left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Poverty breeds hope in Kenyan slum

Updated: 2016-05-31 17:16
By Pan Zhongming in Nairobi, Kenya (chinadaily.com.cn)

THE first day of June is International Children's Day.

A special day for children to enjoy, but one far from the minds of those living in the Mathare slum – the second largest slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

It's a place rife with poverty, violence, drugs and illicit brews – a perfect storm to send children down the wrong path.

One young boy living in the slum – a talented rapper and dancer – is from a family of five. His parents have been sick and bed-ridden for some time, unable to take care of their children.

The family lives in a dark room. It's less than 9 square meters.

The jobless parents of two other boys, and a girl, make money working as temporary laborers, but cannot earn enough to feed their family.

But many children suffering this plight are being saved, thanks to two young men born and raised inside the same slum.

Jospeh Mwangi, 23, and Dominic Senerwa, 21 are the co-founders of the Sejo Rooney Kid & Youth Talent Center – a Community Based Organisation set up in December last year.

"All we see here is just desperation in drugs, poverty, and dirty environment," Dominic said.

"If we are able to save even 10 of these boys and girls from their mire, our humble efforts shall have been rewarded."

Like its founders, the center grew from humble beginnings.

In 2012, the young duo set up the Sejo Rooney Football Club with a meager 5,000 shillings – the equivalent of just 35 yuan.

The club used an abandoned public toilet as its office. A back room in the toilet even served as a home for the two young founders.

Now, the center takes care of 250 children – 150 boys and 100 girls – from the slum, teaching them football, music and rap.

The age of the children at the club ranges from five to 18 years. Different age groups are trained at separate times.

The club's football team is trained on a nearby football ground, complete with two netted goals on either end , yet surrounded by wild grass.

The training worked. In 2014, the Sejo team were crowned champions of a community football competition. As a result, they were rewarded with a uniform.

But, it's only worn on special occasions.

On weekend mornings, groups of children follow in their footsteps – playing football on the ground in shoes, slippers, or with bare feet.

But it's not just football the center deals with – the two young men also run a choir and music rehearsals for girls and boys with a more creative flare.

"Under certain circumstances, if a child has shown his or her gift, we even recruit the kid at the age of three," Dominic said.

Jane Apondi, 12, Vivian Atieno, 11, and Roda Winny, 5, are sisters living in the slum. They're gifted in poetry and rap.

While reciting the poem "There is light at the end of the tunnel" – composed by the two young founders – the girls appear to see hope for their future.

Another girl, Seline, gave a rap performance titled "Say no to drugs, Say no to AIDS".

An ambitious and confident Joseph says "Sejo Rooney will produce the best musicians and sportsmen in this country."

The two young men are also temporary manual laborers in the community, earning an irregular income each month.

They both give up half of their salaries to help run the club.

They've bought footballs and some sports gear, bringing fun to the children and enriching their after-school life.

"Material poverty does not bother us," Joseph said.

"What irks is that here we have nothing to look up to and even when we seek for a new experience, we have no capital, no support."

The center is now planning a kid's talent show in August at the open ground in Mathare. It aims to raise 5 million shillings, which will be used to purchase a new bus, musical and sports equipment for the kids at the center.


  • Group a building block for Africa

    An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.