Thursday felt a lot like a Friday, we knew we had the day off the next day, and the teaching was minimal with activities taking up most of the day. Henry didn’t come to class, but Moore still sat near the back and participated a lot more than usual, even coming up to the front of the class to explain some numbers (to be fair, I did almost force him into it, but he loved it). We conducted some class feedback, which included the fact that this course was for them, and they got out of it what they put into it. It was received with copious nods and a few “mhmm’s,” and there was the sense that people were really trying to learn, we even had to force them to go on their first break.
Later on that day, a man named Justice came to speak about an organization that provides loans and grants to start-ups that directly target the slums in one of three areas; health, education, environment. All the students were clearly really interested, and it sparked an idea in Erick’s head which he discussed with me over lunch. Essentially, he had created an energy device in high school for a science fair. Once the judges saw the blueprint, he said he could see that they wanted to copy it, so he snatched it away and never showed anyone after that… until me. I didn’t 100% understand the physics behind it, but it seemed pretty legitimate, so I got him to speak to Paul about making it a reality which Paul gladly agreed to do. During this conversation, the Mandazis were given out, which were awful. Erick agreed they weren’t great and came back after lunch with two chapati’s; one for me and one for himself. I tried to give him money, but he refused. It was an adorable gesture, but I felt very uncomfortable about the fact that he had paid for my lunch when he is from the slums of Kenya.
VJ had brought his laptop to share some photographs we had uploaded of Canada, and while the students went through those, I spoke with Joshua outside about the importance of doing extracurricular activities throughout your life, and challenges of the Kenyan slums. Our conversation was cut short by multiple selfies before the girls left, and then a hurried usher away from the classroom and into the slums of Mathare.
This was our first time actually delving into Mathare and… wow. I’m not sure I have visited an area in the world so objectively bad. The smell was nauseating, with rubbish scattered around on the floors, river banks, and houses mixed in with mud and sand. We crossed a semi-decent bridge and saw two large pigs covered in mud eating some plastic bottles, and the proceeded up a hill past all of the insanely drunk residents lolling by the side of the road. Paul explained that alcohol abuse was a huge issue in the slums, which was evident with every corner we turned on our Mathare tour. Arriving back to the car we drove home quietly, with the smell and sights still sharp in our memories and our hearts heavy as we left our students behind in their home.
How can two worlds be so different? How did I deserve such a life, when others were born into this? How can I even begin to comprehend the hardships they must face? How are they so happy and so clean?