Day 2 in Kibera…and we were welcomed by the French Anthem! Yes we did!

Yes…unbelievable! This morning at our arrival at the Red Rose School, all 400 kids were waiting for us, big smile on their face, so excited to see us. At our big surprise, they started singing the French Anthem, the Marseillaise that we taugh them last year. They still remembered it! And they still remembered our names! So happy to see us that we almost had tears in our eyes. All emotions were coming back. We felt the same way a big brother and a big sister feels when they are coming back from college and see their siblings. “We felt that we belong to this place”, said all the teens tonight.

They invited us to dance and everyone felt at ease and not shy. Lots of fun. We then distributed the breakfast and went in the classrooms with them.

Then we went to visit the safe house Red Rose is opening next week to host the 8th grader girls who have trouble to focus on their study at home because of the chores they have to accomplish when they come back home at night with their family. This facility will welcome them in boarding for the entire year but also welcome the younger girls who have issue at home, most of the time with step parents or foster parents. This Safe house really feels like home when we visited it eventhough it was still empty.

We walked back to the school and distributed lunch. Today we bough sodas, rice, ugali and meat to make this lunch a real feast for them. We were happy to welcome Raphaele, Malo’s mom who just landed from NY in the morning.

In the afternoon, after a visit at the market, direction to the soccer field where Malo, Dimitri, Paul and I animated a soccer clinic. Not easy…130 kids between 8 and 15 to keep busy for two hours. A bit challenging but we succeeded with brio !

The sentence of the day that can become our motto is:

“It has nothing to do with the place, it has nothing to do with the country…it has to do with the People”. And here in Kenya, and specifically in Kibera, everyone welcome you as if you have been in their inner circle for ever, whether they are adults or kids. It is almost like a trust relationship from start. You feel like you are one of them immediately! This was Raphaele’s reaction after her first day here in Kibera.

Day 1…first impression: we all felt like we were in Kibera yesterday!

After an early arrival at 6am and a long wait for a luggage which somehow decided to stay at CDG airport, we took the road towards Kibera and droved through Nairobi rush hour (worth than Los Angeles!). We immediately recognized everything. It was as if we left Kibera a month ago! Nice feeling!

After a couple of hours of rest, we started our several meetings in a row. First one at Uweza Art Gallery to organize the logistics of Kibera Art Fest, a competition where apainters and photographers from Kibera will be able to present three of their artwork to a professional jury next Thursday. Project Kenya will distribute $3,000 worth of prices to the first three winners in each category.

Second meeting was with Vincent from the Centre for Community Development and Human Rights to talk about the pitch competition we are organizing next week for young entrepreneurs of Kibera. With the help of CCDHR, Uweza and I choose life -Africa organization, we are going to select 10 business projects which will receive some seeds after two months of business training. More to come on this Shark Talk next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Third meeting was with the soccer coaches to set up the organization of a soccer clinic with the 132 kids from Uweza Soccer Academy. Camp starts tomorrow with Paul, Pierrick, Dimitri and Malo as the super organizors. They need to eat lot of bananas tonight to get their energy back.

The rest of team had arrived from Paris in the afternoon really exhausted but ready to start.

Bon pied, bon oeil…

We are back…

One year have passed…June 2019, new chapter! Five teenagers from last year have decided to come back to Kibera: Alice, the ballet dancer who twirls around Red Rose school accompanied with her guitar ; Paul, the discreet but efficient soccer goal keeper also specialized in physics experiment; Dimitri, the French songs specialist who is always there when you need him; Malo, the Maths specialist who loves entertaining the group when time is stressful; and I, the leader of the group, soccer player at heart, who likes to share this unique experience with my friends.

From NY and Los Angeles, in a couple of days, they will be plunging into Kibera’s community for the second time for most of them and for the third time for me. 2019 was also a year of successful fundraising which allows us to arrive with many ideas of actions to put into place.

More to come…

Day 14 : bye bye… Kibera

Sunday morning, streets of Kibera are filling up with mummies and daughters dressed with their most beautiful dresses to go to church. Today, the vibe in the streets is a bit different. Less movement, less screaming, less activity. You can hear the chanting and prayers through the alleys. Kids are playing together along the tracks, pushing wood wheels, making fire with sticks, running along the open sewage watching the parents selling veggies or washing clothes. Everybody is more relax.

(Pictures to come)

We walked aroung Kibera with our VR camera trying to capture the atmosphere of the streets. Some people could be very aggressive with the camera. You have to be discret if you can. We met Chrispin from Red Rose on the way and visited his mom at his house. This lady is alone to take care of 9 children. She washes the clothes of neighbors to earn some money to provide food to the whole family. Her daughter in 12th grade had another baby last year and she has to take care of this baby when her daughter is at school. She delivered the baby herself from her daughter on the sofa where we sat. Jeff told us that so many babies are born like this at home. The mom used scissors to cut the ombilical cord and sew the wound with string. 50% of babies who are delivered at home don’t make it. We stepped out and walk along the sewage and pile of garbage where few kids are trying to fing something to eat.

We walked to the Toy Market to try to find spices for Malo’s mom. Toy market is like a souk with piles of clothes everywhere and few booths of veggies. We bought turmeric, curry, pili pili, cumin…

We stopped by David Avido’s house to check on the new clothes he has been creating. Avido is a fashion designer in Kibera. He participates to fashion show and designes clothes for music bands. Malo and I decided to buy a bomber jacket.

We finished our day to Uweza Center where we could admire the mural and painting renovation we did with the help of Uweza artists. We attended to empowerment session of the Golden Girls, which is a program for young girls from the age of 8 to 16. After a lesson of Tae Kwan Do where they learn how to defend themselves, Agripina and Betty asked them to draw “their own river of life”, with the river representing their goal in life, the lower part of the river the things which could become a barrier to reach their goals, and on the top of the river the people or organizations who can help them reach their goal like trees along the river.

Day 13 : Departure day for some of the students

This morning we had our last meeting. Everyone wrote about the main things they will remember for ever. For most of them, the good bye at Red Rose was the most emotional memory and this moment will stick in them for ever. The visit into the kibera families’ home was very intense as well as it showed them the darkest side of the children’s daily life. “I will never forget about this experience!”

We also asked them to share with us the things they liked or not in the trip. Here are some of the comments: “pretty amazing two weeks, super fun to meet all those friends and joke together ” “i loved everything about the kids, their smile, the bonding, the greetings, the notes they gave us. I won’t be able to forget it.” “Very successful trip where we learnt to really help. We did not have much time to relax and we kept focus on our mission”. “i have seen and learnt so many things. The kids were genuinely kind and never take anything for granted like the one in the US. I got so attached to them””i was really touch by one of the girl in my class who was the most outgoing and when I learnt that her mom had sent her to do housecleaning job instead of sending her to school for a while, I could not believe she could still keep her smile the way she does all the time.” “I had a great time teaching” “incredible trip for me with super meaningful moments.”

Everyone concluded that it might be difficult now to describe this trip to their family and friends as they might not be able to put all the emotion they felt into words.

We then went to the soccer field where all the kids from Uweza Soccer Academy from age 7 to 25 were waiting for us to distribute the donations items. They thanked us so much as all the items are going to be so useful to them. Many kids were missing cleats, jerseys, gloves, etc…and now they will be able to play matches with the proper equipment which might give them pride and confidence.

1 pm…time to say good bye and go to the airport for Alice, Dimitri, Jeanne and Paul. Lots of emotion as there was such an amazing chemistry between each member of Project Kenya.

Day 12 : Huge party at Red Rose for their 20th anniversary

Today was all about Red Rose and partying with the kids to celebrate the creation of the school 20 years ago. It started then as an orphanage with few kids and now welcome more than 400 children. As all the speeches were pointing out, the school had many challenges but still resisted and became a school famous for the quality of education and nurturing care for the children.

Many personalities talked between the dances, songs and poems of the kids until they brought a huge cake I had the chance to cut in small pieces, so every kids and adults could have a piece. In my speech to the audience, I pointed the few things we observe as we were in the classrooms: the level of discipline, the curiosity and eagerness to learn, the smartness and sense of community. I also promised then that we will continue to be ambassadors of the school and try to find more sponsors for the children whose parents cannot pay the school fees

For us then, it was time to say thank you to the classes and good bye as tomorrow 4 of the 7 teens are flying back to France. All the kids jumped in our arms crying or gave us lots of very sweet messages of good bye. We got attached to them but THEY got attached to us too, and somehow we feel sad to have to leave them in their difficult environment.

We finished the evening at Carnivore, a restaurant where they serve you every type of imaginable meat on traditional masai swords.

Tonight it is time to pack the luggages…

Day 11: last day of work at Red Rose

Everybody today was kind of feeling the end of the trip approaching…

We started at Red Rose with finishing the painting of the library and putting all the books back on the shelves. It is nice to see the transformation of the room! Our objective is to make that room very welcoming and relaxing so the kids can have a quiet and nice place where to read books. We bought cushions and stickers to put on the walls and Jaypee will get a carpet for the floor.

Then after the kids distributed lunch to the children, we displayed all the donations items on the floor to count and show all the teachers what we brought for them: books, board games, jumping ropes, badminton, crayons, color pencil, markers, rulers,…and a lot of soap, shampoo, tooth paste and brushes…posters, pretend play toys, cards, etc, etc,etc…

I had the chance to meet the 5 students who have been selected to receive a sponsorship thanks to the fundraising event we had in May. It was nice to see the relief in the eyes of their parents who can now keep their kid at school and not in the street. Thank you to the Ruszkowski, the Borsuk, the Devanneaux and the Di Falco. For those who might be tempted, it is only $25 per month or $300 a year to sponsor a Red Rose student. Contact me if interested.

During this time, some were stretching their sore muscles for having carrying the books and painting for two days at the yoga class. Yes, students at the school have the chance to have yoga classes!

At lunch time, we had the chance to go to the masai market and everyone had so much fun bargaining with the masa, particularly Malo and Gabriel. For example one of them succeeded to go from 6,000 ksh to 50 cents! Jeff Okoth taugh them how to bargain kenyan way. Very successful.

One group went back to Red Rose to help decorate the school for the 20th anniversary party tomorrow and the other group to Uweza to prepare Good bye and Thank you cards to give to the Red Rose School students tomorrow as it will be our last day there.

Day 10: Together we are strong…and efficient

And this is what happen today! Uweza artists and soccer players and project Kenya team joined their talents to paint a mural but also to refresh the paint of Uweza community center walls. All of us together, we accomplished a lot.

Uweza is a safe place for children and young people in need of sponsorship but also for those who would like to develop a talent. From soccer program to art studio, but also girls empowerment and young mother support, this center is welcoming so many different people with different backgrounds and help them to grow from stage A to stage B.

We decide together to pick bright and joyful colors and also to inspire ourselves from Keith Haring whose personnages in equilibrium represent the solidarity in an organised chaos, just like in Kibera.

Here is the result of our day

After we finished painting, we brought all the donations bags in the middle of the court and counted all the items we brought. Almost 200kgs of soccer stuff. 300 jersey, 44 shoes, 38 shinguards, 19 goal gloves, 60 socks…

Jennifer Sapitro, the founder of Uweza Foundation thanked them for all the hard work of these two weeks but also for the great achievement of rising more than $10,000 in four months. She also told them the story on how she quit USA to come and establish herself in Kibera in 2012.

In the evening, we receive the visit of the Red Rose School director, Jaypee, who came to talk about character development and leadership. He invited the kids to reflect on their trip and look at everything they have accomplished. He reminded the kids about the importance of honesty, integrity and discipline and invited them to become ambassadors of the school when they are coming back home.

Day 9: The French flag floating at Red Rose.

This morning, six kids on seven were feeling better and could go back to work at Red Rose. In particular Pierrick, who have been calling sick for many days. He taught the 6th graders how airports are functioning and described how airplanes work. Most of them had never been to an airport or a plane before. For the fun, he also showed them how to make paper airplane and organised a competition of airplane throwing in the courtyard. Lots of laughters on both parts.Then later on, he taught the 8th graders how economy works.

The other kids continued the lessons they started the day before. We heard the beautiful voice of Alice and her guitar all morning in the classrooms.

This afternoon, we received the visit of Madame Ramoneda, the chargée d’affaires representing the French Ambassador who came to visit us at the school and see the work we are doing with the children. We surprised her by welcoming her with the French National Anthem we taught the kids yesterday. It was very emotional to hear this song from our country resonate on the wall of Red Rose.

Madame Ramoneda was also pleased to see the teens teaching French to the children. She then graciously offered to talk to us and the 7th and 8th graders of Red Rose about diplomacy in Kenya.

At 5pm we went to Uweza community center to watch the match France-Danemark with Uweza senior soccer team and few players from the Black Stars, another soccer team of Kibera in division 2 managed by a French Sport teacher of Lycée Français de Nairobi, Luc Lagouche.

French French French Day… Vive Ufaransa !

Day 9: Education is power

Today, it was like skittles game or like in Agatha Christies’ novel “And then, there was none”.Everyone got sick one by one. Oh no!!! But…even though they were not feeling well, all came back to Red Rose to finish their work with the kids. Very proud of them!

Jeanne taugh them about the life cycle of plants and environment. She gave them an assignment to do where they had to describe in columns what can you ear for each plant they selected (leaves, seed,..). “They are learning so fast”

Dimitri showed them some monuments in Paris, the sports we are practicing in France such as surfing and skiing, the countries which have a common border with France, more french words,…”they are all so motivated to learn and curious”.

Gabriel presented the different functions of the us gouvernment, but got asked questions about the Cold War, the CIA, the Atomic bomb,…”I realized that I can have similar views on the US politics with someone living very far away from me and it gave me hope for the future”

Malo taugh the first graders a new way for calculating in maths and used magic coloring to make his lesson fun for them. “It was impressive to see how fast they understood the techniques I showed them, particularly at this young age!”

Paul demonstrated the 3rd graders the difference between a solid and a liquid, but also the principle of viscosity. He loved the respect they showed him calling him:”teacher, teacher”

Alice had a ballet dance class with 45 fourth graders in the yard. Not easy to coordinate this big group but she did succeeded as all the kids, boys and girls were following her steps with lots of joy. She was surprised”how happy and interested they were about ballet, eventhough they barely knew anything about it.”

Pierrick, still sick, arrived when we were teaching the choir the French national anthem “la Marseillaise”. We were so proud to sing with them, except myself who realized that after being 18 years in the US, I had forgotten most of the sentences. Booo!

After that, the team continue painting the library and went back to the hotel.

Our evening session tonight was so interesting as we invited Agripina, member of Uweza to talk about her sponsorship and how it helped her to grow and perform well. She described the challenges she had when she grew up which are similar to any girls in Kibera: “lack of basic needs, lack of attention and affection, house leaks, domestic imbalance (her dad had a new wife each time she was coming back from boarding school), no sanitary parts,..”. She said that for her “boarding school was a relief for me as I had at last 2-3 meals a day, a bed for myself, no violence around me, and material to study well.”

Then she explained how sponsorship is so important for most of the girls of Kibera who are becoming pregnant before the age of 18 if they are dropping school. “Education is Power. It teaches them what is right and what is wrong”. It help them not to cede to the sirens of the suddenly nice guy who is proposing some schillings to help her and then few later get her pregnant. Not dropping from school is one of the most important challenges for girls. The reasons are mostly because of lack of money for fees, but also peer pressure, rape, lack of sanitary parts, lack of basic needs which leads them to find another solution to be able to eat.

Girls are so vulnerable. Uweza created this program on sundays called Bright Future which gathers 25 young girls from different schools to mentor and guide them through their life.

If you want to sponsor a girl, make a donation of $300 for a primary school student or $700 for a secondary school student at


Specify “sponsorship” in the comments

Today we had the chance to spend some quality time with the 10 kids we are sponsoring at Red Rose school and it was a precious moment!

Day 8: Hell’s gate and Park Navaisha

After an exhausting week, we decided to take the kids outside Nairobi for the day. With us, we invited 3 high school students from Kibera and also 3 members of Uweza. We drove above the escarpment where we had a beautiful view of the rift valley and headed to Hell’s gate.

We rented bikes for everyone and rode 8km to the Gorge. Among the Kibera kids, some of them had never ride a bike before, so we sat them on the back of a tandem. At the end of the journey, they had a good sense of it!!!

We were a bit disappointed not to see giraffes but got the chance to see zebras, gazelles, impalas, elans, eagles and monkeys.

After lunch, we rented boats on Lake Navaisha to go find the hippos but, what started as a beautiful ride turned into a nightmare when clouds started moving full speed towards us and a huge storm fell on our head. We had to head back quickly but got completely drenched to the bones from head to toe. I let you imagine the ride back to Nairobi which took 3 hours because of the rains!!! Everyone is in bad mood tonight including myself. Let’s hope noone get sick tomorrow…

Day 7 : Sport and music day

Today is Saturday but the program continue…after a late wake up call but still some tardies been awaited as usual, boys went to play soccer with uweza teams.

They lead the practice by showing the Kibera kids the drills they practice in the US. Everyone had so much fun.

The rest of the group went to support the red rose school kids at the Kibera Music Festival. On a large field, every schools present some dances or poems or singing in front of juries. Lots of colors, lot of fun, lots of discipline and talents! Vive Ken Okoth for organizing this Festival…all the colors of Kibera where floating happily.

Day 6 : How to be happy in Kibera…

Today was a very intense and emotional day. We got dispatched in 4 different families of Kibera to understand their everyday life. We walked with the parents from the Red Rose school to their house where they showed us their home.

Most houses have one room of 5×5 meters, a corrugated roof and mud walls. In general two beds on each side of the room, few kitchen utensils and pans to cook the ugali on a charcoal stove, and a big pile of clothes in plastic bags in the corner of the room. Some have a communal toilet and shower that they share with neighbors and if not, they have to pay 5ksh to go to the bathroom and 10ksh for shower.

Everyone of us participated to the chores that a normal family have to do on everyday basis like water fetching, washing clothes, preparing the ugali with pumkin leaves for lunch and selling sodas or veggies at the market or at the shop the family own. 5ksh for a tomatoes, 20 for avocado, 2 ksh for veggies leaves,…we learned than rent per month for the one room house was about 4,500ksh per month. Knowing that the majority earn sometimes les than $1 a day, you can understand why pay school fees can be difficult for those families.

We were very happy to live this experience. We learnt that “kibera people take a lot of pride and happiness in doing the most simple things”. Some realized that they were pretty much incompetent in doing any of those chores. Water jerricans were heavy. You get wet while washing clothes, you can almost chop your finger while cutting the veggies with the unique huge knife the family is using. They were shocked by the smell outside the houses as washroom wash down to the river.

We interviewed one of the teenagers of a family, a very loving one to understand his challenges now that he is in boarding school and we were all emotionally touched when he started telling us how “a burden”he is for his parents. Philipp has eyes problem which need to get fixed with a surgery, otherwise he cannot really study correctly, then he confessed that there was bullying at school because of where he is coming from and that he was locking himself often in the bathroom to cry. He even started telling us that he want to suicide to avoid to be a problem for his parents who work both so hard.

On the way back we saw all the houses the government destroyed with a huge excavator early morning. Many people have now nowhere to go. Their home have been destroyed and kids will come back from school tonight and discover they have no place they can call home. Heart breaking…

In the afternoon, we stopped by red rose and continue our renovation of the library. Was it wall painting or face painting? 😘

At our evening journaling session, we had the surprise to see the MP of Kibera, Ken Okoth, who came to congratulate the kids of their actions. He told them that this trip will be an experience that will stay for ever and might even help them during their college years. Ken Okoth grew up in Kibera but had the chance to get a scholarship to study in a US college. He spent two years at Georgetown University to finish his master before coming back to Kenya and launch his own foundation Children of Kibera before running for office.

Day 5: Vive la France!

This evening, all of the team are watching France-Péru. Everyone song the Marseillaise anthem. We founded a Carrefour supermarket to get chips and prosciutto to enjoy the match. Everyone is happy.

Before that, we had a very busy day…we started at 8.30 at red rose school by preparing the library for an entire renovation by our famous teenagers. They emptied the shelves, cleaned them and then started painting the walls with a neon green. The objective is to transform the library in a joyful place where kids can relax and read book. When painting is done, we will get carpets and cushions to make the place comfortable. We brought decorative stickers from the US for this purpose.

Then we got the visit of our peers from Lycée Francais of Nairobi who came to watch our work and interview us. It was nice to share our experience of expatriation. The six high schoolers from Nairobi are from Burundi, Congo, Somalia, Canada and Barbados. They also speak French fluently and just finished 9th grade. We took them for a tour of the school and classrooms where they could spend some time with the kids from Red Rose but also with our teenagers. Together they learnt how to make the kenyan bracelets with the mini-pearls. Even the boys got into it. Then we took them inside Kibera to show them around but as it rained last nighy, we all slipped in the mud and came back very filthy but happy. The high schoolers from Nairobi had never seen the slum before. It was funny that WE, from the us, were their guides.

We said goodbye and left for Karen, 30mn away from Kibera, one of the wealthiest part of Nairobi.We stopped for lunch at a very good Indian restaurant on the way. We then took the directions to Nyumbani Orphanage. This institute is a special home for 124 HIV+ orphans. They provide a bed, medical care, psychological support and education.

We visited the place, then we played with the young kids 3 to 10 years old in the playground.

More than 20% of the population in Kenya is HIV+ and lots of parents die leaving their kids orphans. Most of them are infected through breastfeeding. All of the kids at Nyumbani receive their daily treatment which allow them to be able to live a normal life as they are no more contagious. What a trauma for these kids to not only have to go through a lot of treatment and blood tests but also to lose their parents! Some very cute moments when a little girl ran to Paul, so he could hug her.

Day Four: where we learnt about similarities and differences with the teenagers of Kibera

Today, the boys left again early for playing soccer with the senior team. They had lots of fun. Malo had the chance to test the harshness of the ground while doing a figure to pass the ball. As I was feeling sick, I had to stay in bed to rest.

During this time, the girls went to the RedRose school where we attended the rehearsal of the songs and dance children will perform at Kibra Festival on Saturday.

While Jeanne was doing yoga with the older kids, Alice was learning the name of the kids in her class and singing with the children. We read the youngest some stories book and had the chance to explain what was a clown, what was inside a castle, how the rabbit dig a warren to protect their babies and how sails works with the wind.

The boys arrived at the school from soccer and went in different classrooms. Dimitri in 5th grade started to teach the alphabet in French and then taugh the children “oh, Champs Élysée…”. Everyone could hear the class singing the famous song in French all over the campus. Great success. Dimitri had a fantastic connection with his class. Malo in 8th grade had the opportunity to talk about the secret service agencies in the Usa while learning in social studies the ones here in Kenya. He got a bit challenged in Maths by the teacher who was asking him to talk about the difference between the calcul of the volume of a cylinder in the Usa versus here. Paul and Gabriel together animated a class teaching French, games but also rap songs. Everyone was break dancing one after each other. “Such a great experience!”

Alice started teaching ballet at the 6 years old who had never done or seen any ballet dancing. It was a challenge to have everyone follow and stay calm, particularly as the room was a real sauna, but Alice did a fantastic job.

Jeanne had an extensive French lesson with the 5th graders. She noticed “how eager they are to learn any type of subject. They know a lots of things and are very fast learner”

We went for lunch quickly and then spent some time at Uweza community center to meet the secondary students who are sponsored through Uweza. Each of them shared with us his/her challenges of everyday and how with the support of Uweza, they are now able to continue their studies in high school. Most of them are in boarding school. This gives them a chance to escape the violence or challenges of the slum and be away in a safe place where they can focus on their studies. All of them know that to be able to be successful one day and help their family to get out of the slum, they have to work hard and get a good education. The sponsorship gives them this opportunity. So they are very grateful.

They accompanied us to the Spurgeon Academy and on the way, everyone was sharing their experience on both side of the Atlantic and see which similarities and differences they both have with each other.

Paul talked with Peter, 18 years old, who had been out of school on and off because he had to go work in a mill to provide for his family as both parents are jobless but still succeeded to reach the academic level of high school last year at Red Rose. They both found lots of similarities like graphic design, soccer, skateboarding but the main difference was that “Peter is educating himself because he needs it, when I am because the subject interests me”

All of us realized that those children are showing “so much dedication to their studies to become what they want”. They have to pick a job very early on and then this becomes a goal they try to reach. “When for us, we can choose after high school what ever we want as we have so many opportunities in front of us”.