Monday, 21 December 2009
So that was a long break since the last post, and there has been a lot of action since. The Up With Hope project was presented at the 11th annual Global Leadership Forum in Istanbul to delegates from all over the world and had an amazing reception.
The Up With Hope support group is constantly growing and continues to be the backbone of this organization. With out people's support and belief in our cause we would never have been able to have accomplished all of our goals and more.
I'll be in Nairobi within a few weeks to continue relations with the groups who have been working endlessly in the centres since we left.
I'm excited to see what 2010 is going to bring Up With Hope. I will definetily be updating this often when I am back in the hot, noisy, sleepless and amazing metropolis of Nairobi.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
WOW WOW WOwee. Yesterday from dawn to this mornings sunrise was one long hot party day. You know those days that start so early and alcohol consumption begins long before sunset, the hot sun beating down on you while one drink is as easily slurped as the next, and the next, going on well into the early morning hours. Well that was the kind of day we had. And it was more fun than driving backwards down a highway.
The launch went great. We had nothing to do with organizing it, which we were elated about. A massive crowd swarmed in as the area MP came to grace us with his honorable presence. Giving a long-winded twenty-minute speech. Old women danced and sang. Drunken people yelled about being hungry, it was your typical Kenyan ceremony in everyway. People gave us lots of love and it was nice.
Then we made our crew walk to our place where we cooked 25 kilos of beef for 60 people. It was so great to have the people over who we have spent so much time with in their crazy neighborhoods. We had people from all over Nairobi, and my bedroom was the grimiest, sweatiest, and smokiest of them all. At one point a 40-year-old haggard man was passed out on my bed. What was even better was for a while there was no electricity as well as no running water (we more often than not don’t have a drip of running water in the house). So we celebrated the launch of the business and our soon departure from this wonderful and insane city.
The area MP having a very Kenyan speech. Some how he managed to turn the direction of waste management into Politics. Its a constant campaign.
The unveiling of the centre also came with a long list of equipment that was supplied by the CDF for the groups we were working with who are doing garbage collection.
Here is a few of the people who we have been working with in the past 3 months. There is Mathare people and Makadara people here.
We are demonstrating our amazing plastic shredding technique with the new machine we bought for the centre.
Not everything is business.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
Saturday, 20 June 2009
We are having a launch for the project in Makadara on Friday at which point the machine should be in place and the equipment that the Local government has pledged to buy in support of the program should hopefully be ready to go. So as of Friday, conveniently our last day, we hope that both businesses are fully equipped with a building, a machine, the equipment, the training and the ability to fully run a waste management centre.
After the launch were having a BBQ at our place in the afternoon and have invited everyone we’ve worked with, in the past three months, plus all of our other friends, which should be a lot of fun.
I must add we're extremely pleased just how well everything turned out; it really couldn’t have gone any better than it has and just want to thank all of you who have supported this project, as it couldn’t have been possible without you.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Friday, 5 June 2009
Saturday, 30 May 2009
The man next to me in this photo is one of my biggest heroes. Jacob a.k.a Rasta is one cool cat.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Thursday, 21 May 2009
There is never a dull moment in Mathare. The community is vibrant and together. I could write a dozen stories of the things we’ve seen over the past few weeks but that would get tedious. One thing that really stands out in Mathare is the community justice that I have witnessed a few times now. On Tuesday there was an accused thief who was placed on a step and surrounded by angered residents. The accused pleaded and cried, denying any responsibility in the crime. A few men started beating him with there fists until a few other men came with a gigantic wooden club that looked like it was made for what it was about to be used for. The men took turns smashing the living daylight out of the screaming man. The noise of each smack against the skin rung out and I could see the eyes of the criminal which looked terrified and tortured. After more interrogation and a few more slaps to the face the man limped away. Some of the workers on the site told me that usually these people are killed if they don’t admit to the crime. But they can also be banished from the area. I was told that if someone is a victim of a robbery, instead of going to the police, they go to a local youth group and request justice. It’s not hat hard to get a group of idle youth to go beat on a scummy criminal. The police just take the criminals money and send him on his way. My favourite part of the whole thing was when the police walked up to the situation and inquired why they were beating the man. The locals answered indignantly that he was a thief. The police shrugged and kept walking at a slow pace.
The centre and youth hall that we are building is awesome. It’s been my favourite project yet. I think the reason for that is that Sean and I have been way more hands on with the building. Him and I did the entire two cement floors of the hall and centre and they look so good. Honestly we are proud of ourselves. I wish I could post photos of it right now but I need the photos from Sean’s camera and he is at work.
I took the day off work today because last night after work I had a malaria scare. I took a nap and could barely move out of bed. I’m feeling better today but I didn’t have enough energy to get to Mathare. I am very doubtful that I have anything worse than a small stomach bug. I’m not surprised considering the things I eat and ingest.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
The project in Mathare is by far our biggest one to date. Not only are we constructing a recycling centre, we are renovating the connecting youth hall, and by renovating it, I mean tearing it down and rebuilding it. The size of it was a little intimidating at first, especially when we started tearing everything down. Now as we have been working on it for the past week, everything is taking shape and everyone is feeling good.
The site we are building on is my favourite so far. It is situated in a core area where there is lots of human traffic and surrounded by apartment blocks. All day long we are watched by mothers doing laundry, selling vegetables and taking their kids for walks. By vagabonds and street kids with glue bottles hanging from their mouths and by people my age and older with no work in sight and nothing better to do than to sit in the shade and stare. Kids are constantly running around playing, often with just a tire or a piece of string pulled from a garbage heap and stopping every now and then to watch. As much as the people of Mathare like to watch us, I like to watch them. I feel as though my understanding of poverty is something that has no limit. I’ve been in this country for some time and still I find myself astonished at some of the conditions people have to live through. Mathare’s condition disturbing and the garbage is similarly overwhelming than that of Kibera’s. The smell we work in everyday can sometimes bring a tear to your eye
The crew of people we have working are vibrant and hard working. In Makadara we hired two females and can honestly say were very disappointed by their effort. In Mathare we have three females and they are all fantastic. One woman, Joyce is a powerhouse and is more hard working than many men on the crew. It’s really strange having to give orders to people. Sometimes the language barrier is a major headache but I try hard to make sure that everyone knows I’m their friend, because after all I’m in their hood and none of this would be happening if it weren’t for them.
Today was especially brutal. Sean and I dug a trench for about 6 hours in a place which not only used to be a dumping site but a place for pooing. As I was sweating all over my body under the intense sun, hurling the pick into the “dirt”, the soil would fly back and hit me in the face, at one point I licked my lips and the taste I felt on my tongue was the same taste as the smell I had been smelling all morning.
We hire a lunch spot across the way for the crew everyday and usually it is very enjoyable. Except for today. Sean and I were equally dying of hunger but much to our chagrin the daily special was “Matumbo” or what we would call cow stomach. Our hunger presided and we went for it. I’m not sure what was worse, the smell of the dish or the taste. The scent was like a rotten petting zoo and the taste was like a chewy garbage soaked piece of leather. Never again.
Our days are long and hard, waking up at 530 and usually arriving home at six or seven, with an hour and a half commute each way. That’s when Sean’s alarm clock isn’t waking us up at 3 am so we think its time for work, up until we’re making coffee and I look at my phone and see the real time. We slave all day throwing rocks, dirt and cement around and our hands are sore from the skin being shaved down. When we’re done, my body is fatigued and aching, we are covered in dirt, feces and sweat. but I can’t say that at the end of the day I have ever felt a better feeling.
I should be posting a new video soon and some photos of the construction in Mathare. For now here are some photos of the youth centre we pulled down and what garbage collection looks like in the slums.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Finished up with all of the major construction in Makadara on Thursday. Everyone was completely exhausted by the end of the whole thing. Luckily it was labour day weekend here in
We were invited to join a group of other foreigners working in
Now that we’re rested up Nathaniel and Sean are going to be moving their efforts over to Mathare for about two weeks to renovate the existing structure and convert it into a youth centre/ waste management centre. We’re still not 100% on the plan yet, but it looks like we’ll be using part of the area to store plastics and other recyclable from collections, the rest of the building will be upgraded to a community hall where the group uses the space to show soccer matches for a small fee and also rents it out for functions.
I’m going to continue to work with the Kibera group from last year at developing their door to door garbage collection business. Myself and some members from the NGO WorldBike have been working with the guys and girls from Kibera to make a solid business plan for the group to use as a guiding tool. The plan is almost done, next step is to do a pilot phase to see what works in reality and what doesn’t. We’ve made some good progress and the group has learned quite a deal about marketing, financial forecasts, staffing and all the other fun stuff you need to know when running a real business. It’s pretty awesome to keep working with these guys and see all of the familiar faces.
Time’s flying over here, we’re a third done already.
Il faut bouger bouger.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Today we had a visit from the Executive Director of Environment from Nairobi. I think this is the end of us working completely under the radar like we have up till now. When we were working in Kibera, there was not one peep from the city council because no one cares about that place. Now that we are somewhere else, people are raising all kinds of stinks and we are trying to roll with it as we keep working. It was silly for us to assume that we could just walk into a neighborhood and start building a massive centre with out getting caught. We tried at least..
Tomorrow after work we are heading to the coast for some heavy RnR in Mombasa. Friday here is Labour day so we will have a nice 3 day relaxation period and then back to work on monday. Now Im going to go home, make some tasty burritos, have a beer and PASS OUT.
Ill post some video or photos soon.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Next week is also the beginning of the waste Management training that will see about 60 youth, divided into three groups over the next three weeks, trained on waste management techniques such as plastics sorting and processing, briquette making, and composting.
We have also continued working closely with our friends in Kibera, trying to build on what we have already accomplished with them there, and are hopeful that things will continue to move forward
Thursday, 23 April 2009
We have learned that three youth that were supposed to be a part of our program in Mathare died last week. Initially we were told that they had been in a car accident during a weekend trip out of town, later we received news that they were actually killed by police after a case of mistaken identity. This is disgusting but all too common. The police here are a pretty pathetic bunch of people, they make the VPD look like a group of angels.
Corruption in Nairobi is insane, personally I've been seeing a lot more of it this time around than last year. It's everywhere, there's nothing you can't pay your way through. The politicians are the worst, the majority of the time they are fat men in suits that walk around with an arrogant smile on their faces.
In the case of the youth that were murdered, they were apparently mistaken for gang members and killed. The criminal justice system is a joke here, which shouldn't really come as a surprise but when you see it first hand it is sobering. This information is second hand, so we don't know the full story yet, but it doesn't sound like a stretch.
On top of this story, we are now getting people who have been popping out of nowhere to start bugging the makadara youth groups for bribes. I won't name names, but people who should be happy that something is even being in their neighbourhoods are now taking the opportunity to attempt to fill their pockets. Officials, elders, and others are telling the youth group members that they want a piece of the pie. These folk see white people in their neighbourhoods working with the youth groups and now think that they have millions of dollars. There's been threats that if they don't get something they will incite the neighbourhoods against the groups, luckily we are working with groups that have lived their whole lives in these areas and are respected by their peers. Farouk and Michael, who are the leaders of the Kamaliza group have done an amazing job of dealing with all of the chaos surrounding this project.
I don't mean to sound too negative here, but this is the reality of Kenya. I should also say that there are good politicians and police that are trying to make this place better, but unfortunately they seem to be the minority. This wouldn't be a real project if there weren't any bumps in the road.
In the mean time we move forward and try to create a positive change, don't have any other options.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
After too many meetings than I care to remember, we are finally doing what we set out to do. It is very rewarding now to be here, seeing this project evolve. The past two days has been a milestone in our group’s efforts. Yesterday the Chief of the Makadera constituency came and gave the site the official opening. It was a symbolic gesture that was mainly for him to brag about his involvement in the community. The application process for the construction went well and the selected youth are keen and extremely hard working. We have accomplished in two days time what took six days in Kibera (mind that the ground in Kibera is much worse). I also have eight blisters on my left hand. It looks like leprosy.
The sun is ridiculously savage here. As much as we want to be able to be working as hard as the rest of the guys on the site, we do not have the skin for it. We can only go for so long before it feels like our skin is cracking to pieces. So we spend as long as we can, doing what needs to be done until we have to run to the cool shade like vampires. It has also been raining. Yesterday I left my only pair of shoes (suede) outside and got they were soaked. So this morning I had to walk to work in flip-flops. Our walk doesn’t include pavement and goes through the slum outside our flat. After it rains the paths are nothing but black sewage mud mixed with garbage. My feet kept sticking in the mud and the sandals kept breaking so I would have to pick the decrepit things up and fix them. By the middle of the day my feet were black up to my ankles. Thanks to Sean, he went and bought me a pair of rubber boots.
The community we are in (Makadera) is not as visually provoking as Kibera but is still as affected by unemployment and other issues. The thing I like about working here is that the garbage isn’t absolutely everywhere already. This is really a great preventative measure to avoid a totally polluted neighborhood. As in some other slums, the garbage seems unsurpassable. The youth are excited about this opportunity that has been brought to them. I don’t have a single doubt that these groups are going to work their hardest to make this project work. After all, this project’s success doesn’t lie in our hands but in the group’s. We are simply providing them with a small service, should they choose to exploit it, is entirely up to them.
Be sure that now that we are on the ground getting things done, we’ll be posting a lot more. And we want peoples input!
Monday, 13 April 2009
Wow I cannot believe I actually got this video up. I won't get into detail about the difficulties of internet usage here, but getting this little video I made online was no simple task. I made a montage of some stuff while doing field work and other shots around town, just to try to portray the diversity of Nairobi.
It's not very difficult to pull out your camera and get some amazing shots here, there is always something going on. Luckily here (unlike Vancouver) there is an abundance of colour and noise which always makes filming and taking pictures fun, as long as you aren't flashing your gear too hard. I just don't know how often I am going to be able to go to these lengths to get video on here.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
For those of you that don’t know about the project; we (Sean McHugh, Nathaniel Canuel and Justin Sekiguchi of the Environmental Youth Alliance) are starting a waste management program that empowers community-based youth groups in their garbage collections and recycling. We started our project last year with the Soweto Youth Group based in the slum of Kibera to build a waste management centre and we have now expanded the program to two more slums: Mathare and Makadara.
This year we have invited all of the youth groups from the Mathare and Makadara constituencies to participate in the program and to create a network that allows them to share resources, knowledge and markets. We will be building a waste management centre in each area and it will be shared by the various groups that serve that region. Construction will be followed by business and marketing development workshops to help the groups improve their existing services.
Yesterday’s turnout was over 35 heads of each group which represent somewhere around 600-700 youth. The presentation was given by EYA manager Melanda Schmid. The room was full of youth that have been doing door to door garbage collection for years and combined have an enormous amount of experience and knowledge. The overall reaction to the program was very positive and having all of the different groups in one room was an amazing sight.
During the discussion portion of the meeting we had asked the audience various questions to learn about their experiences with waste collection, when we asked the groups to tell us about problems they had encountered we heard a variety of issues that can impede groups from doing the collection (such as non-payment from customers, interference by politicians, hazardous working environment, etc…). The moment that things really started to change was when groups began to share various techniques that they had used to overcome the issues other groups were having, the answers to these youths’ problems were sitting right beside them.
So from here we will be designing the finer details of our project with the inputs from the groups and start the implementation as early as this week. There is still lots of work that needs to be done but we are excited to see how all of this unfolds and anticipate many twists and turns in the next three months.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the sponsors/donors that made this possible, it is your faith in the program that has made this a reality.
Green Workplace, Ruth Fluevog and Fluevog Shoes, Fine Art Framing, Pascale and Dominiek Lepoutre, Bernadette Phan, all those that attended the Up With Hope art show and anyone else that has supported Up With Hope in any other way.