Zuri Watoto Wote

Kibera, Lea Toto, and Kibera Paper

Posted in AIDS in Africa, AIDS Orphans, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 01/08/2012

Somewhere between a half and a million people live in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. No one knows for sure what the population is there, but it is estimated that 20% of Nairobi’s inhabitants live there at a population density of about 750, 000 people per square mile. It is one of the most crowded places on earth. It is hard to describe in words but photos and video give a better sense.

Kibera is the site of great poverty, overcrowding, unsanitary living conditions, and a high crime rate. It is also a location with a very high incidence of HIV/AIDs. This is the reason that The Lea Toto program of Nyumbani began—to provide outreach services and home based care to families with children who have HIV/AIDS. In addition to having a clinic in Kibera Lea Toto now has 8 other satellite clinics in the slum areas surrounding Nairobi. We visited these clinics in Kibera, Kariobongi and Dandora during our last trip to Kenya and will be visiting them again.

This time we will also be paying some special attention to a couple of women’s artisans groups which have developed out of the need for these women of poverty to to have an income to support their families. One of these groups is Kibera paper. We have been working on a plan for our visit to Kibera paper to work with the women there who make the cards from recycled paper. In addition to talking with them about ideas to market and sell more of their cards in the US, since 2 of us make our own cards, we are planning an interactive card making workshop with a sharing of ideas and new media.

Here is an article from CNNWorld about Kibera Paper:

Greeting card project helps slum women

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// // December 22, 2010|From David McKenzie, CNN

In the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, some of the community’s poorest women are taking part in project that is spreading the true meaning of the holiday season. In 2001, an Anglican missionary from Australia started the Kibera Paper Card Project to help disadvantaged women in the sprawling Kibera slum.

The initiative began with a group of six women making greeting cards from recycled paper. Nine years later and it has expanded to employ 26 local women.

“It’s for women who are widowed, some of them are orphaned, some of them are abandoned by their husbands, so they make cards to meet their needs,” said Kibera Paper Card Project coordinator Emma Wathura.

Wathura said the project focuses on helping women because “women are the ones who care for the family.”

Agnes Awour is one of those benefiting from the project. She used to struggle to put food on the table, but joining the group has helped, she said.

“It enables me to buy food and clothes and pay school fees,” she said. “Even my children are happy about it.”

The women involved in the project see the card making process through from beginning to end. They collect scrap paper from Nairobi businesses and soak and dye the paper, turning the waste into pulp and then the pulp into new paper.

The paper is then dried before the women’s creativity transforms what was once rubbish into beautiful greeting cards.

“Yeah there is money,” said Wathura. “For one thing, we don’t spend a lot. Because the recycled paper we are given is free.”

At the Nairobi Christmas Fair, where thousands descend every holiday season, the cards are proving popular.

In a business where message is key, the Kibera Paper Card project offers its customers much more than just a greeting: Shoppers know that by buying these cards, they’re changing lives.

This is a great video that focuses on Kibera and the Kibera Paper Project

The slogan for Kibera Paper has become “Buy a card, change a life.” If you watched the video you know how that is literally true. You can learn more about Kibera paper at www.kiberapaper.com and I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say when I am actually there sharing the experience with these women. This is just one example of a truly hopeful project that has arisen from the slums; there are more, including of course the Lea Toto clinics.  Despite the enormity of the horrendous conditions and poverty, there is hope too.

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