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 theĀ 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!