Alixa Sharkey

Alexi Sharkey (Undergo Society of Kenya - USK): Alexi graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2007 with degrees in Political Science and French. She then spent a year in Yenta, Shandong Province, China, teaching Global Issues and English language courses. Alixa has also undertaken projects with immigrant youths in Lexington, Kentucky and interned for the Conceal General du Calvados in France. At the time of her fellowship Alexi was a graduate student at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego with a focus in International Politics. After her fellowship, Alexi wrote: “One day I was really grumpy during one of the training sessions, when one of the students came in and you could just tell he was so happy. So I asked him, 'Elias, you seem really happy, why are you so happy?' And he replied, 'because I am here and I am learning to bog.' And then I couldn't help but be happy as well...For now all I will say, with confidence, is that I am a much more patient person.”

Ahadi-It means promise

31 Aug

One of Undugu’s successful programs, the one I have been working with all summer, is the Street Association model. Undugu finds groups of street youth and children, basically gangs, and helps them through a transformational process to make positive changes in their lives. Through this process young people are encouraged to be responsible for themselves, to find legitimate ways to earn money, and to reintegrate into society.

Street Associations create their own constitution, deciding what the rules and principles their members will live by. They also elect their own leadership, choosing the positions of chairman(or woman), vice-chairman, treasurer, and secretary. Together they identify the problems that most directly affect them and seek solutions.

Undugu helps them through weekly visits by Project Officers (social workers) and youth facilitators (young people who have successfully completed the Street Association transformational process). Undugu coordinates activities, provides guidance and aid where possible, holds training workshops, and lobbies and advocates on behalf of all street youth. The workshops are held regularly and range in topic from leadership, drugs, HIV/AIDS, and civic rights. Undugu also offers vocational training workshops.

Each street association is unique and although they all share many of the same struggles, how they come together as a group to deal with the problems will determine their success. Many groups suffer from lack of leadership or fights over leadership while others struggle because of drug and alcohol abuse. Despite these problems many Street Associations are successful and their members are able to lead productive lives.

One of the most successful groups that we have encountered is Ahadi. Ahadi is based in the outskirts of Kibera near a market. This group formed because 18 young men between the ages of 15 and 22 decided to become responsible adults. For them the most important thing was to stop hustling and to start earning an income legitimately. The way they did this was by first clearing what was a garbage dump. The process took months, with only one shovel they took turns working. They recycled what they could and burnt the rest. Once the site was cleared, they planted a kale garden. This process started last winter, and by the time I first met the group in early July they had a full garden and a growing business.

They sold large bags of kale for 50 shillings. They saved up the money they made and invested in a wheeled-cart which they now use to transport goods for a fee. Because their garden and the work that they do is so visible they have a much better relationship with their surrounding community than most other Associations.

Ahadi is not perfect. They share the same struggles as the other Associations. They are short on cash, a little bit of money for a new shovel could make a big difference. All the members are homeless, most of them live on the streets and a few live in a little shelter they have build. Like most Street Associations they are not registered with the government, and because they do not own the land they are using this could cause problems in the future.

Overall we feel that Ahadi’s model is an excellent one,especially because of their good ties with the community. For this reason we hope to replicate the same model in other areas around Nairobi.

Check out this short video about Ahadi!


Posted By Alixa Sharkey

Posted Aug 31st, 2009

1 Comment

  • Scottye

    August 31, 2009


    What well-spoken and hard working young men. It is hard to believe that they live and seemingly prosper in such conditions. I know that this has been an incredible summer for you!

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