The other day a co-worker was showing me around my new neighborhood and helping me get situated. We were on our way to purchase a cell phone when she said “Here’s the mall.” Okay…but surely it is not a MALL mall. I was wrong.
We walk in and it is a mall just like at home. Granted this one did not have an escalator, but sure enough the next one we went to did.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a shopping mall like those in the US. However, after a couple days in Nairobi, it seems normal. The USK office is in Westlands, a very nice part of town and incidentally the only area of Nairobi I have been to so far. I’ve been to bars and restaurants that could rival their Western counterparts. I’ve learned that I am going to be perpetually under dressed on workdays seeing that those on the street are wearing suits and high heels. And I’ve realized that my bottom-of-the-line cell phone that I bought does not fit in well with the fancy and sleek phones of the Kenyan middle class.
As I am walking around surrounded by all of this, I am slapped in the face by the sight of a poor, homeless child. All around him were nice buildings, gated communities and Kenyans clutching their cell phones. But then there was him, a boy around the age of 15 who was dirty and clutching his bottle of glue that was making him so high that he was just mumbling and smiling to himself.
Right then I realized that while I am in the nice part of town, I am still in Nairobi. I am in a town where there are tens of thousands of homeless children and youth spending their days and nights on the street. Most of them live in the informal settlements, such as Kibera, arguably the world’s largest slum. There, even if you have a home, you live in absolute squalor. The life of a child living on the street is even worse.
Next week I will be experiencing this side of Nairobi for the first time. I will be visiting the informal settlements (slums) to identify the children and youth who will be part of the blogging and photography project I will undertake with them. Those interested will be able to broadcast their lives, stories, opinions and hopes to the entire world.
Preparing to begin this project makes me wonder what the boy I saw in Westlands has to tell the world. How did he end up on the streets? Why does he sniff glue? Where is his family? What does he think about the government? We may never find out any of this about this boy, but in the next few months the world will hear the voices of others like him and be reminded that no matter where you live – whether it is in the nice part of Nairobi or in an American suburb – the lives of the children and youth living on the streets go on.
Posted By Kristina Rosinsky
Posted May 30th, 2008