No needs to write long about it. Just check the smiles on everyone’s face! Saying good bye to everyone was so difficult.

We know we are leaving lots of friends behind and seeing them crying broke our heart!


Day 9 afternoon: Kibera Art Fest

With Uweza Art Gallery and Kibera-based photographer Brian Otieno, we came up with this idea of organizing an event to promote the artistic talents and creativity of Kibera. Many of them have no way to show their artwork or even the cash to buy a camera or paints and brushes. Today was the opening of Kibera ArtFest with the exhibition of 40 Kibera-based artists. For many of them, it was the first time they could see their work printed in 16×20.

We gathered a professional jury to elect the best three photography and best three paintings. GoDown Arts Centre Executive Director Joy Mboya,  AFP photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba, Reuters photographer Thomas Mukoya, glass artist Tonney Mugo and artist Longinos Nagila.

After deliberation, we elected for the photography:

1/ Through mud playground

2/ Sunday Morning

3/ The life Between

And for the paintings and installation

1/ Daily Kibera presents Slum Touring

2/ Police Brutality

3/ Graffiti 2

We had two TV and one radio Station who came to cover the event and lots of guests came to see the exhibition. Big success!

Day 9 morning : once you start reading a good book to children, be ready to finish it the same day!

Another day at Red Rose School with the children. From reading Charlotte’s web, to teaching a class on climat change and pollution, to organizing a ping-pong competition on the table we bought, to creating a mural, to buying equipment for the safe house (sheets, buckets, tooth brush, sandals, tv, chairs,…), this was another very busy morning for the team Project Kenya.

Day 8…and the winners are…

Second day of the pitch competition at Kibera Constituency. Yesterday with the help of five other organizations we trained about 200 young adults on how to build a business and pitch it. Today, 21 of the groups pitching presented their project in front of a jury composed by the French Embassy, Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund and Project Kenya.

Criteria of selection of a project

1/ sustainability

2/ originality

3/ eradication of poverty

4/ compliance with the law

5/ structure and organization of the team

6/ dynamism, clarity and sucyto convey their idea

7/ credibility

8/ proven idea if already launched before competition

9/plan on how they will use the cash they will get from us.

We selected 7 projects:

1/ Waste management by Guetto Clean:

Daily collection in shops, government office, hospital, private houses. Need a plastic shredder machine to develop their business

2/ Design and creation of bags, carpets, duvets,…by Young Star African Designers

Group of 5 women who create quality custom-made items. International clients. Need seeing machines, fabrics and other sewing equipment

3/ Candle making by Kibera Deaf Group

They need more machines to be able to make more candles.

4/ Organic Peanut butter made by Rozeinuts

They sell the homemade jars to hospital, schools and shops. They need to buy a machine to increase the production and increase the marketing to reach outside Kibera and Kenya.

5/Table banking and loaning by Destine Family

This membership group is composed of young mothers who support each others. They all have a stall or a shop and counted on the loans to develop their business.

6/ Good Sense is a community based group of young adults who are fighting against all the different challenges their neighborhood is suffering : crime, lack of sanitation, shortage of water supply, pollution…

From creating small charcoal business to building toilets to collecting garbage. To be able to welcome more people at their toilets facilities, they need a tank to store water but they also would like to develop a table banking system to be able to help those you want to create a small business locally.

7/ creation of a blog and Application to deliver accurate information about Kibera. “No, we are not drinking sewage water as you can read in some newspaper! We want to change the stories on Kibera and write about the right side of the community!” Mtaani Kibera targets readers from Kibera but also and mostly tourists, journalists or NGO from all around the word. They need to buy computers, rent an office and pay the writers.

All the seven projects will receive a training from I Choose Life -Africa over the next three months to assure that the project is sustainable and ready to move from startup to SMEs, they will receive a 0% interest loan which they will have to start refund after 6 months.

We will also be able to follow up with each of the group and help them develop contacts in the US if needed.

Tonight, we are sad…Raphaele had to go back to NY. Bye bye, it was so much fun to have you with us this year. Have a safe trip!

Day 7: Back to business… Literally!!

Today we missed our first day with the children of Red Rose to spend the day with some young entrepreneurs of Kibera.

A day to empower our youth”!

Project Kenya initiated this Business Acceleration Training Program with the help of Uweza Foundation, I Choose Life-Africa and the Center for Community Development and Human Right.

For the first time, the 4 organizations join efforts under the Constituency of Ken Okoth (Kibera MP) umbrella to reduce unemployment in Kibera where funds and education are desperately lacking.

After three years of deep immersion in Kibera’s community and extensive listening of what it is to be a young adult in the slum, Pierrick decided to focus this year their actions towards young adults as youth unemployment is a major challenge among 16 to 35 years-old. This phenomenon is exacerbated in Kibera by the lack of higher education (60% of the children drop out of school after the Primary program and only very few reach College level) but also lack of access to information.

Project Kenya decided to allocate some of their raised funds to micro loans given to businesses with the better potential of becoming a start-up.

Today was meant to gather young entrepreneurs under one roof (20 teams composed of about 10 persons) and to empower them and encourage them to put their idea/product into action. Tomorrow , after all the 20 pitches, 10 teams will be chosen and given the necessary funds to start their business. Each project will receive a free three month training by the professionals from I Choose Life Africa, the Center for Community Development and Uweza Foundation. Those three organizations will mentor them all along their journey, in order to make them responsible for their actions.

Today, the young entrepreneurs had a direct access to young successful entrepreneurs (Fat Boy Animations), members of the government, heads of foundations, trainers, mentors and motivational speaker, whose goals were to convey the message that “Kibera is the home of Talents” and that no matter the many challenges that they face on a daily basis, POSSIBILITY, RESPONSIBILITY and POSITIVITY are the key to success, if only you believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goal.

Malo and Pierrick took the stand to share their knowledge of Youth Empowerment Program in the US. They reinforced the message that anything is possible in Kibera, given their strong sense of community, the number of talents and amazing support system. As Malo said, “you cannot make it alone!” You need a combination of mentors and minds behind one idea to make it successful. “Business is about relationships and creating a movement that will support and make your business a success”. Pierrick put a strong emphasis on character and ethic of the loving people in Kibera. He said that “a college degree does not define you” and also that “failure is okay.” “You have to work hard to identify a problem and then think of the solution, and if this solution does not work, think of another, and another, and another, until one will begin to solve the problem. “

This day was also about giving the business tools to make things happen, as we all know that being entrepreneur is a process. You are not born an entrepreneur, you become one, through hard work, try-outs, failures and never giving up!

The young entrepreneurs were invited to share to share with us their daily struggles and the solutions they see as viables to overcome them:

– The problem: Unemployment. The possible solutions are the nurturing of talents, the creation of opportunities, the training and the recycling of plastic and waste.

– The problem: Lack of information. The solution: Penetrate inside community and diffuse the information, like the fact that there are funds available for young entrepreneurs. But on a wider scale, the population of Kibera needs to look outside of Kibera, open their eyes on ideas coming from elsewhere, read international newspapers and magazines, surf the Internet and bring whatever they learn as possible solutions to problems in Kibera.

– The problem: lack of Education. There are 9 primary government schools and 5 government secondary schools. Classrooms are overcrowded, with sometimes 100 students per class in high school. The solution: education program for secondary schools and vocational schools (professional, design, etc) that give way to a job more quickly. Education is key!

– The problem: Lack of action. The solution: do it! Take action! Do not put off your action!

– The problem: the environment is not clean. The solutions: the people should take care of their environment and a recycling machine that would transform the plastic into recycled object to be put back in use in Kibera.

We all learned so much today about what it is to live in Kibera. But we also understood that the people here have what it take within them to make it a better place! We just have to give them a little guidance, a little funding, and a lot of motivation, like the one given by Johnson Mwakazi, “building an entrepreneur is a mindset”, You have to live beyond the greater good, take responsibilities and ownership.

Until tomorrow, when the winners start on a long journey of hardship but so much reward, and Project Kenya will be alongside to help them succeed!

Thank you! Raphaele

Day 6: behind the smile…

Today everyone resumed their activities at Red Rose School. Paul taught the 8th graders about cars and their mechanics and was surprised by the interest of the kids in electric cars which are very rare in Kenya. Alice taugh piano and guitar to some students and discovered they barely knew how to read notes. With the help of the teacher, even more interested that the students, she explained what was an octave, minor or major chord…she also taugh ballet to 22 girls in the afternoon. Beautiful moment to see those girls in leopards and ballet shoes dancing with grace among metal iron sheets!

Malo taugh maths in the same class than last year and was pleased to see some improvement in the maths skills in one year particularly for one of the boys. Dimitri taught 7th graders how to present themselves in French and started a new project with Paul. They are creating a mural with the help of 14 kids. First they asked them to draw something which can motivate them in the future but it has to be related to Kenya. They drew a river (of life) and added each elements the kids drew around it to compose the mural. Next step will be to paint the mural on the wall of the safe house.

Last Friday, I had asked the class I was teaching geography to, to invent they own Utopia place and to present it today. When I told them that they could win prizes, it was like a “beehive”, everone was excited to win and present a good project and suddenly asked me thousand of questions. I was struck by the fact they had hard time not to copy what they knew already and let their imagination wonders. It was like they were describing a Kibera but in another world. Then I had so much fun showing then some snapchat trick and started a babmington game in the courtyard with Malo.

Raphaele had a great day, teaching numbers in French and singing with the little one “1-2-3, nous irons au bois,4-5-6 cueillir des cerises…”she also experimented how to turn the spatula in the super huge pot to prepare ugali for 400 kids. She got few more muscle…

During this time, Marie was meeting with suppliers and builders to talk about renovation of the school and also interviewed with Jaypee, the director of red rose, a psychologist who can come talk with kids having a rough time at home. And this is on this topic that I would like to close this post as today some of us met for the first time the kids they are sponsoring. When you start talking to them and give time to express themselves, then behind their smile you can discover the traumas. Few example of what we heard today: Willy has eleven siblings. The parents are fighting all the time and the father leaves and disappears for long period of time. His daily life would pretty difficult if Jeff from Uweza were not helping him.

Joan, sponsored by Alice, lives with her brother and sister and the dad. The mom left one day and only comes back very rarely. The dad is very busy getting money and with her siblings they are all the time alone. She cooks, the brother cleans the house and the little sister prepares breakfast.

A lot of the kids have a very difficult daily life: Hiv positive, no parents, staying with guardian, abused by a member of the family, sent to be housecleaner instead of going to school or doing their homework. The girls from early age carry responsibilities that are not adapted to their age. Most of them start at 6am and when they come home in the evening, they have so many housechores to do that they cannot go to bed before 11pm.

Jaypee was telling the psychologist about this boy in 4th grade whose grades were sliding down suddenly. Red Rose investigated and discovered that the dad tried to rape his sister in front of him. Or also this young girl in 3rd grade who lost her mom. Last year she stayed with her aunt who was still a teenager. One night, this aunt on the other side of a curtain suicided herself and this little girl witnessed everything. How can you have a normal life after this? This is why Project Kenya wants to hire a person who can work with the kids around their traumas but also train the teachers how to respond to those cases.

Day 5 : “Harambee”…let’s come together


The kenyan soccer team motto is a true image of the 5th day in Kibera for all of us! This sense of community spirit, this « Esprit de Corps » as we say in French is what punctuated first the soccer tournament that Pierrick, Paul, Dimitri and Malo organized with the help of the Uweza Soccer team, as a final point to the last three days clinic. Project Kenya offered to many of them their first experience of playing on a nice turf soccer field, very different from the muddy or dusty pitch where they usually play on at Toy School. The relationship created between all the soccer players, the sense of togetherness and their shared practices made this experience happy and memorable for all! You should have seen the smile on those 120 or more players on the field this morning!
HARAMBEE for the first part of the day!

We then had the privilege to tour the studio of the young up-and coming fashion designer AVIDO, whose order book is starting to be filled with artists and rappers :TY $ or Bruno Mars are big fans of his Wax bombers.

David Avido showed us his house in Kibera and explained to us how Uweza helped him stay focus on his dream. They develop his talent but also self-confidence to finish High School, get his diploma in Fashion Design and develop his will to go after vision!
He would not have done it “without the support of the Kibera community, and the friendships he developed growing up in Kibera! “
Another example of “let’s come together” in Kibera or HARAMBEE for the second part of the day!
Of course, we all grabbed the opportunity to dress like stars and put our hand on our very own piece from Avido!!

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Uweza Center to witness the weekly meeting of the “Golden Girls”, an empowerment program for girls 3 to 14 years old, created by Uweza and brought to life by Agripina, whose education was sponsored by the foundation and who decided to give back to the community by volunteering at Uweza on the weekend.
Beside life skills, she is teaching these girls how to respect themselves as a fundamental to respect others, but also to develop self-confidence through creative activities and self-defense through their weekly Taekwondo class. You should have seen the determination in those girls’ eyes when practicing Taekwondo! They were all shouting with one voice with such an intensity! It made us realize that this girl empowerment group would need to be replicated or reproduced in Los Angeles, New York and everywhere else!!
HARAMBEE, all together for the third part of our day!!

We loved exchanging with Avido and Agripina, both natives of Kibera and hearing about their gratitude towards this sense of coming together and amazing sense of community in Kibera.
Despite the daily challenges and dangers that everyone can go through while living there, they both affirmed that Kibera has given them so much to a point that they “will never turn [their] back on Kibera”. We noticed that everyone who has succeeded to find a good job or have a good situation, they all want to give back and let the whole community benefit from their own success and lead the way! We should all follow their footsteps!
HARAMBEE is the very essence of Kibera!
Can’t wait for tomorrow’s adventure!!!


Day 4 in Kibera: Let me take you for a tour

Today was the day of home visits. Everyone had the chance to walk through the slum and spend some time with a local family at their house. Those time are precious because it helps you see and feel the reality of their everyday life. At home, people tends to be more open and talk easily about their challenges.

Reactions of the group tonight: when they asked us what were our challenges, we didn’t know what to answer as our life is so easy compare to them!

Follow us through the tour…

The sparkle of the day: Jeff Okoth, Uweza Director and co-trip leader invited us to his house to eat delicious chapati and meet his one year old daughter Amor and sweet wife Noelle.

As it is Saturday, we stopped at a local bar to have a Tusker beer with Uweza team and then I took everyone for a good meal at Junction Mall. C’est la fête le week-end…

Day 3 in Kibera : teens faced their first challenges

After two days to get adjusted and meet everyone, today was the start of our work with the children at Red Rose School. Everyone went in a classroom to teach the kids a subject of their choice.

Raphaele had the opportunity to teach some French songs to the youngest 3-6 years old in the courtyard. All in a circle they repeated after her: “Bonjour. Bonjour. Comment ca va? Je suis contente d’être ici avec tous mes petits amis…”. With repetition, they were able to learn the lyrics. Very cute introduction to Red Rose…

During this time, Dimitri was teaching French, Pierrick Geography, Malo Maths, Paul Mechanics and Alice Music. Many of them faced different challenges which could be very similar to the one any teachers from all over the world would encounter: focus of the students, disparity between them, the chatter boxes, the unruly,etc…they can now understand how difficult it is to teach! But one of the main challenge was that they were too ambitious in their preparation and had to readjust their lesson by improvising and adjusting to the kids. We all realized that we were talking to them sometimes about some stuff they have never heard about before and had difficulty to correlate. I encouraged them to follow the current news to be able to understand what’s going on outside the slum daily life.

We had an amazing time reading Charlotte’s web to the 9-10 years old in the library. This great classic contained so many topics which are familiar to the children. Fears, loneliness, tolerance and friendship issue…those are universal feelings. We can’t wait to see the drawing of the barn we asked them to create over the weekend. I asked the kids of my class to draw a utopia city after teaching them world geography and Paul a futuriste car in his physics class.

We then took the bus to have lunch in a local restaurant. Reggae Music was blasted and everyone is pushing you but it was so much fun. But nothing compares the motocycle ride that the boys took after lunch to go to soccer!

This afternoon while Alice was starting her ballet class which was a bit tricky as the leopards we brought had no skirts or legging and some of the girls were very shy to show their legs (cultural difference), Raphaele went to encounter the young mothers at Uweza Community Center and Marie met the students and teachers of the Photography Class I launched last year at Uweza.

Raphaele taught them how to make washable sanitary pads and diapers that they will be able to sell on the market. They made the patterns and tomorrow they will be taugh how to sew them with the sewing machine.

Nice discovery of the day on our way back : Chapati…which are a mix between Crêpes and Nâam. Miam! Just missing a bit of Nutella