By Mariga Thoithi
Running off the Kenya government’s lack of basic service provision in low income areas, Non Governmental Organisations have become the lifeline of informal settlements, even for basic services. The basic services include everything from water and sanitation to education, energy and land tenure. With over 11,000 registered NGOs in Kenya, according to data from the NGO coordination board, there has been increased scrutiny over the actual impact of these organisations, which receive hundreds of billions of shillings each year, though the issues they report to be addressing, seemingly remain unresolved in a never-ending cycle that is the Business of Poverty. Additional questions have arisen over the (mis)management of funds at these organisations and the percentage of funds received that goes to administrative costs, versus the amount that goes to the actual projects.
With formal service extension being done at a cosmetic level, the status quo in informal settlements seems like it will remain the same for a long while to come. But there are organisations that do good and make real impact, and it’s in this spirit that we feel it’s important to highlight Kenyan-founded, Kenyan-run NGO’s that are creating tangible impact and making Kenya a better place.
Photo: Anwar Sadat | SHOFCO
Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a grassroots movement that works towards impact through providing critical services including WASH, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.
Their most prominent program is the Kibera School for Girls, which provides free education and leadership development for girls in the slums. It’s the only school in Kibera providing free education for girls and this extends to all reading and sanitary materials and food. For girls who aren’t able to join the school, SHOFCO provides free computer classes and free dancing classes.
Their impact from 2018 includes training 1500 entrepreneurs, running 7 health clinics in Kibera and Mathare, helping members save $143,000 in group savings and loan programs and a 96% pass rate for their primary school students in their national examinations before high school (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) with an average grade of a B+.
Photo: Vitabu Vyetu
Vitabu Vyetu is a foundation that works towards equipping community-based libraries libraries with books while giving priority to African story books as well as facilitating the education tools – writing books and stationery to enhance the reduction of illiteracy.
Vitabu Vyetu also holds reading clubs in slums to teach literacy, skills, reading, writing and comprehension.
With a country illiteracy rate of one in three and with the rates in slums vastly worse, this is a necessary initiative as one of the avenues to give children a helping hand to get them on equal footing with children from more affluent areas.
Through a volunteer program, between 2014-2016, Vitabu Vyetu equipped 33 libraries, set up reading centres in 5 centres,
Photo: Doctor Little Kenya
Doctor Little Kenya is a humanitarian organization focused on improving the living standards of the community at large by primarily addressing the welfare of disadvantaged children in the community. They do this through initiatives for children with disabilities, annual medical camps for children, advocacy on infant health and preventative medicine and creating a global platform for organisations and volunteers to plug in and support local communities.
Doctor Little recognises poverty as both a cause and a consequence of poor health and disproportionately affected are children in remote areas. They have impacted over 1,100 children so far and worked with over 200 volunteers.
Photo: Homeless of Nairobi
A chance encounter with Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton sent Shamit Patel on a path that he would never look back on. Brandon challenged Shamit to act on his desire to work with the homeless and that led to the birth of Homeless of Nairobi. What started off as a as a photo and video series on Facebook documenting the stories of these children with the aim of humanising them grew bigger than he could imagine with outpouring of responses by people wondering what more they could do to support the children. The people who couldn’t initially see them beyond their “homeless”tag connected with the stories that Shamit shared and wanted something more beyond liking and sharing the photos. The Facebook page and the support it garnered turned into a weekly street feeding program by the talented filmmaker and co-creator of Routes Adventures and it grew into a children’s home with former street children from all over the city. The home currently hosts over 60 students at a time who, through the help of well-wishers, they educate and house.
Photo: Langata Legal Aid Clinic
Formed as a way through which Judy Adhiambo, a paralegal who passed through the Legal Resources Foundation training program, could give back to the community, LLAC has been a beacon of hope for Kibera residents. She began by bootstrapping and through the volunteer work of other volunteers and she has managed to make a tremendous impact in the lives of residents providing the legal aid for free. Justice is not cheap and a lot of people in prisons are there simply because of ignorance of the law or the inability to get competent legal representation. Residents also have a number of non-judicial issues that they face on a day-to-day basis including situations like their housing rights. Many residents live along the railway line and the government had given them an eviction notice and LLAC gave legal advice on eviction guidelines and human rights consideration before an eviction notice is implemented. LLAC also works on customary law, gender-based violence, human rights and general legal advice. LLAC has worked through partnerships and many times had their work funded out of pocket by the founder and volunteers but they continue to play a significant role in bringing justice to the grassroots.