Wednesday, 29 April 2009


We have one day left of building in Makadara. I am seriously pooped. The sun has been merciless of late so I was very thankful to get the roof on today so we could work under the shade. I think the combination of an extremely tight schedule and the simmering heat has made Sean and I a little impatient and at times angry. As much as I love the work, it is so frustrating trying to get things done when you have five fifteen year old's from the neighborhood, hovering around you trying to pull the hammer out of your hand or trying to tell you what to do. These kids are basically idle all day, everyday so they are with us from start to finnish, but I had to put an end to their involvement when the work started to get technical. We have hired skilled workers and we have the local stragglers. The stragglers will pick up any tool at any time and just start banging at something, this has caused me a few out bursts where the locals heard many four letter words yelled in their direction. This isn't to say that we are groing strong relationships with this crew. There are some really cool dudes we are working with and once again I am so grateful that we were able to work in this area and meet these solid people.

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

Moving Forward

The end of our first week of Construction in the Makadara Constituency came to a close on Friday, with the successful completion of the first step of the waste management centre. After a lot of hard work put in by a number of ambitious youth, the weeks work was completed on schedule and only slightly over budget, which we can’t be more pleased about. It was more difficult getting the guys to stop for lunch then it was to get them to work, which is always nice. The Materials needed for next week’s work are already on site, and we are hopeful that the walls will be up and the roof on by the end of this coming week. Below are a few photos showing the completion of the foundation.

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

The other side of working over here

As the construction in Makadara moves along well there have been some unfortunate incidents in the past week.

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

A little nini

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

Put Your Hands Up For Nairobi... I Love This City!

We just had our big kickoff meeting on Friday and it was huge success. We had over 35 representatives of youth groups from around the city of Nairobi attending the presentation held at the Nairobi YMCA.

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.

Stay tuned…

Up With Hope Blog

Welcome everybody to the Up With Hope blog. We’ve set up this site to keep everyone up to date with the progress of the project and to share some stories from the daily life of a group of Canadians living and working in Nairobi. We’ll be uploading stories, pictures and video of our three months that we have to implement a waste management program. Stay tuned, we will try to update the site on a weekly basis (pending our access to the internet).

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.