Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Helen's Story

"This is why we do what we do at Kibera Pride."

Helen was a struggling student at the Brothers of Mother Teresa free school in the slum of Kibera. Though in grade 4 (and already 12 years old) she couldn’t even write her name. Her home life was partly to blame; she was just a child and yet caring for her ill mother. It’s very common in the slum of Kibera for children who get the chance to attend school to fail because the home life presents challenges that make keeping up with studies impossible.

In the last term of Grade 4, Helen scored a 90 (that’s out of 500). Brother Silas of the Brothers of Mother Teresa “we gave Helen a 90 out of pity, she scored 0”. One day in class Helen was asked by the teacher to stand and answer one of the class problems - she didn’t have the answer. The teacher begins to attack, telling her she was stupid and worse still told the other children she was a witch, that her family was a family of witches, “even look at her she shakes like a witch.”  

Helen ran back to Kibera Pride crying and met with Irene. “Teacher Irene I’m so stupid I can’t do anything and today the teacher called me a witch. I just can’t do anything". Then the other children of Kibera Pride also started crying “yes Teacher Irene even the other students now they beat Helen”.

Irene Kasandi - Director at Kibera Pride “I felt to cry but I couldn’t, I was sure it would only make the situation worse”. Irene stood up and headed to the Brothers of Mother Teresa’s compound to complain about how Hellen was being treated, as she left Helen, and a large group of our Kibera Pride kids followed her all crying for how Hellen has been mistreated. 

“It was an odd scene walking through the slum with these kids following me and all crying so loud - when I arrived at the brothers we all entered together,” Irene told the Brothers what was happening to Helen, and they were shocked and fired the teacher.

Irene then decided to do two things - she spoke with Helen and her Mom about having Helen move from her home into the Kibera Pride compound. The second was to shift Helen to a new school. Irene met with Helen’s new teacher and said “Helen has been struggling to learn, but she has been mistreated and given too many challenges in her home life. We have changed this, and I want to see if you will work with Helen and us at Kibera Pride to see if we can make a difference”. The teacher agreed. Helen started 5th grade at a new school Olympic Primary.

When Helen got home from the new school on that first day, she was excited “Teacher Irene, imagine today the teacher had me sit between the two smartest kids in the class and even they were helping me”. Irene: “Helen had such low self-esteem, she never played or could speak,  just kept quiet. We hoped by moving Helen into Kibera Pride she might at least discover a talent for the dance or art or poetry”.

By the end of the first term, Irene’s brother Milton (he works at Kibera Pride) was walking on the roadside, Helen (who had her tests scores in hand) was walking towards him. Helen started jumping up and down “I got 226! 226! 226!” Milton told her to show Irene, which she did. He was puzzled by her happiness as this is still a relatively low score. But for Helen, this was an amazing accomplishment, and we were all so thrilled. More important than the score itself was the progress she made - it seemed a miracle.

In April of 2016, Irene and I were together in the US when the 1st term scores came out - Hellen (now in 6th grade) got a 377!!! She was the 10th highest score in her class. Irene and I cried, for us, this meant any child who is struggling could indeed achieve great things under the right circumstances! It was hard to believe - we rejoiced.

So today the 2nd term test scores were announced - Helen is now #1 in her class - she scored a 433 out of 500. She had the highest score in her class of 98 students. Daniel Brevick: “We hoped there would be improvement, we hoped she might find a talent or something to compensate for low studies. Instead, she went to the very top of her class with the highest score".

Our vision is to break the cycle of poverty for all we can. Helen was on a dangerous path. This is why we do what we do at Kibera Pride. Every shilling spent, every hour of hard work, every hard time we feel we can’t afford to keep Kibera Pride going - this makes it all worthwhile. More than anything else this proves that any child can achieve greatness if given the right resources. 

Congratulations to Helen and thanks to Irene for being a champion to these kids. Thanks to Helen’s sponsor Nekane Santos & Friends of Spain, to her teachers Ms. Mohammed and Ms. Makori and her school, Olympic Primary. Thanks to Andrea Irisarri who has connected so many kids from Kibera to sponsors in Spain. Thanks to the great staff at Kibera Pride. Finally thanks to all who support Kibera Pride, you are changing lives in amazing ways, God Bless!


Helen and her proud Mom!

Irene Kasandi handing Helen school materials for the 2015 school year.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jeremy's Story

I got to spend some time with Irene recently and she speaks often of Jeremy. At times she actually becomes him. In doing this, she shows such a joy for life and it’s coming straight from Jeremy. She impersonates him. It’s really amazing to hear his voice coming through her and to see this amazing little man's personality. That his voice is heard at all is no small miracle. His tongue was nearly cut completely off. Jeremy, just 2 years old at that time, was playing and accidentally knocked over and broke the family television.

When his father arrived and was informed he hit Jeremy with an uppercut to his jaw which almost entirely severed his tongue. Jeremy was taken to the hospital and his nearly severed tongue was reattached and the father was arrested. Sadly such cases of domestic violence are common in the slum of Kibera and almost always it's women and children who bear the brunt of the suffering. While the tongue was saved unfortunately the injury was far worse. Nerve endings within the brain were also severed causing brain damage, this was unknown at the time.

The mother in law pleaded with Jeremy’s mom to drop the charges against her son. She argued "if he goes to prison how will you survive? It is he who is paying the rent and for the food." Jeremy’s mom dropped the charges and now the father took to beating Jeremy and treating him cruelly. Jeremy’s mom suggested she move back to the village to allow him to cool down. When it came time to return the father suggested he take only the daughter back and that she keep the other two children. She was not happy about this and came to meet with him only to discover he had already left her, having taken a new wife.

This left her homeless and without support.

There is no welfare system in Kibera, no safety net and very quickly the four found themselves left to the street. Someone took pity on them and offered them a small room to occupy until a better situation could be found. This wasn’t even the standard 10 x 8-foot dwelling common in Kibera, rather a small structure that housed a very large water tank. There was barely room within to fit let alone live comfortably.

Unemployment in the slum is over 50% and even those who find work often do so in the context of what is called “day labor”. Jeremy’s mom was out searching for this and left the three children, Jeremy 4, Alex 1 and their older sister (just 7 years old) alone. The girl decided to light the small cooking kettle sitting on the floor to cook some food and the paraffin oil spilled and caught fire. She grabbed a blanket and covered herself rather than fleeing and sadly she died in the fire. Jeremy and Alex were outside playing at the time and survived the tragedy. Jeremy’s mom was again left to the street and homeless now suffering from the death of her daughter.

Without a place to stay the Children’s Welfare office intervened on behalf of the children and brought them to Kibera Pride. Jeremy was able to speak very little, he was, as Irene described him, "a wild child”. Jeremy cried a lot, he would strike the other children and even took to biting them. Even for the staff at Kibera Pride, they too were being bitten. Irene expressed grave concerns about our ability to keep and manage such a child. He was taken to the doctors to see what was wrong and this is when we discovered he had brain damage.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015:
Irene: “Daniel, today I went to the hospital for Jeremy and it is so discouraging, The MRI is 17,000 kes and because he can't follow the instructions. They have to inject him to sleep so that they can put him in the machine without disturbance. And the injection is 13,000 kes”. Daniel: “Irene, please don't worry about the cost - we will manage somehow”.

Diagnosing Jeremy required several doctors visits and multiple procedures. This expense would be greatly exceeded by the treatment and ongoing therapy. Even the need for a special school and special transport. These continue to present really challenge for us. While the children’s welfare office drops off children (often with special needs like Jeremy) they provide no funding.

For us, it has been a struggle to manage Jeremy’s needs, but we are now receiving so many rewards. He’s speaking now and he's no longer a wild child. It seems a miracle and it is true that with the right therapy and approach young children can recover from brain injuries. Jeremy’s mom is still trying to get on her feet and still trying to make a life in the slum. She’s not ready to take back her two children yet, but we are working with her and we are hopeful. She does visit her kids and she is so deeply grateful, seeing for herself the incredible change in Jeremy. She has cried many times expressing both gratitude for what we have done for Jeremy and surprise at how he has improved.

For all the extra expense and challenge and even for feeling so much apprehension and discouragement at first, we have learned not to give up. We all take such  pride in Jeremy. We are confident he will be a great man one day and we are so thankful and blessed he came into the Kibera Pride family. Truly the greatest challenges we face often hide the greatest joys - it just requires endurance.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Even with their sufferings they can still smile at you and make you smile too. they strive day and night wishing to get someone to help them come out of this suffering. When they get opportunity to study they empress it to the full by working hard in their studies as they know it is the only way they can reach to their dreams, even as their parents and caretakers strive to make a dollar in a day to bring food in to the table. There is great struggle in the lives of these little ones. They endure a lot which they do not deserve. 

We see this everyday. It”s why Kibera Pride aims to provide education and other basic needs to the children of Kibera. We are currently running a children’s home, serving 26 kids, admitting only the those in the worst situations. This includes orphan children who are under the care of an abusive step father/mother. It includeschildren whose parents have chronic diseases and left bed ridden. Any child being abused physically or sexually where the parents are not taking any action to change the situation and kids who are lost and rescued by the Children’s Welfare Office or the police as they try to locate relatives.

We run a sponsorship program you can be a part of. We identify and recommend kids who have potential to study and whose parents can’t afford to pay for their education. Currently we have 61 children attending school under our educational sponsorship program. When we find a sponsor for a child he or she is enrolled in the school. These kids also participate in the other Kibera Pride programs and activities and they mingle with those who live in our children’s home.

We are happy and proud that this program has helped many kids spiritually, mentally, morally and physically. We strive to ensure they develop to their full potential in life within their current social-environment and beyond. This development cannot occur without the support of many well wishers from around the world. Thanks to you all.