Monday, November 8, 2010

Mathare Slums

(Note) these photos are from the Internet. Mine are not yet available. I'm working on it.

Monday’s post…post Nairobi.

For me there is no other way to describe the emotion of my visit to the Mathare slums of Nairobi than by the use of symbolic poetry. It will follow this preface.

Over a million people call the thousands of connected tin shacks home. Children are raised there. Families exist there. People die there. Cooking and washing is done outside. Small boys make up games to play and run through the garbage and the muck.

Everything that’s down there is hand carried in. The men fix and repair what little they have. Even this living has its needs. Some make charcoal for the cooking fires and bring what clean water they can carry for drinking and bathing.

On my visit I never saw a dirty child or a beggar’s grimy pants. Walkway trash was everywhere. There was universal curiosity of why we were there, despite the fact we were escorted by known CMMB health care workers and Father Ed, a Maryknoll priest who ministers to this flock. He jokes and teases in Swahili in a booming voice that soothes and comforts. He was smart he wore calf high rubber boots. We wore shoes and low-cuffed slacks. How naive. Many in the slum wore foot thongs or went barefoot in the mud.

We were there to see first hand the evidence of how CMMB’s donated dollars are used to treat the ill and infirm and how their funded education programs are working.

We visited three homes, probably eight by ten feet in size; some were smaller. The space is rented. Most pay the equivalent of 12 dollars a month for the space. Some homes had a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. A blanket or curtain separated the sleeping area from view. The rest of the space might have a chair or two and a makeshift table. Clothes and what little belongings each family had were stored within the small space. That was it. That was home. That was life.

Poetic thoughts below…

Mathare Slums

© 2010 Rolland G. Smith

I walked among the shacks of tin

And felt my mind in disbelief.

A sadness came from deep within

With throbbing thoughts of no relief.

No one can know the lives of some

Without the heart to open wide

And see that all of us are ONE

Beyond the culture and the pride.

A million souls in one foul place.

Where sewers slide along the feet.

A liquid stench of flowing lace

On what the children call the street.

Some little one’s peek from the door

To watch the strangers walking by.

How can I pass and thus ignore

That living here is cry and die?

The children look and wave to each

And say to those who smile back.

“How are you?” are their words that reach

The heart and soul that sees the lack.

Each slippery step from me in mire

Presented scenes from life’s latrine.

Cooking o’r a charcoal fire

And keeping self and children clean.

My spirit ached when last I stepped

Away from lives I’ll never see.

When out of sight I silent wept

And thanked the All it isn't me.

But seeing this produces change

Within my heart and conscious mind.

Priorities are rearranged

My gifts and giving now refined.

Check the CMMB website for ways to give. Trust me, it's needed. And if you are so inclined, send this post to a few of your friends and let us see together what just a few of us can do.



LAS said...

Glad you arrived home safely. Seeing these pictures and reading your scenario of this experience is so sad. I truly wish in my heart that we as a world would do so much more to help those whose lives are so depressed. I wonder so many times will this ever be over? Will there ever be a handle on their despair. Maybe with the help of people like you and me and all that reads this will share it with their friends, family and co-workers. In some way we need to be able to all make a BIG difference wherever we see such abhorant conditions. God bless you and thank you for sharing these pictures and your deep feelings to us all.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say something about your commentary, but I realize that I just can't honestly imagine that experience. It would be like mentioning to someone who had just returned from the Moon that I heard the food wasn't very good there.
However, not knowing what I'm talking about has never stopped me in the past, so here goes;
Once a scientist has done the research, explored the possibilities, come up with a theory and then proven it, what he or she has, one could say, is really a better idea of what they don't yet know. For me, your blog is like following someones research where what is studied is life, and the instruments used are compassion, positive attitude, and an open mind, maybe with some exasperation mixed in. It's all coming from a good place, and so thank you.

Joann said...

Rolland, Your thought provoking and heartfelt writings - helps to
open my senses to the poverty of the Mathare slums...


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