Tennessee Titans’ PlayerIn 2017, Tennessee Titans’ player, Kenny Vaccaro, traveled to Kibera, a division of Kenya, to help build schools. Alongside him was Kansas City Chiefs’ player and friend, Alex Okafor. Together, the two joined the Blessed Hope Project’s mission to make education more readily available to all children in the Kibera slums. Vaccaro’s journey does not stop there, though, as his time in Kibera sparked what is now his personal devotion to creating educational opportunities for African children.

Blessed Hope Project and the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation

The Blessed Hope Project’s roots began in 2012 after Elsa Atieno founded the Blessed Hope Primary School, where she is now the school’s principal.  In 2016, after former New Zealand rugby player, Michael Hobbs, volunteered at the school, the rugby player’s vision for the Blessed Hope Project came to life. Shortly after his visit in 2017, Tennessee Titans’ Vaccaro became an official team member of the Blessed Hope Project. In the same year, Vaccaro founded the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation, which he uses to raise money for various causes but primarily, the Blessed Hope Project. Atieno, Hobbs and Vaccaro jointly make up the Blessed Hope Project’s team.

The goal of Hobbs was to build a higher quality school than the one at which he originally volunteered, which had dirt floors, iron walls and limited space. With the help of the money raised by the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation, the team accomplished this goal in January 2019 and built a solid structured, fully serviced primary school that can accommodate over 300 children. Not only does the Blessed Hope Project team plan to build more schools in Kenya but they have also placed 100% sponsorship of all students and a sports academy on the agenda as well.

Poverty Conditions in Kibera

Atieno recognized that many children from the slums of Kibera were staying at home during the day, sometimes by themselves, rather than attending school. This is not uncommon as Africa has the highest rates of marginalized education in the world. On top of that, Kibera is the largest slum in Africa. Not only are many children excluded from school but their families are living on less than $1 a day. For some children, going to school is how they are ensured a meal for the day. Kibera also faces high unemployment rates.

How Can Education Reduce Poverty?

Increasing high-quality educational access in Kibera can aid in all of the aforementioned issues by providing children with social interaction, food and the teaching of crucial skills for their futures. Specifically for reducing poverty, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a policy paper that outlines how the global poverty rate could be cut in half through completion of secondary schooling. As it pertains to the sub-Saharan African and South Asian regions, poverty could be reduced by nearly two-thirds. This prediction comes from UNESCO’s 45-year study on the “average effects of education on growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.”

Humanitarian support like that of the Blessed Hope Project and the Tennessee Titans’ Player, Vaccaro, plays a crucial role in eradicating global poverty as educational opportunities pave the way for families to rise up from poverty all over the world.

Sage Ahrens-Nichols
Photo: Flickr

national hygiene program
Kenya’s National Hygiene Program (otherwise known as Kazi Mtaani) aims to help the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Implemented in April 2020, the program intends to support the individuals and households that are struggling to find work as a result of the restrictions and other issues that the pandemic created.

Impact of COVID-19 in Kenya

Kenya has a population of 51.39 million people and a rapidly growing urban population, which is increasing by about 4.3% every year. As Kenya urbanizes at a quick pace, formal housing in urban areas of the country struggles to keep up with high demand. About 60% of urban households in Kenya live in a “slum,” because informal housing remains the only option for most people.

COVID-19 hit these poor households in Kenya hard, causing over 300,000 Kenyans to lose their jobs. In Kibera, a county in Nairobi and one of the biggest slums in Africa, a survey found that 90% of low-income residents said that they had lost their family income due to COVID-19.

What Is the National Hygiene Program?

The National Hygiene Program is an extended public works project that emerged as a response to Kenya’s growing unemployed population. The goal of the program is to employ young individuals from informal settlements whose former employment has been disrupted by the pandemic. The program also aims to focus on projects that create cleaner, safer communities during the pandemic.

People must meet a few requirements to be accepted into this program. One requirement is that individuals have to be over 18 years old and under 35 years old because the program’s target audience is Kenyan youth. However, there is some leeway in communities that COVID-19 restrictions hit hardest and where youths are less willing to work. Aside from age, other requirements include the possession of a valid Identification Card, registration with Mpesa — a mobile money transferring service — and a verifiable telephone number.

Phase I

The first phase of the National Hygiene Program acted as a pilot, lasting from April 2020 through June 2020 and employing over 26,000 people. Eight counties that restrictions hit the hardest were the first to implement the program. These counties include Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera. In these areas, many people lost their daily wages, and businesses suffered because people could not afford to buy goods anymore.

Across these eight counties, the program targeted 29 settlements. The program paid workers about $1.03 per day, and they worked 22 days per month. In Phase I, the employees completed tasks like street cleaning, access path clearing, fumigation, disinfection, garbage collection, bush clearing and drainage cleaning.

Phase II

The second phase of the National Hygiene Program began in July 2020 and will run for six and a half months. The program has enrolled 270,000 workers and targets 1,200 informal settlements. Instead of employing workers for 22 days a month like in the first phase, the program’s 11-day rotation period will provide work for as many households as possible. Each worker has a daily wage of $0.78, and supervisors have a daily wage of $0.87.

In Phase II, workers will complete tasks like upgrading public sanitation facilities, creating or paving walkways, constructing community gardens and parks and repairing public buildings like offices and nursery schools.

As the National Hygiene Program continues, it hopes to cover all 47 counties in Kenya through later phases of the program. The program will allow Kenyans to escape unemployment while improving their communities, providing refuge from the destructive effects of COVID-19.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr


Biggest Slum in Kenya
Known to many as the largest urban slum in all of Africa, Kibera is a community of 250,000 people in Nairobi, Kenya without regular access to clean water or electricity. This slum is rife with disease and the abuse of drugs and alcohol is common. In Kibera, the biggest slum in Kenya, artistic expression and the creation of art is not a priority and seldom is it even an option. The Uweza Art Gallery is changing that.

The Uweza Foundation

Jennifer Sapitro, an American entrepreneur, created the Uweza Foundation in 2008. The foundation funded and opened a community center for the people of Kibera. Sapitro gained inspiration from the artwork at the center and opened the Uweza Art Gallery in 2013. Alongside the art gallery, the foundation provides a variety of programs for Kibera’s youth, such as soccer and a female empowerment program. The goal in establishing the creative hub of the Uweza Art Gallery was to give the youth of Kibera an opportunity to develop their talents, a means of expression through art and access to economic opportunity.

The Uweza Art Gallery

The Uweza Art Gallery provides materials and space for Kibera’s young artists to express themselves and create artwork. The youth are also in charge of marketing their art at the gallery, which is located in an old shipping container, a testimony to the scarcity of proper institutions and resources in Kibera.

The way this gallery works is that 60 percent of the money from a sold item goes back to the artist and the other 40 percent goes to the gallery in order to fund more art supplies and pay the rent. If the artist is under 18 years of age, the gallery allocates the money they make from selling their art for their schooling. If they are over 18, the gallery utilizes the money to pay for whatever the artist may need, such as food or water.

Thanks to the Uweza Art Gallery, many artists over the age of 18 are able to fully support themselves through sales. In addition, this creative space hosts free art classes twice a week for Kibera’s youth. Children as young as five years old go to the art gallery to participate in learning the basic skills of art. As they continue attending the classes, the gallery prompts them to paint their own artwork. Once they become more advanced in their art and they have learned the necessary skills, the gallery encourages them to become a part of the gallery and to continue painting in order to sell. They also take trips outside of the slum to visit museums and art galleries.

This program is significant because not only does it give artists in Kibera a means of expression, but also gives them a chance to be economically self-sufficient. This is so important because it can be the ladder that gives them access to climb out of the dark hole that is poverty. The more successful they are selling their art, the better their chances are at overcoming poverty. The art they make can financially contribute to a better lifestyle.

Another way that the Uweza Art Gallery is beneficial to Kibera is that even though it is based in the biggest slum in Kenya, the art is easily accessible to buyers around the world. Artwork created by people living in slums helps to spread global awareness of the problems these individuals encounter. Living in Kibera presents a lot of adversity, but the Uweza Art Gallery is a creative hub that is a beacon of hope for the people of this slum in Kenya.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

The 2013 Kenyan ElectionOn Monday, the first general elections since December 2007 were held in Kenya. In 2007, the Kenyan election resulted in weeks of bloodshed, making this election an important push for political peace. These elections are also the first held under the new constitution passed during the 2010 referendum designed to avoid violence. Millions of Kenyans arrived at polling stations to cast ballots and vote for their representatives, members of parliament, governors, senators, and president. Running for President are Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta along with his running mate William Ruto are facing trial by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, accused of organizing the riots that took place in the 2007 Kenyan election.

In the minds of every Kenyan election is the violence that occurred in 2007. After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected, riots erupted all over Kenya. Supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, were enraged by allegations that the election was rigged by supporters of Kibaki. Ethnic violence erupted between members of the Kikuyu, Kibaki’s tribe, and the Luo and Kalenjin tribes, as opposed to the Kikuyu. Eventually, an agreement was reached wherein Kibaki would hold the position of President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga would be Prime Minister. Up to 1,000 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 displaced during the riots which lasted for more than a week. In light of the violence caused by the disputed and controversial election of five years ago, Kenyatta, Ruto, and other major politicians have urged voters to “keep the peace.”

In preparation for this recent election, people stocked up on supplies, food, and fuel, in case of riots did break out. Stores were closed and the roads were empty of cars. People strayed from ethnically-mixed urban areas fearing violence. There was a heavy security presence with trucks of police patrolling polling stations. Unfortunately, the day was not without some incidents of violence. In Kilifi, Mandera, and Changamwe, several people, civilians and police officers alike, were killed. A group of armed men attacked a police post in Mombasa killing at least ten people, including two police officers. The separatist Mombasa Republican Council has denied accusations that they were responsible for organizing some of these attacks. It is uncertain whether the violence that did break out is connected to voting. Police were critiqued as being “ill-prepared” for violence that occurred near polling stations.

The weather was hot and the voting process was slow with faulty biometric voting kits at some stations causing delays. In Nairobi and Kibera, lines stretched for more than a kilometer and people waited up to nine hours in sweltering heat complaining about the slow process to cast their vote. Despite these technical glitches and occurrences of violence, the underlying theme seemed to be the determination of the Kenyan population to cast their votes. People began lining up at five in the morning, an hour before polls opened, and many of the 30,000 polling stations remained open an hour after the official closing times with long lines of people refusing to leave until they vote. At two in the morning in Kisumu, people were blowing vuvuzelas, an alarm to call people to the polling stations early. Thousands were already in line at four in the morning, two hours before the poll opened. This election was commented as being the most complicated election that Kenya ever held, but also one of the most peaceful. It was a vast improvement from the process of the previous election that showed many discrepancies.

Last Monday truly was a “historic day” for Kenya. In Kibera, a man was seen painting “Peace Wanted Alive” on the walls and roads. “We have been waiting for this for the past five years,” said Anthony Wachira, a Kenyan who had been waiting in line for hours to vote. “Above everything we want to vote for peace.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: BBCBBC, CNNNY Times