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Excel Project, Kibera Slum, Nairobi April
Kenya is one of the countries with highest income disparity ratios in the world, with the majority of the population living below the poverty line, i.e. on less than 1 US $ per day. Situated on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, lies Kibera slum one of Africa's biggest. Almost everybody in Kibera lives below the poverty line. As there are no official figures, no one knows how many people live there; estimates vary between 700, 000 and a million. Kibera is a vast area of tin roofed shacks, hidden alleyways and many of East Africa's poorest people. The inhabitants of Kibera face a magnitude of problems related to basic needs including, 'poor shelter, lack of food and education, disintegration of families, lack of healthcare facilities and the deadly HIV/AIDS pandemic'. There are at least fifty thousand AIDS orphans in Kibera, with a fifth of the residents HIV positive.
It is often the children who suffer most in Kibera. Many are brought up by single mothers who have no income generating activity to support them. They often do not have enough food to eat, most only have a few items of clothes and many have no shoes. Kibera is a vast labyrinth of alleyways and shacks, more than 4km's long by 2km's wide. There is very little running water and electricity. Toilets are long drops each is shared by many residents. Drains are open trenches running between the 'houses'. Houses are made of mud with tin roofs made from scarp metal. When it rains the place flows with red mud and it is extremely difficult to navigate the narrow alleyways, especially for an outsider. The children have few safe or clean places to play between the open drains filled with dirty water and rubbish.
The Excel project is a safe havenfor these children who are primarily the focus of their work. The project was started in 1994 on the site of a former rubbish dump. At this project the people of Kibera are working from inside their communities to create a better life for themselves and their children. The project started as a feeding and literacy programme for the children of the slum. Today the project runs various programmes as detailed below. It has trained counsellors who identify the neediest in the surrounding slum and enrol them in their projects to help them. As they learnt to support the children they must also support the adults hence such initiates as IGA (Income generating activities).
Zuri Design works directly with the crafts centre at Excel.The money generated through craft purchases has generated a substantial income for the project which has been used in many of their programs. Income generated has gone mainly to support the Olympic Vocational Training Centre, a centre which focuses on employment training and career development for youth. Thanks to contracts with leading UK Charities Zuri was able to give large orders to the crafts centre which made a substantial difference to the centre.
Feeding Centre
The feeding program provides a daily nutritional meal for 200 of the poorest children of Kibera. For many this is the only food they get each day. The program costs approximately 40 per day. The children come to the centre to be fed. Many of the same children are enrolled in the centres informal school. The feeding program has recently bought an oven for baking bread. As well as making food for the children the aim is to use this oven to start a income generating activity for the mothers of the children. Zuri Design is focusing on helping this project to be established.
Excel non-formal school was initiated as a result of research carried out by different researchers in Kibera in 1998 to establish the number of children out of school and reasons as to why they are not attending. It became evident that 90% of the children in Kibera come from families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS or from extremely poor households who could not even afford a simple school uniform for their children and instead encourage them to work as child labourers to supplement their meagre incomes. Despite the fact that the Government declared free primary education in 2005 which saw 1.3 million children joining school for the first time, an estimated 2 million children and youth living in especially difficult circumstances (including Kibera) could not access the 'free' education because they could not afford a simple school uniform (compulsory and also surrounded by a social stigma) or any of the other hidden costs of attending school - pencils, paper, lunches, shoes etc. The Excel informal school was established for these particular children within its local area. Here the children do not require uniforms (see photos above). They are also provided with pencils and books and are taught how to read and write as well as following the national curriculum. It is in fact ran in the same way as a formal school save for the flexibility in the dressing code. At present Oxfam is building a new school for these children. The majority require sponsorship to help pay for uniforms and other necessities to allow them to continue their education past the years of free primary education. If you would like to help by sponsoring a child from Kibera through the Excel and Zuri project please ask about our special gifts.
Olympic Vocational Training Centre
The focus of the training centre is to enhance the employment skills and provide career development to the under privileged youth of Kibera. Training is provided for the following four industries:
" Hairdressing and Beauty"
" Dressmaking"
" Fashion and Design"
" Arts and Crafts"
Arts and Crafts
Zuri Design works closely with the Arts and Crafts centre. The centre makes sisal bags, wooden picture frames, beautifully decorated bags from Madagascar and a wide range of art work. The goods are of the highest quality, and made from a range of locally sustainable materials. For example, the sisal bags bought by Zuri Design start as baskets hand woven up country in Kenya. Excel buy these at a fair price directly from a women's group. Next the baskets are changed into bags, the youth at Kibera add handles, lining and finally decorate the bags with masia beads, shells and other materials. Excel designs are constantly changing to keep up with local fashions. Each bag is individually done meaning no two are exactly the same
In 2005 the profits Excel raised from supplying these bags to Zuri Design went a long way in supporting the hairdressing and beauty saloon. In 2005 the craft centre profits helped to finance the re-opening of the hairdressing and beauty school, which unfortunately had been closed for a number of years due to a lack of funds. The class room was also refurbished. Specifically the profits from Zuri Design purchases helped finance the setting up costs and also covered the teacher's wages until the school became sustainable. There are now approximately 40 students at this school and it is running well. Locals in the area can come here for discounted beauty treatments and hair dressing, giving the students a chance to practice. Most of the students, aged between 16 and 25, were at home previously as many could not afford to finish there schooling or simply did not have enough skills or qualifications to find work. There are many young people in Kibera who would love to learn the skills offered at this school. If you would like to sponsor someone through the 6 or 12 month training course please ask about our 'special gifts'.
To see the training centre running to its maximum potential is wonderful after the centre sat empty for so long. It now offers hope to many young people.
Sports Facilities
Excel runs a number excellent sporting activities. Some are coached by youth from the surrounding slum, of whom some are former street boys. They offer football and basketball coaching. The project also runs an impressive gym which offers a number of classes from aerobics to weight lifting. The sports centre offers a welcome break from life in the slums for many youth. It also gives aspiring sportsmen and women a place where they can practice freely.
The sports centre, as with all Excels work, relies on outside assistance and well wishers. If you can help iby donating second hand football strips - perhaps your school is changing its strip, the centre would be grateful to receive these, or any second hand sporting equipment. The football team does compete locally but many of the teams are without strips - some of the boys even play barefoot. Again please see our 'special gifts' page for more information on how to help.
The Bead Making Program
Managed by the Excel project is the Zuri sponsored bead making project. It is here that beads are created from cow bone. Please see our detailed information on this project here.
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