Making Second-hand New

Some time ago I wrote a story here about a slum named Mitumba, "second-hand" in Swahili.
Here is that story in more depth, as promised.

 I still am not sure how 20,000 adults and an estimated 5000 more kids can live in this tiny space.  For some perspective, that runway is not huge: the biggest airplanes we saw taking off there were twin-engine prop planes.

They're sandwiched between the airport, a housing development with a twelve-foot tall brick fence topped by broken bottles, and  Kenya's National Park, which is also fenced off securely.  No wonder it is easy for these people to slip into the identity of second-hand clothing.

Pastor Shadrack Ogembo (pictured here with the small financial gift we brought along for his ministry) first took an interest in Mitumba several years ago.  Since then has established an organization called Rural Evangelistic Mission (REM). It includes a church, an orphanage currently helping 22 boys and girls, and a Christian school where kids are fed knowledge and, maybe more importantly, lunch.  REM also helps coordinate other groups when they come in to help.  For example, when we were in Mitumba there were a couple of American firefighters dispensing de-worming pills and other basic health care from REM's building.

This is Frances, "father" of 11 boys and eleven girls who are no longer sleeping in the muddy alleyways of Mitumba.  They prefer not to call it an orphanage, because that implies the kids have no parents.  They may not have biological parents, but Frances and his wife are probably better ones than the alcoholic, abusive fathers and busy mothers these kids started out with.  At any rate they are not HIV positive.

The water that little boy is drinking in the picture above is some of the cleanest water in the area, because it comes from a relatively deep well and has been boiled.  But one of the things that made me sad was seeing kids in the slum eye our bottles of water.  Jim from the medical group brought in a sweating three-gallon jug still cold from the grocery store, and I had to watch it while he was occupied lest it disappear.  I just wanted to walk around the corner and leave it outside someone's door.  Children should not consider clean water a luxury item!

Our team was a bit concerned about the violence these boys appeared to exhibit, but it turned out to be inspired by X-men and nothing serious.  I should have known.

During the 2007-08 post-election riots, Mitumba was the only temporary settlement in the nation with no violence.  We heard stories of how the men and older boys took turns standing guard at night during those uneasy times, and it was clearly a point of pride.  Mitumba is a community where the people stand together, even if they originate from eleven different tribes, and that community feeling is built largely through the church and school run by REM.

 See REM's website to learn more about what is happening in Mitumba, and how you might be able to help.