Thursday, May 21, 2009
A sign hangs above the door of this room that reads "Napenda Kuishi"- which means "I want to live". The place is basically a street kid stronghold, situated right in the middle of the Korogoccho slum, about 5 miles outside of Nairobi. Its modest aim is to keep them busy and out of trouble during the day, before letting them go back to the streets to find a place to sleep each night (shop fronts, video parlors, abandoned cars, etc). The ground floor is the meeting room for lessons and hanging out, decorated with bright cartoons of Jesus and "don't do glue" type scenes depicting kids passed out with X's over their eyes. Across Kenya though, the main medicine to chase away slum blues is booze- dollar fifths of hair-raising whiskey in plastic bottles that later become glue-containers, or home-brewed chang'aa (known to cause instant, irreversible blindness) or a yellow-labeled pint of Kenya's national beer, Tusker- which for now only provides those kids with checker pieces. Tusker Lager versus Tusker Pilsner. Outside is a guy offering to pay children to traffic drugs around the neighborhood hidden in ice cream buckets. These kids are surrounded like Crockett at the Alamo with no alternative but to hang on as long as they can.