Children
 Kenya
Project #4168

Educate and Feed 85 At-Risk Kids in Kibera, Kenya

by St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization
Vetted
A Day in the Life at St. Vincent
A Day in the Life at St. Vincent's Photo Essay

This summer, with the help of The Forgotten International, St. Vincent's welcomed videographer, Gregory Walsh, who joined us for three months to capture the story of our organization and the children and families we serve. Hailing from Washington, D.C., Greg spent his time meeting with children, students, teachers, program administrators and parents to hear their stories, to learn what St. Vincent's is all about and how our programs are working to reach the most vulnerable children in the Kibera slum with a range of education, health, shelter and protection services.

This photo essay created by Greg utilizes captivating pictures to artfully depict a day in the life at St. Vincent's Nursery School. Please take a look at the photo essay here -- it really rings true that a picture (or a handful) is worth a thousand words!

Many thanks to Greg and to The Forgotten International for helping St. Vincent's share our story of the work we are doing in Kibera.

Links:

St. Vincent
St. Vincent's Nursery School Lunch Time

If you ask the teachers and parents at St. Vincent's Nursery School, they will tell you that one of the most important reasons that parents and caregivers send their children to our school is for the two meals they receive each day.

The typical St. Vincent parent/caregiver earns less than $2 per day. With this, they must feed their families (which on average consist of 5 people), pay rent and children's school fees, cover public transport fees (for those that work outside Kibera) and unexpected medical costs and pay for an array of other typical living expenses. It is easy to see why food is so constrained in these Kibera households. That is why children line up at 6am at the gates of our nursery school each day, eager for breakfast, as it is typically the first meal they have had since the lunch we fed them the day before.

Once in our doors, we are then able to provide children with other critically needed early childhood development services that help them to be grow happily and healthily. This includes early education and developmental play, health care services such as routine deworming and HIV testing, and ongoing protection and care. 

Please click here to check out our new video on St. Vincent's Nursery School Feeding Program. We would like to thank Gregory Walsh and The Forgotten International for helping us produce this video.

To learn more about St. Vincent's, visit our website at www.kiberachildren.org. And don't forget to like us on Facebook @ St. Vincent's Nursery School and Rescue Center.

Links:

St. Vincent
St. Vincent's Nursery School Children at Recess

Could you support your family on $4 per day?

This is how much the typical parent of a St. Vincent’s Nursery School child earns --- and this is when times are good. Considering that work in Kibera is inconsistent, many parents go days without being able to work. This is compounded by the fact that most children from St. Vincent’s Nursery School come from households with sick parents who cannot do heavy tasks due to poor health status, thus leaving the entire burden of income generation to one parent.

With this amount of money, St. Vincent’s parents are unable to provide adequately for their children. These children do not get proper health check-ups or receive medical attention when they are sick. At home, skipping breakfast and dinner is highly prevalent among children. When food is available, it is of low nutritious value. Moreover, children fail to get proper exercise in the cramped slum of Kibera. Without intervention, all of these factors negatively affect children’s physical development, but also their education starting from their early years. Children are unable to concentrate or carry out normal activities and are often absent from school due to illness and fatigue.

St. Vincent’s comprehensive program provides two quality and nutritious meals to each of our 85 children daily. Each morning, our teachers check in with children to get the ‘morning news’. Any child who comes from home without having breakfast, complaining of stomach ache or how they had nothing to eat the previous night are always given a cup of porridge before they start the normal daily school activities.  Each afternoon, the children receive a hearty lunch that comprises fruits, vegetables, grains and meat throughout the week prepared by our cook, Doris. This meal must often last children until the next morning when they come to school. In addition, St. Vincent’s sends any child with medical issues to a local clinic and covers all of the associated costs. These health and nutrition activities keep St. Vincent’s children healthy and ready to learn and grow. They are essential to the overall development of the child at a time when children are at their most important development stage. 

Head Teacher Alice with St. Vincent
Head Teacher Alice with St. Vincent's Nursery Kids
Waiting for recess
Waiting for recess
Housekeeper Beatrice with Children
Housekeeper Beatrice with Children
New Preschool Students Before Uniform Disbursement
New Preschool Students Before Uniform Disbursement

The St. Vincent’s school year starts in early January, after a long Christmas holiday which begins in mid-November. Having such a long period away, returning children look forward to coming back to our preschool where they will receive daily meals and opportunities to learn and play.

The beginning of the year also sees the addition of new children to our baby class. After home visits and a rigorous interview process to identify the most vulnerable and needy children in Kibera, St. Vincent’s must make difficult decisions about which children to admit to our preschool. Each year, we receive about 100 applicants for the 25 available slots in our baby class. As in years past, St. Vincent’s selected 28 children for this year’s incoming class due to the overwhelming number of children in need and seeking our services in Kibera.

The newly admitted children are always impressive and a spectacular lot to interact with when they are still new. Coming from very challenging backgrounds whereby most basic needs are not affordable and sanitation facilities are unavailable, it is very interesting and impressive to watch and experience how the young ones learn their new school environment and adapt quickly. Their first few days are always hectic and confusion runs throughout the day. The kids have to be toilet trained from scratch since most of them have never used modern toilets before. They also have to be trained to sit still in class, as well as be taught the basic table etiquette (as they do not have tables in their homes). It doesn’t take long before the new kids catch up with the rest of our children though. After just two weeks in school, an average visitor may not be able to differentiate between the newly admitted children with the rest other than with their obviously tiny body size.

It is a very warm feeling to see the gleam in the children’s eyes when given their first ever school uniform. They won’t even let their peers touch them with the fear that they may either make them dirty or crease them.  Another spectacle to watch from the new children is the enthusiasm they show when participating in co curriculum activities like outdoor games, nursery rhymes and watching cartoons. Considering that for most, if not all, the children this is their first time being exposed to this kind of learning and play, hence they always put their best effort in performing them.

As the Head Teacher of the preschool, it is very rewarding to get feedback from the parents concerning the development of their children. It does not only tell us what we are doing well, but where we can also improve as our major aim is to see the children grow holistically. For the short period that the kids have been with us this year, we have received plenty of positive feedback that gives us strength to continue. It is also fulfilling to encounter and be part of immediate transformation of a child from one stage to the next.

Changaa Brewer in Kibera. Photo Credit: Reuters
Changaa Brewer in Kibera. Photo Credit: Reuters

They call it changaa, which means 'kill me quick'. It is an illegal brew served up all over Kibera and its effects are devastating households, and more specifically the children living in them. It was mid-morning this past August and I was working at St. Vincent's Nursery School in Kibera where I spent three months on fellowship. Most often, I worked hidden in the back office plugging away on my computer, only with interruptions for tea and from boisterous young children in bright red uniforms and black shoes covered in red dust and peeking in out of curiosity of my laptop. On this morning, I had a different kind of interruption. A child came to the door and asked me to join our Head Teacher, Alice, in her office a few yards away. I left what I was doing to find out what Alice needed. Upon entering her office, I found her at her desk, listening intently to a parent. This woman was the mother of Deborah, a child from our school. The smell of alcohol was immediately detected despite the early hour. Deborah's mother was screaming and crying trying explain her story, her face badly swollen. She loudly detailed for us the fight she had been in the night before at the local bar, curious, young children peeping in to see what the commotion was about. Deborah's mother then motioned to the black plastic bag sitting on Alice's desk. She lamented that it was all she could afford to feed her children for dinner that night. Alice encouraged me to open it. Inside, I found rotting chicken intestines. Deborah's mother was able to get them for free from the local butcher. It was all she could While I understand the effects of addiction and the tendency to put one's need for alcohol in front of other very pressing needs, in that moment, I had a hard time understanding how this belligerent mother was able to afford alcohol the night before and yet, not have enough to buy food for Deborah and her siblings the very next night. It seemed incomprehensible and more than unfair. Alice explained that it is common practice in the local bars in Kibera to allow patrons to drink on credit and collect payment in the form of in-kind goods or as soon as patrons get paid. This works well in Kibera where most people are unemployed and find occasional day labor from time to time. The numbness of the changaa high helps people escape from the idleness, poverty and inability to put food on the table for their families. And it is cheap to get drunk off of changaa. But it comes with big risks. Not only does it incapacitate those that consume it and make it impossible for them to get work, to make money, or to buy food for their children, it is also often laced with methanol or other addictive chemicals that commonly cause deaths and blindness of those who consume it. It was hard to get the sight and smell of the rotting chicken intestines out of my mind. One week later, I saw Deborah, sullen and small, walking down the road by herself after school. I wondered what she would be going home to that night. It was too difficult to imagine. The children served by St. Vincent's are the most vulnerable in the community. Unfortunately, Deborah and her mother's story are not unique among the families we serve. In fact, we work to specifically select children like Deborah to bring into our school as they are most in need of our help. We then work with parents/caregivers to bring about change in the home through counseling of parents, home visits to monitor the welfare of children, provision of food to households and assistance to parents to start businesses. As we work to make change in the household, we provide children with two nutritious meals each day that keep them physically strong and offer a safe and secure environment where they get respite during each day from the troubles they may find at home.

 

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Organization Information

St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization

Location: P.O. BOX 56486-00200, Nairobi - Kenya
Website: http:/​/​Www.kiberachildren.org
Project Leader:
Lucy Kayiwa
Director
Nairobi, Kenya

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