May 10, 2010

Slum Kids


A happy little girl.

The kids in the Mathare Valley Slums probably gave me more than I was able to give to them.

Wherever we'd go in the slums groups of kids would inevitably gather around us watching, laughing, talking to us and asking me to take their picture. The kids loved to see themselves in these pictures and a local worker for Life in Abundance told me it's because many of them rarely get to see themselves in a mirror on a daily basis.


Big sister and little brother.

A common sight in the slums is kids taking care of kids. Many parents are single parent families and most of the parents time is either outside the slums working in the city or just trying to take care of the essentials and the kids are the ones left to fend for themselves.


A little girl.

I enjoyed interacting with the kids in the slums. They made me laugh and I was able to make them laugh. But it was hard not thinking of my own daughters when I'd meet a little girl like this. It would just make me well up with tears if I dwelled on it.


A boy and his wire toy.

Despite their living conditions the slum kids are very resourceful and creative. This boy created a toy car out of wire. This became a common sight in the slums among the kids. Hand built toys, many of them out of mere junk.


A wireframe ford bronco?

I was so impressed with this wire toy built by one of the young boys. The details and proportion was incredible, it even had a steering mechanism you controlled with a steering wheel at the end of the long extended wire. The recycled bottle caps as the tires was brilliant.


Childhood friends.

When we first arrived at the slums the kids would come up to me point and say "Muzungu." This is the swahili name for "White Person."

After a few days of this, I pointed to my t-shirt design which had white ink in the design and put my skin up to it and said "White?" shook my head and said "No. Pink!" then pointed to a little girls shirt with pink on it. They thought that was pretty funny.


Marble eyed.

This boy hung around one of our shot locations for a few days. He didn't speak a whole lot and I did most of the talking. Unfortunately I lost the paper I wrote his name on but the day we left he came up to me and showed me two marbles he had brought with him and wanted me to take his picture.

He then grabbed my hand and put one of the marbles in it and closed it saying "For you." I thought that was precious and knowing these kids have next to nothing it meant a lot to me. It now sits on the shelf in my office.


A young boy with his juice box toy.

We've all heard the idiom "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Well that saying really came to life in the slums. Empty cooking oil containers became water pitchers, discarded water bottles became shoes, and in the photo above a small boy found a used juice box in the garbage and turned into a toy for himself.

When I saw the toy he had created I called it "The Mango Mobile!"


The Mango Mobile in Action.

The moment I saw this kid having fun playing with junk it crushed me. I also knew the next time my own kids complained about not having something I was going to tell them the story of "The Mango Mobile."

This whole scene made me think of a quote by Chuck Swindoll.

"Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”


Scooby-Doo in the slums.

One day we were shooting by a railroad track and one of the kids in the crowd had a Scooby-Doo shirt on. I pointed at his shirt and said "Scooby Dooby Doo!" in my best Scooby-Doo voice. He along with the group of kids started laughing.

I noticed later that day that someone had painted Scooby-Doo on the side of a slum house. I'm not sure how much if any of the actual TV program anyone in the slums had seen since a TV is a very rare commodity for most living in the slums.


A sick young girl.

Many of the kids I'd talk too were obviously sick. Much of this is facilitated by the poor living conditions and diet. Most of the kids we found out only have one meal a day and that is pretty meager in and of itself.

This little girl came up to me and smiled and wanted to bump fists which I had been doing with all the kids. And when I looked into her eyes I lost it. We talked to the local group and a pastor to see if we could get her into a clinic and find out what the problem was.

In the slums resources are tight and this was one of the reasons why we were filming the documentary to help Life in Abundance reach out to these local communities and help people like this little girl through a wholistic approach.


A slum coffin builder.

Unfortunately the reality of the slums is that infant mortality is very high. One of the days were shooting in Kibera we spotted this local man building a child coffin.

It was a grim reminder of what kids living in the slums face.



4 comments:

Gretchen said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once.

Justin @LIA said...

Great post, Vonster. I really like the way that you tell and show the story, at the same time. It brings me back to our time together as if it happened today.

It has been raining very hard in the afternoons every day for the past four days here in Nairobi. I'm going to stop by this week to see how our new friends are managing in the rain.

Grace and Peace,
Justin

Brian said...

Hey Von, Great Article. It is always amazing to see how resourceful kids are and how content they can be with nothing. Glad it went well thanks for sharing! Makes me anxious to get back to Guate.

AshGUTZ said...

I think all of us enjoy taking a step back from our lives as we know them, what we may believe is hectic or stressful.. taking the time away from it all just to spend some time observing how others less fortunate cope with their lives. What's better is they don't see it as coping, they took are living as much as many of us. Thank you very much for taking your time out of your life to show us this.