Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Soweto Slum

I wanted to tell you all about the fun holiday that I had over the weekend. I took pictures of the two hotel rooms we stayed (Nakuru first, Nairobi second). I wanted to tell you some stories…but they don’t seem as important as what I saw on my last day in Nairobi.

The place is called Soweto (sew-wet-o) Slums.

It is a slum area in Nairobi near the International Airport. It’s not nearly as big as the world famous, largest slum in the world, called Kibera (Key-bear-a), which is also located in Nairobi. This slum is one of the many forgotten slums in Nairobi, in Kenya.

A friend of ours, Mary volunteers in the Soweto. She works with widows and orphan children. Her and husband, Victor, have a school in the slum and they are trying to provide free education and a feeding program to the children of this slum.

A bit of information on Soweto. It is about 3 kilometers in length and 1 kilometer in width. This small area has over 200,000 people living in it. This place is mostly made up of widows and children and single women and children. Prostitution and alcoholism is very high here as well.

When we walked down the hill to Soweto, what was directly in front of me, seemed quite nice. There was a mud and metal-made bridge that ran over the top of a river and there was a brick wall that surrounded Soweto. Are you sure this is a slum? At least on the outside of the wall, it appeared nice.

As we approached the bridge, Daniel told me to look to my left. There was this massive dump site, massive. There were birds flying all around it, as per a typical dump. But then my heart broke when I saw that there were people on the dump site as well. They were scrounging through the garbage for food and work. Apparently, people will go to the dump and collect as much plastic as they can to bring to the factories in the area. They sell the plastic to these companies for melting down and reusing. On a good day, someone collecting the plastic can make about fifty shillings. That’s about $0.83 CDN per day, all day job.
This is the dumping site...people on it and heading toward it.

As we got closer to the bridge to cross, the stench of garbage and feces grew stronger. I looked down at the water – it was a dark, smoky grey color with garbage floating all around it. The river is used to dispose of human waste in the slum. There are no sewer pipes in the slum. The outdoor toilets have metal basins inside of them and when the basins are filled up, men (this is their job) come and remove the metal basins, take the basins to the river, dump the waste and then return the basins to the owners. Three people died this year from drinking from the river. It was an absolutely horrible sight to see.
This is the river that the human waste and garbage is dumped in to.

We crossed the bridge, passed the beautiful brick wall and entered in to Soweto (side note: on the map of Nairobi, this area is mapped as Soweto Estates). There was the constant smell of garbage in the air with the odd gust of human waste.
The streets of Soweto.

I don’t know the last time white people went in to Soweto but as soon as we entered, we heard the famous word ‘Mzungu’ being shouted from all directions, from all children. We visited the school that Mary and Victor have started. It’s absolutely wonderful and they are reaching out to the children of this poor place.
The school...

They showed us the other side of the building where there are empty rooms. This is going to be a widow rescue like centre. Widows will be able to come and stay for a period of time, get assistance on starting a business and once they are stable, they will leave the place, opening up space for a new widow with children. Transformed International is going to be assisting this project so check out our website in the near future on updates on this.

The whole time we did the tour of the school and the slum as a whole, we were surrounded by children. I just had to take tons of pictures of them. :-)
Some beautiful kids....

Mary also took us to some widows’ homes that TI is looking at assisting. One of the homes we went to was in complete ruins. The home was made up of metal sheets and it had only one room. When we arrived, the mother was gone to the dump to find food and plastic. She had left her three children at home to fend for themselves.
The children left home...Their home...

When we went to another widow’s home, we found one of her children, about 4 years old, lying on the cold dirt floor of their home, extremely sick. All of us immediately crammed ourselves into this one room mud shack, laid hands on this child and began praying for him. The mother sobbed. Her husband had left her three years ago with two children. She is now pregnant with another’s baby.

When I left the little house, I went and sat by myself, overwhelmed by all that I was seeing. I leaned up against a wall, put my sunglasses on and cried. God then told me to give money for this lady and her children. He told me what to give and when Mary and Daniel came out of the house, I told them. I found out that the mother was behind on the rent and could possibly be kicked out soon. The rent is now paid for. Isn’t God amazing?

As we finished up the “tour” of Soweto and visiting the widows that we want to work with through TI, I was so thankful to God for showing me things today. I was thankful for Him breaking me again; I needed to be broken; I needed to cry.

I have asked Mary if I can go and visit Soweto and the school for a week in the new year (although it may not be until May) so that I can visit with the children at the school…and teach them….well, actually they can teach me far more than I can teach them.

Who says that when us white people come over to the third world countries, we teach them everything? These people have taught me far more than I can ever teach them, far more. I am thankful, so thankful for each and every person I have met here. I will never be the same.
Soweto homes...
I just love the sun's rays shining on these kids...

Caring for his younger sibling...

Simply beautiful...
Love you all,


Magid said...

Hey Meri... sounds like you had an awesome day... God is good all the time and that day God used Meri for good... bless you... on a funnier note... I was reading the girls Dr. Suess and all I could think about as I read you crossing the bridge into Soweto was the Mulberry Street story - ... and to think that I saw it in Soweto... oh the sites you share with us back home... God bless you!!

marsha said...


I will be visiting soweto next week. I am 27 any advice for a female traveling there? Things to bring...avoid.. wear ect...


marsha said...

email me please

christian said...

Meredith, your stories are inspiring,
uplifting and humbling at the same time. Keep looking to Jesus, far away sister in the Lord.

christian said...

Meredith, your stories are inspiratonal: uplifting and humbling at the same time. Thank you fort sharing, keep God first...

Heather said...

Thanks for posting this, I found it very informative. and the Vision said...

God bless you and may He continue to burn a fire of lve and compassion for Him and His creation.Am inspired by your story and your firm belief in the one who gave it all for oue sake.
Have a blessed new year full of God's favor and love.

Joe Wittwer said...

I was in the Soweto Slum with Victor and Mary only three weeks ago, along with a team from our church. I googled "Soweto Slum" and your wonderful blog came up. Thanks for your lovely observations, for obeying the Lord and going and giving at His lead. I'll forward this to our team. We want to do more work in Kenya, including in this slum; who knows, maybe we'll get to work together!
Joe Wittwer
Pastor, Life Center
Spokane, Washington, USA

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

Anonymous said...

'Isn't God amazing?' are you crazy?? You paid the woman's rent but her child and people all around her are dying from preventable and curable diseases that don't even exist in the first world, not to mention the fact they're living in abject poverty and struggle every day wondering where their next meal will come from.

Yet you're fine.

Either 'God' is a racist, murderous jerk or he doesn't exist. Get some damn perspective! And learn to chalk up your charity to your own efforts, luck and good nature.

Andrew said...

Hi Merideth,

Wow. Way to cherry pick your attributions to god. It seems you have developed a highly unfalsifiable theory of god. I wonder if you have any concern about how (mal)adaptive that is?

Anyway, Kind Regards

Johnny Billstoohigh said...

Although I can understand the philosophy of those who question the merit of God in this, shame on you guys for posting such negative comments from the comfort of your homes. Even as an agnostic, I recognize the good of Christians like Meredith as exactly what God's message should be! It is only with actual action that change can occur, and if there were more people like Meredith on this planet there would be no accusation of God being hateful or racist. In the end it is the actions of people with good hearts that will allow the tides of change to rise in the African continent. And not just white people.