Photojournalist and volunteer Anu is currently in the idyllic community of Uhundha, on the shores of Lake Victoria, western Kenya, far far away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. Before she left the metropolis, however, she met with many other travelers, one of whom introduced her to the Shiriki <to share> organisation.
Her wonderful blog describes the visit. I’ve already contacted Ras Githaka to ask about helping them in their mission, since its founding 10 years ago by Ras Lojuron, an adherent of Ethiopian-borne Rastafarianism, to unite the youth in Kibera to realise the resoures in their own environment, to understand conservation and to learn how to earn a decent living rather than waiting for handouts.
Over the past decade, young people from the slum have been taught how to plant trees to provide wood, produce organic vegetables using indigenous seeds, make jewellery ans shoes from seeds, bamboo, clay & have helped transform the workspace into a bright colourful studio, covered in plants and trees, where they are encouraged to paint, make beads, drums, shoes and bags, and make music.
Ras Githaka says “What is important is that African countries, as a unity, utilise the resources they have and provide for themselves. Until Africa becomes a truly sustainable continent, it would continually be indebted to the Western world and the children born in Africa would continue to struggle with poverty.”
After a donation of land in Kitui by a volunteer, the Shiriki Charity Organization now produce organic vegetables and crops which they bring back to Kibera to live on, and sell the surplus. They encourage further organic farming from the youth in Kibera, assisting them to go back to their rural villages and make use of the land … “we have everything we need here, we just need the energy of the youth and education”, says Ras Githaka. “Kibera is surrounded by disease, rot, dirt in the gutters and crime…. the youth need practical education so they can sustain themselves and better their environment.”
“People talk of poverty and helplessness here but what they don’t talk about is the positive change that we are seeing.
“Within the Kenyan youth there is a class of educated people and an energy, which is slowly being diverted into improving Kenyan society and working towards liberating Africa from the shackles of colonialism….Everyone has a pureness and goodness in them but they are contaminated with illusion and confusion. It is our role to educate the youth and guide them to helping Africa become environmentally sustainable.”
Ras Githaka came from his home in Mount Kenya to Nairobi to work as a human resources officer. One day he was walking along Kibera road and saw the centre. He was welcomed in and from that moment on he never left, he had found his calling in life.
The foundation currently works with schools in rural areas as well as in Kibera. They also plan to put up tree nurseries in every single primary school in Nairobi. We’re hoping you can visit the foundation and help in their cause.
Back in Uhundha, Anu is already settled in and doing amazing work; installing trash bins in every classroom, and in the orphanage & yard and encouraging composting as a first step to the community garden project, something already well underway in the Tumaini Centre, near Bungoma, thanks to volunteers. Uniforms are seen as essential for “ownership and pride” for children in the orphanage and Anu will be helping to find the small amount of funding required to have one of the teachers, a tailor, make the uniforms. The community garden will involve the children from the outset, starting with small squares of land being cleared and showing the children how to plant vegetables and tend the land.
This was the kindergarten in IUhundha early 2010 when I visited.
I agree with Ras Githaka when he said “There is nothing more satisfying than working for the benefit of others. There is nothing in the world I would rather do”. I’d also recommend reading Anu’s other posts, especially the visit to Tahrir Square just prior to arriving in Kenya.