Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Princess Project Launch

ICA, Faulu Kenya, and Population Council are collaborating to put on a launch of the Princess Project. It will be held on the 3rd of December, in the heart of Kibera, and preparations for the event are now under way!

We are going to have the girls involved in the programme perform skits, poems, and other activities related to what they have learned so far in their sessions.

It's a day to have fun, reach out to the community, and involve the parents of the girls participating.

We're looking forward to this exciting, interesting, and interactive day!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

My Story: Teen Pregnancy

I am 20 years old. I am a first born in a family of six. We all live in the Lindi Village of Kibera, with both parents and my six-year-old daughter. My siblings are all in school and my mother is a housewife. My father, the sole breadwinner for the family works with a security firm as a guard in industrial area in the outskirts of the city.

It was not my intention to get pregnant that early, but I had a boyfriend who was also my neighbour. He gave me money to cater for my needs like pads, lotion, and toiletries, and he would even buy food for my family at times. When I got pregnant, my parents wanted to know who was responsible so that he could take accountability for our daughter, but he denied responsibility and moved to another house without telling me where he was.

My parents suggested I procure an abortion because they could hardly provide for the entire family and this was an extra burden to them, but we could not afford the abortion money, so I had to carry the pregnancy out through delivery.

I decided to work as a laundress in a nearby estate along with other women in the community, so that I could earn some savings, which could help me support my child and myself, and earn money to open a sukuma wiki (vegetable) kiosk.

After some few months I started operating the kiosk, which provided well for my family and me until I delivered a baby girl. A year later, I applied to join a nearby secondary school and through my savings from selling the sukuma wiki, I paid for a whole year.

I knew that I would have difficulties in the second year, so I applied for a government scholarship to finance the remaining three years. Due to good performance, I got the scholarship, which provided for the rest of my secondary education. I did very well and attained good grades that would enable me to join a public university in Kenya. However, I might not be able to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse because my family and I cannot afford fees for my university.

I am currently volunteering with ICA as a mentor empowering girls in life skills, reproductive health and financial education. It is my hope that they will be able to make informed decisions and choices for better lives in this community.

My Story: Migration into City Slum Kibera

I came to Kibera in 1994 to come and stay with my dad. My parents divorced when I was two years old. My dad married another wife and my mom was the one to take care of us. We were two children, Titus and myself. When I was barely five years old, my mom passed away. From then life was difficult. Even finding something to eat was hard. I ran from the rural area to Nairobi thinking it would better my life. Jobless in the Nairobi streets, being arrested by the town council was the daily routine. I saw my fellow children going to school being carried by a bus; I though of myself getting a better education but no one was there to listen to me.

One chilly morning, I came into contact with my uncle while picking food from the trash. He picked me and brought me to my father who by that time had a wife and a family. I stayed with my dad, but life grew harder and harder. The family was huge and it was survival for the fittest in terms of getting food and basic needs.
The stress of this life caused my father to become harsh. He came home drunk; he would send us to sleep outside; and he did not value education. He would beat my stepmother every day. I remember one night, they fought until my stepmother fell unconscious with bruises all over her body.

One morning in the hood, my friend who by that time was working as a volunteer at ICA approached me. He introduced me to their organization to come and see what they were doing. I didn’t know that was the beginning of a transformation in my life.

They taught me about gender violence. I went through the training and I was really empowered. And I learned to forgive my father and to deal with the situation when it occurred. I also engaged in their IT program. I was taught IT skills. I completed it and I am giving back to the youths in the community by teaching them. I really appreciate ICA for empowering me and letting me value life and transform other youths. Big up ICA kudos!

My Story: Life in Kibera

I moved to Kibera in 2000 after my father resigned from his job, and at first life was not easy because of the new Kibera environment that I was exposed to. Until then, I had been the kind of a person that would speak negatively about Kibera since it was a slum. I never imagined that such a time would come but I had to face reality.

Having been born and brought up in a secure area, with all social amenities available, the adjustment I had to go through was drastic. Waking up to a noisy neighbourhood with open drainages and sharing bathrooms was something I had to work hard to deal with.

I had to adapt to the environment, like being transferred from my primary school to join another school and making new friends. Life was not easy, but even with all the challenges, I managed to finish my primary school education and join a secondary school in the rural area for four years.

After my secondary education, I had to come back and apply for my college education. I stayed for two years without attending school, and during these years, life for me was difficult.

I had friends who exposed me to drugs like miraa and marijuana, and robbery life just to get fast money to buy clothing and shoes to be on the fashion trend.

After a year, I made the decision to have a better life, and got a sponsor who took me to school for computer studies for a year. Currently, I am at university studying Social Development. Life can still be challenging though. Sometimes I have to walk four kilometres (2.5 miles) to school or to Kibera at night, which can be dangerous, because I can’t afford the bus, and school fees are still an issue. Above all, life for me must continue despite its trials.

My Story: Aftermath of Post-Election Violence in Kibera

In 2007 and 2008, everybody - everything came to a standstill, just after the announcement of the presidential election results. What followed was a clash between the two opposing tribes in Kibera. Chaos emerged as people poured from their houses with weapons. I watched helplessly as my house was torched and my property destroyed. Many lost their lives.

Everything I had worked for in years since I came to Nairobi went to ashes in one day. The fact that I am a Luo living in an area dominated by Kikuyus cost me my life as I knew it, and I had nothing to show anymore for working the whole of that time.

Life hasn’t been easy since then, and the more I strive to come to a favourable condition, the more standards of living rise. I have no parents to call on, and it is my responsibility to take care of my siblings, but I don’t have the proper education to find a well-paying job. I wake up every day hoping to get a call from the organizations that I have been trying to secure jobs with, but all I get are rejections. I only wish I could further my education and get a job that could pay my bills and help me save money so that my children never go through this life of torture and suffering.

There’s still a ray of hope that I can.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Eagle Project

 The trainings are under way, and recruitment of Form Four Students, our target group, has begun. We hope that they join our program for the next three months as they await their KCSE results, due out in February.

Happyland is going great! We have events every Saturday. Last week we had a small bash just to bring smiles to the kids and to have fun. We had a dancing competition that Tush won, we played games, we sang, and told stories.

Community Museum

Ken and the new amazing intern, Aileen are currently working on getting the community museum in place. We are going to come up with three major aspects that are:

1. A video highlighting all important sites throughout Kibera, and recorded interviews with community members running those sites.

2. Photo displays of the people, sites and programs important in the community displaying their locations,  what they have done, and their significance to Kibera.

3. A handbook highlighting different sites, economic activities, various businesses, structures, routes, and cultures (food, language, and traditions).

Stay tuned for our progress as we gather the components in the next few weeks!

Friday, 8 July 2011


(from left to right)

Stephen Kennedy Omolo (Ken) has been at ICA the longest of the four, he joined ICA when it was still known as ISSA, as a Mr. Kibera pageant contestant in 2007. After which he was the ambassador to spear head the campaign on Peace and Environment. Later on, he was heading the health and environment program from 2008 to 2010.  Ken has a passion for acting, participating in the Wasanii Wa Amani that was a partnership with Carolina for Kibera (CFK). He also participated in the Amnesty International Campaign against forced evictions. And later he was one of the 15 thespians trained by PSI to work on the implementation of Sita Kimya campaign. Currently, he is the theatre team coordinator and the book-keeper. He is a graduate  in Business Administration from Kenya Polytechnic University College.

Stephen Omondi Okello (Steve) joined ICA last year in February, as then the 15 actors trained by Population Service International (PSI) , to implement the project of Sita Kimya. Later, he was recruited as the Eagle Project Coordinator in the IT field and continues his work in that today. Also, Steve is currently implementing an after school program for the youth in the area on Sunday afternoons, with educational movies and games. Lastly, Steve has been involved in starting a set-book screening every Saturday afternoon for form three and form four students. He is studying Community Development at the University of Nairobi and as the first born, he is an immense help to his family living in Kibera. He is passionate about his work and his motto is “Do what you love, and love what you do.”

Timothy Mutinda (TMK) is the newest member of ICA, he was involved in the Sita Kimya campaign, and he currently assists in the after school program on Saturdays and Sundays. Living in Kibera, he is passionate about the issues that face the current youth and seeks to better his community.

Wyckliffe Okello was introduced to ICA last year in September, through our involvement with the Sita Kimya campaign. Wiky has lived in Kibera for the last 17 years, he loves football and working with children. At ICA, he is currently working on the Eagle Project with Steve, also he his assisting in the after school set-book screening program. He enjoys to work hard and plans in the future to attend college to study lab technician.  

These are the four men who run the ICA office, everyday and work so hard to make their local community a better place. ICA would not be surviving without them.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ashlie Williams and Chessie Merrill

ICA welcomes two new interns for the next two months, Ashlie and Chessie. Ashlie is a senior from Brown University majoring in Development Studies and Chessie is a senior at the University of Washington studying Political Science and Philosophy. 

Ashlie was previously in Kenya at the end of 2010 on a study abroad program, she fell in love with the people and culture of Kenya and we are happy she has returned to work with us in Kibera. She is looking forward to working with us, she will be working with Steve and Andrew on the Eagle Project, and with Ken and Sabina on the Mr/Miss Kibera project. 

Chessie has never been to Kenya and is looking forward to getting to know the country, we are doing our best to make her feel very welcome. She will be working with Osewe on ICA's social media, developing our community museum and assisting Tonny/Osewe in development of monthly themes for Jumuia Zalendo. 

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Importance of Play

Our latest post comes from guest blogger Lynsey Farrell, the director of the American University Abroad: Kenya program and a friend of ICA.

Back when I was a kid growing up in the 80s in Glendale, Arizona, our parents entertained us by enrolling us in various programs offered by the Parks and Recreation department of the city.  We did softball and swimming during the summer and soccer in the fall.  There were summer programs in arts and crafts, and I distinctly remember wearing fluorescent pink, orange, and green scarves for a talent show where we sang and danced along to the latest Whitney Houston hit. All of these activities kept us busy and physically healthy, taught us teamwork, and encouraged us to learn in creative and unique ways.  And all of these activities were subsidized by a city that sought to provide ways for its citizens of all ages to feel like they were a part of the city and to feel connected to each other.

Of course, most people idealize their childhood, but I know that early engagement in the parks and recreation department is one of the ways to lay a foundation for a decent and engaged citizenry, and this engagement lies outside of cultural or ethnic difference.  Non-profit entities like the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club have also seen the potential of “play,” and it’s a common occurrence in churches and other non-governmental institutions to keep young people busy in sports and recreation.  Across the US and in the developed world, providing productive activities outside of traditional education has been a proven method to produce well-rounded, active, and engaged young people.

The reality in nascent urban spaces in the global south looks very different.   Play is not something that is considered a right – especially as post-independent governments have squandered money for civic services.  Cities, especially those in Africa, lack neighborhood playing fields and other city-sponsored youth activities.   The worst hit by poor planning are the informal settlements that grew in leaps and bounds as rural people sought fortune or exposure or modernity and converged in unplanned spaces.  Many thought (or wished) that this migration was temporary – but even now in 2011, Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, has seen continued growth rates that exceed any attempts to make decent, low-cost housing affordable – or public spaces that promote the idea of an urban community.  Due to a variety of political and economic reasons, the majority of young Nairobians are now experiencing childhoods where the only place to play or learn is on dirt fields fringed with trash and in environments of heightened insecurity. 

The Kibera slum/informal settlement/neighborhood – located near enough to the city centre and industrial area to remain a popular stopping point for new migrants – is one such space where the basic need to play is limited.  Most non-governmental organizations working there have highlighted the important sectors of health, sanitation, or housing as ways to alleviate some of the major problems of unplanned settlements. However, little is being done to work on and build an urban citizenry.  The ethnically diverse community still finds it difficult to feel like they are part of the city on the whole since the land where they live is deemed illegal.  Stereotypes of who a Kiberan is continue to further marginalize the slum from its more affluent neighbors.

When I first entered Kibera more than five years ago to begin research to understand this kind of marginalization and its effects on urban culture, I immediately noticed two things.  The first was that it did not match the images I had seen of such communities in popular media – surprisingly, many people there were busy, productive, and surviving.   The houses were certainly ugly and small, the streets were filled with sewage and trash, and the environment was generally hazardous, but the energy of people living there was lively.  Many times it has crossed my mind as I wander through Kibera’s pathways that this is a place where people are waiting to launch – meaning they have skills and desire but lack opportunity to grow.  The second thing I noticed was that there was an alarming lack of spaces for young people to play or congregate.  Young men and women – missing opportunity and structure – spent their time idling around bus stops or other informal public space.  I learned that this often led to their introduction to illegal brew and drugs, gambling, and even crime.  Youth unemployment has also been a major contributor to the ongoing ethnic violence seen in Kibera.  Younger children, too, had no place to go to be active – choosing to play on trash piles and near pit latrines and open sewers.  Football is an avenue that has been popularly shared as a means to address ethnic conflict and youth idleness – but outside the football clubs there are few avenues to be active, to learn, or to participate.  Neighborliness exists in part because low-income people depend a great deal on each other to meet basic needs, but citizenship and the feeling that Kibera is part of something bigger is largely absent.  Public parks, playing fields and community centres are important spaces that have been left out of Kibera’s development.

The Eagle Project through the Initiative for Community Action – a community-based organization located deep within Kibera – is one enterprise seeking to create a public and safe space for young people to grow up thinking and dreaming of a world beyond Kibera’s poor sanitation and sub-standard housing.  There are already plans to partner with FilmAid to do screenings of socially-focused films from across Africa, and the organization has already begun to teach courses in technology on their several computers.  The Centre also plans to provide after-school programming for local children and build up a library of resources.  Additionally, recreational activities like pool, darts or arts and crafts are in the works as a way to pull youth in and then mentor and educate.  Its long-term vision is that the Eagle Project will grow into a space the whole community can learn in and participate – from programming for the elderly to basic adult literacy classes to programmes for the whole family. The philosophy of ICA is that long-term engagement and personal connection are two of the most effective methods to create change.  In combination with other programming specific to promoting civic participation and pride, ICA has a holistic vision to create well-rounded and active citizens in Kibera. 

Below, ICA member Steve Omondi Tush, who teaches ICT classes through the Eagle Project, discusses the activities associated with and importance of our Youth Resource Centre.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

More Launch Details

ICA's re-launch will be held this Saturday (April 9th) from 2-5 pm at the Laini Saba grounds in Kibera. We can't wait to see you there!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

You're Invited!

We at ICA would like to extend to you a warm welcome to our April 9th re-launch to celebrate our new Strategic Plan and the new ICA! The launch will take place at the Laini Saba grounds in Kibera on Saturday, April 9th, time TBA.

Activities will include speeches by outgoing director Christopher "OJ" Abuor and former Mr and Miss Kiberas, a traveling exhibit featuring Kibera icons and leaders from our Community Museum project, and performances by our ever-popular Participatory Educational Theatre (PET) team which will focus on themes of citizenship, patriotism, and civic responsibility. The theme of the day is "ICA: Promoting Local Leadership and Civic Responsibility." Refreshments and entertainment by local performance groups will also be provided.

This is a big day for us - we can't wait to share our new ideas with you and re-assert our mandate as Kibera's premier youth-focused community-based organization. We'll see you there!!

Announcing the New ICA!

Welcome to the Initiative for Community Action (ICA), formerly ISSA Kibera. Some of you may know us from work we've done in the past under our old name - programs like the beloved Mr and Miss Kibera pageant and our Participatory Educational Theatre (PET) performances, which tackle social issues such as gender-based violence, ethnic tension, and HIV/AIDS.

Though we've been rather quiet with our programming lately, ICA is back - and we've better than ever. After several months of critically looking at who we are, what we do, and what role we want to be playing within the Kibera community, ICA is ready to launch our new 2011-2013 Strategic Plan, which will guide our programming and our vision for the next three years.

We're so excited to unveil both our new SP and some new programs we're currently working on - things like the Kibera Community Museum, which will highlight Kibera's icons and heroes, and the Jumuia Zalendo program, a civic responsibility campaign which aims to create dialogue among the community about just what it means to be a civically responsible Kenynan citizen and Kibera resident. (For more information about our programs, please check out the "Our Programs" tab at the top of this page).

The re-launch party to celebrate the new SP (and the new ICA!) will take place at the Laini Saba grounds in Kibera on Saturday, April 9th. We can't wait to see you there!

From left to right, ICA members Ken Omolloh, Steve Tush, Timothy Mutinda, and director Tonny Mateng'e.