In the summer of 2008, I had the opportunity to visit Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The slum is composed of over 1 million Kenyans, making it the largest slum in Africa. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is made up of about 3 million people, meaning that Kibera is about one-third of the capitals’ population. The slum only covers about 2.5 square meters, while the whole city is about 250 square meters. As we, my two cousins and I, crossed the railroad tracks dividing modern civilization and the slum, my view on life was changed considerably. With the help of the International Mission Board, we were able to visit the slum. Any student interested in visiting the slum must go through an organization for safety purposes.
People in Kibera Slum live on top of each other. Each of the tiny, mostly one room dirt floor “houses” touch, and are connected by tin roofs weighted down by rocks. This “jungle”, an English word for Kibera, is just that. It is like living in the past, no sewage facilities and no modern amenities, such as running water and electricity. I learned that we Americans often take for granted what we have. We don’t realize that across the world, people do not have the things that we see as normal, every day things.
The people of Kibera pay huge amounts of rent to even live in the shacks, with no assistance from the government. The people struggle to find jobs to pay for their residences. In the United States, low-income people receive government assistance to help with housing issues. I was able to visit and interview, with the help of a translator, these people. Everyone that we talked to seemed to be so happy. The problems that they suffered didn’t seem to affect their lives. They didn’t mope or complain about the problems at hand. I realized that these people are very strong and can overcome their every day struggles. My experiences in Kibera made me want to become a stronger person, and not to stress about the little and very minor problems that I have. With their low-income, most of which is taken by landlords, Kiberans struggle to find funds for food. As an American citizen, I take for granted that food is always on the table. These people starve to death, and many are extremely malnourished. Watching all of these people starving and struggling to get by, it made me want to help them. With the help of my family, we established a fund to assist four families that we interviewed.
Being able to give to a small portion of these underprivileged people changed me for the better. It gave me the will to help these poor, underprivileged people, both internationally as well as in my local community. Without this experience, I would not have had the chance to broaden my spectrum to the world outside of my comfort zone. Visiting “the jungle” changed me as an individual, both by showing me how privileged I am, and by helping me see a different part of myself that I had never seen before.
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