Kibera roots run deep…

Written by Suzanne Maman, CFK Africa Board Member; Professor and Associate Dean, Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC-Chapel Hill

There is nothing like walking through Kibera with the staff from CFK-Africa to remind me of the mission and impact of this organization.

I had the good fortune of joining the CFK Africa team and Board in Nairobi in June 2023. As part of a Board retreat, I spent time at several schools the organization supports through its Best Schools Initiative, visited the Tabitha Medical Clinic, and explored some of the other community initiatives that are managed by CFK Africa. 

CFK Africa board members, staff, and visitors visit an informal school (Photo credit, Thomas Bwire).

I witnessed how deeply involved they are in the community and how much that means for program implementation. As we walked through the community on the narrow paths between schools, houses, and small storefronts, community members would call out the names of the CFK Africa staff and greet them as we passed. 

CFK Africa Psychological Counselor Elmard Rigan greets a community member (Photo credit, Thomas Bwire).

The staff were familiar faces to community members and suddenly the community of hundreds of thousands in Kibera felt very small.  

These deep ties to the community are what make this organization stand out and stand the test of time in Kibera.  

Those ties were also evident to me in a Board dinner that was hosted by Dickson Omondi, one of the Kenyan members of the CFK Africa Board and Regional Director for Southern and East Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.  He hosted a Nubian dinner in Kibera on the rooftop of CFK Africa Headquarters. Among the attendees were friends who had been in school with Dickson in Kibera, many of whom had gone on to develop successful careers in Nairobi like himself, and some of whom were still living and working in Kibera.  

I was so moved to see the camaraderie among this group of old friends and to hear stories of their time together growing up in Kibera.

Walking through the streets of Kibera (Photo credit: Thomas Bwire).

These visits to Kibera remind me that Kibera is not just an informal settlement where there are substantial needs around housing, food, water, and health. Kibera is a community, one in which people are deeply tied and committed to exploring solutions to their most pressing challenges.

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