What Foreigners Mean In Kibera

by Stellamaris Mutuli Mwania, Kenya, ELP 2013


Kibera is a division of the Nairobi area. It’s the biggest slum in Nairobi and one of the largest urban slums in Africa. It is one of the most densely populated and polluted places in the planet.

There is no clean running water in Kibera thus leading to outbreak of diarrhea, amoeba, cholera and other related water diseases. People purchase water from the private vendors paying two to ten times what is paid in Nairobi outside the slum.

Growing up seeing foreigners in my community has always felt good because they come with good intentions and ideas. Unlike rich people in my country who focus on developing developed places and neglecting Kibera people because they want nothing to do with slum dwellers, foreigners strive towards developing and improving living conditions in my community.

Although foreigners have good intentions, it is embarrassing to be viewed as someone who needs to be saved. It’s embarrassing to always be saved by other people. I prefer being empowered than being helped all the times.

I like foreigners because they don’t see Kibera people as victims but people with potential others refuse to see. It feels really extremely bad and discouraging to be perceived as a population needing to be saved. What we need is empowerment that will help us improve our community living conditions and environment too. The answer to our problems is not handouts or meager tips but education, social and economical empowerment. Foreigners have brought light to Kibera. They have introduced Human Needs Project, which aims to bring Clean Water supplied from our own bore-hole/well, public baths, and lavatories.

The project will provide the well with energy exclusively from Green sources attached to the well, including bio gas and modified vegetable diesel generator for back-up energy. Well water will be treated with UV technology, ensuring its safety as drinking water. Grey and Black water from the showers and lavatories will be recycled and purified, removing the need for access to sewer systems which do not exist in Kibera. Green technology is used to minimize our impact on the local environment, while generating services, know-how and technical expertise in the local population, with the intent to free up energy to generate personal growth and wealth. The Well will provide free Wi-Fi and a wing of offices for micro-loans officers, information/adult education classes, and The Well Administration. In addition, we will provide the Center with a park/playground/cafe addition, where we will add on another wing of offices for the Market Place where the Well will generate income for itself through sales/rentals of Green Technology home products. These include home solar batteries, Hippo Water rollers, portable clean/safe stoves, and home UV water purifiers. These Services are an attempt to bring real community services to Kibera with a plan to help local populations organize themselves, and enable them to provide services for themselves and a place to turn to for information and personal growth.

The Well/community pod will come with a business plan, an operations manual, training in operations and administration and the legal organization of the business into a Co-op to be community- owned and run. It is our mandate to use as much local community talent, manpower and suppliers as is at all possible. It is our intention to spread our know-how and technical expertise by training members of the community to run and maintain every part of the well and its components.

The organization has set a benchmark and a model for other organizations to replicate. I am so proud of the attempt of Human Needs Project to help Kibera by helping them to help themselves. I believe in this work because when everyone feels important in the society they will be able to express themselves better.