Kibera is a slum situated to the southwest of Nairobi city centre and is framed by a railroad line and the Ngong River. In an area of about 4 square kilometres there are approximately one million people living, one third of Nairobi’s population and it could even be more; there are no precise figures. People say it is the most densely populated area on earth. People here live in the most basic conditions, in huts made from mud and corrugated iron sheets: open sewers run along the paths, rubbish is everywhere, most of the population are young and many children living here are orphaned.
Work is scarce and poorly paid; a few pounds a day is considered a good wage. Kibera is not the only slum in Nairobi, there are probably as many people again in the many other slum settlements around Nairobi.
Most people living here are uneducated with little chance of changing their circumstances. Teenage pregnancies are rife and these children grow up in the slum with no prospects, no education and continue this cycle of poverty. But these are a wonderful people, even though they have nothing, they are cheerful, generous and welcoming.
There have been many attempts to bring change to these slums. Millions have been spent on building tower blocks for re-housing, but these just scratch the surface and, like the 60s tower blocks of the UK, they bring complains of a loss of community.
Our vision is to bring transformation to these slum areas of Nairobi and to fight the spirit of poverty and hopelessness that exists there. We will restore dignity and bring hope and purpose to lives that could otherwise be wasted just in pure survival.
Is this possible? It will take time undoubtedly, it will be hard, but it is most certainly worth trying.
Breaking the dependancy culture
Our first principle is that these people must be responsible for helping themselves. Handouts and aid just perpetuate poverty and generate a dependency culture. We will need support, yes: but as a pump primer, a kick-start, for building profitable businesses.
These businesses will then invest their profits in the community to help build other businesses and provide training and schooling; a typical social enterprise model. So, as local people are employed and manage these businesses, they will start to bring change to the community. Their work will not just be about survival or generating profits for some distant shareholders, but about investing in and changing their community.
We will need leaders to run these businesses, people who are confident and educated and who are capable of bringing sustained development and growth. This cannot happen overnight, it will take time, but as the mustard seed grows into the largest tree in the garden, so we will start small and grow: we will take talented local people, encourage and inspire them, give them a vision to build businesses that will transform these communities.
Most people starting a business in these areas are happy if it simply supports them, we need to challenge this culture as we want local people to be able to run these profit generating businesses. We plan to develop businesses that service the more affluent population of Nairobi, where prices and profits are higher and cash can be brought into the community.
To achieve this transformation it is essential to clean up these areas. Living among the open sewers and rubbish, having to look out where you are walking - the “flying toilets” of Kibera are infamous – is the cause of serious infections and diseases.
We need to raise capital to start this work
Living Waters Social Enterprises charity is a fund raising vehicle to apply for grants, loans and gifts. This charity will set up and support social enterprise businesses in Nairobi and profits will be directed to support community activities. We will also support local initiatives such as Micro Enterprise schemes and provide training. .
We have trustees, a minimum of three. These trustees will take an active interest in and support the charity, for example to help in fundraising and networking. If you would be interested in becoming a trustee, please contact us.
The aim of Living Waters is to build a new generation of Kenyan leaders who will have vision and skills. These are the people who will bring change to the communities, the UK staff will only support and encourage these leaders.
Developing a profitable business from rubbish
One of the worst aspects of the slum is the filth and pollution that is everywhere. Our vision is to develop cost positive ways to tackle this pollution so that it can be permanently eradicated.
We plan to look for ways to treat this waste to turn it into useful products, such as charcoal, fertiliser or to extract gas. Our hope is to develop business plans to make this into a sustainable, profitable business.
Our logo is a simple representation of a vision from the prophet Ezekiel (Chapter 47) of a river that flows from the temple. The river brings healing and cleansing to dead and poluted areas allowing fish to breed and trees grow along its banks. The fish provide jobs for fishermen to catch the fish and food for the people: the trees provide fruit to eat and their leaves are used for healing. This ties in with our vision to provide jobs and training to enhance peoples lives and to start to clear up the polution in these slums.