At Compassion, we’ve seen God working in amazing ways through the generosity of Canadians since COVID-19 began.
And though we are praising God for the ways Canadians are rising as one to provide support for those most impacted, it’s also important for us to recognize that many people living in poverty around the world continue to reel under the earth-shattering effects of COVID-19.
People like the residents of Kibera. For those who don’t know much about Kibera, here is a quick snapshot:
- Kibera is known as Africa’s biggest urban slum
- Only about 20% of Kibera has electricity
- Until recently Kibera had no water—it had to be collected from the Nairobi dam
- In most of Kibera, there are no toilet facilities
- In Kibera, there are no government clinics or hospitals
- Since July 2020, COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high in Kenya, seeing up to 300 new cases per day
With so many adversities to hurdle even before COVID-19, the people of Kibera have been shaken under the weight of it. We talked with some of our neighbours in Kibera to see how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic.
Come meet them.
Daniel, Security Guard
When the quarantine restrictions were announced across the country, Daniel was working as a security guard at a home in an upscale area of Nairobi.
“My boss told me that he could no longer keep me on since there had been reported cases of COVID-19 in Kibera, where I live,” says Daniel.
Although his job didn’t pay much, it provided a sense of security for his family of five. Since he lost his job, Daniel has joined his wife in their small business of selling plastic products and small household wares. But the business is struggling to stay afloat because of inflated stock costs and few customers.
“Many people in the slums, who are our main clients, are day labourers and currently not working. There is no money to spend so nobody is buying,” says Daniel.
Nelly, University Student
Nelly is Daniel’s daughter. She’s enrolled in Compassion’s sponsorship program at Kibera Church of God. She’s also a first-year university student pursuing criminal psychology. When schools were abruptly closed, students like Nelly found themselves at home with a lot of free time on their hands.
“The biggest challenge has been how to manage all the available time. I feel the need to keep busy to not get caught up in the social ills that many young people find themselves in here in the slums. We have classes on Google classroom twice a week. I have been spending a lot of my time watching YouTube tutorials about singing,” says Nelly.
Beatrice, Domestic Worker
Life was already challenging for Beatrice, a single mother of four who works as a domestic worker. But when the pandemic hit, she was thrust into a nightmare.
“My boss demanded that I become a live-in housemaid after seeing news on TV that the cases of COVID-19 in Kenya were on the rise. Since I couldn’t because there was nobody to take care of my kids, she let me go,” says Beatrice.
Since then, Beatrice has struggled to make ends meet by offering laundry services in the middle-class neighbourhoods around Kibera slums. Depending on how many clothes she can hand wash, she makes between CAD $3 to $7 a day—barely enough to meet her family’s needs.
“The money is just enough for food for the day and then we are back to the drawing board,” says Beatrice. “My prayer is that God would just end this pandemic, otherwise I do not know how we will survive if this persists.”
Faith is a hairstylist in Kibera. Her business has been struggling since the pandemic hit.
“People just do not have money and so people are prioritizing feeding their kids over fixing their hair. We used to make house calls and work way past 7 PM, which we can’t do anymore because of the restrictions,” says Faith.
Faith is mother to seven-year-old twins Brian and Ryan, who are part Compassion’s program at Kibera Church of God. Despite the challenges, she continues to run her hair salon in the hope that clients will come.
Her business is all her family can depend upon for their livelihood.
Sarah, Roadside Kiosk Vendor
Sarah had plans to save up her money to open up a proper shop that sells toiletries, soap and detergent to the Kibera slum dwellers. But since the pandemic, those plans have been shelved.
“For now, all we care about is survival. I feel that I am putting myself at risk by sitting here all day selling, but what can I do? If I don’t come here, my children will starve,” she says.
“I try my best to take precautionary measures like having a mask and not shaking hands with customers, but ultimately, it is a gamble I have to take every day and I do not have a choice in the matter.”
Reverend Gerald, Pastor at Kibera Church of God
“The church has been vastly affected. We are a church in the heart of Kibera that ministers to predominantly slum dwellers. But we have taken it as a challenge to practice God’s word and to be His hands and feet,” says Rev. Gerald.
The church has kept its doors open in order to meet the spiritual and physical needs of its members the best way they can while maintaining the safety of the staff.
“Now more than ever, we need to preach hope. And at church, we have embraced technology as a way to still gather the saints and to keep prayer going, especially now.”
Compassion is on Medium! Read our first article to learn more about how Compassion’s local church partners in Kibera are working hard to bring hope to these increasingly desperate situations.
For families in Kibera, everything about COVID-19’s devastation is magnified. But together, we can rise as one to equip the local church to provide urgent relief for families like Daniel’s and Nelly’s.
Photos and field reporting by Isaac Ogila