Oh boy!

As is the way with most adventures, there was a boy, but he’s a good one so never fear that part of this story. The fearful part was that I had no idea what I was getting myself into as, for once, he was choosing our path (oh boy indeed!). I had agreed to follow him, my boyfriend, on his lifelong dream to return to Kenya and work in development. Now, as I’m an enviro, the idea of living in the land of elephants and rhino’s and giraffes really didn’t take much arm twisting. But as a realist, I knew that before I would become the next David Attenborough or Jane Goodall (biding my time), I would have to do my time in the crazy city of Nairobi and earn my keep.

Africa Kenya Nairobi elephant orphanage

You mean I can’t just get paid to bottle feed elephants?

Earning my keep in Kenya

Earning my keep turned out to be volunteering at the Ruben Centre. This place is insane. It has a primary school for 2,500 students. That’s right, THOUSANDS of students! It also has a health clinic, a vocational student program, a HIV/AIDS support service and nameless other programs squirreled away within it’s grounds. It is located in Mukuru kwa Ruben. That’s a slum, or an informal settlement for the more PC among us; home to some 600,00 residents.

Africa Kenya Nairobi Mukuru slum Ruben Centre

This is where I spend my days.

Green – a colour not often found

So now I’m ‘helping’ (aka writing my blog and job searching) in a slum in Nairobi. The closest thing I’ve come to anything environment related is watching the teacher who runs the “Environment Club” throws tufts of recently salvaged grass onto ground as hard as stone in the barest attempt at creating some lawn. I was embarrassed but couldn’t really intervene so I let her go and the following day witnessed the death and decay that had set in. Such is life.

… I guess the drains that flow through the slum taking with them all kinds of discarded objects, and that are used to clean the mud off the shoes of the dwellers, also count as the ‘environment’… right?


Beauty… in the eye of this beholder

But I’m exaggerating, and also depriving you of learning about the beauty of Mukuru. This place is incredibly inspiring. People who have less than nothing and sleep in 3m x 3m corrugated iron sheds, get themselves up in the morning, put on their impeccably neat work attire and trudge out with their heads held high to their place of employment. The impressive migration of Kenya is not found in the Mara National Park. No my friends, it is found in the mass exodus of Mukuru in the morning and again in the evenings when the residents return, exhausted and with a few more shillings to their names.


Youth, that work?!

I am even more impressed by the Youth. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used more times than I have in the past few months of living here. Youth. Maybe that’s because the Youth of Australia tend to be self-involved, iPhone carrying, selfie-taking tween robots that have little to do with the rest of the community. Here however, the Youth are active participants in the community. They organise events, put on concerts (every Kenyan is a budding artist!) and even run clean ups of their kijiji (village/informal settlement). What university student do you know that would take a rake, climb into a drain and pull out every piece of detritus known to man (and some which aren’t)?

Africa Kenya Nairobi Mukuru slum rubbish

The rubbish that does not cease to accumulate is removed by the children of the very families that put it there.

This is the wild life.

This is the real Nairobi, the other side of Kenya that the tourists don’t see. They don’t ask where their driver lives or how he manages to support his family. They don’t know that his mamma was left by his father and yet she managed to find herself some skills and earn some shillings to put food on the table for him and his three siblings. Tourists see the vast plains of the Masai Mara and the pristine beauty of Lake Nakuru…

Africa Kenya Nairobi Mukuru slum child

Imagine the life that she must lead.

… If you want a different kind of wild life, come to Mukuru.


If you’d like to hear more about Mukuru, have a look at this beautiful garden oasis. Or send me your questions, I’d love to hear from you.