Every time I’ve been to Korogocho it felt unlike anywhere I have ever been. Situated within Nairobi, Korogocho is what most of us westerners would call a “slum.” Although, perhaps the more well-traveled and sensitive among us might use the term “informal settlement.” Whether you ascribe to political-correctness, or whatever-correctness for that matter, with a population of about 200,000, crammed into 1.5 square kilometers, it is undeniable that Korogocho is a hustling and bustling, vibrant community full of color.
As we drive through Korogocho to the school we’ll be teaching at, I look out my car’s window to see a man wearing a girl’s pink knit cap (complete with cute, dangly ear flaps) as he aggressively swerves through the mass of pedestrians on his motorcycle. Taking care to drive around the piles of trash burning in the road, I catch a glimpse of a man wearing a business suit. While a man of this seeming stature strolling through town on his way to wherever may not seem out of the ordinary, it was his bare feet that caught my attention.
Hope for Future…Hope for Korogocho
We pull up to the school and are greeted with a big smile by Felix, the Head of Social and Health Center of Hope for Future. Hope for Future is a non-profit based out of Austria, that is providing much-needed support to create a quality school system in a community very much in need. With a current student body of about 1,000 students, the two schools that make up Hope for Future are truly community innovations. Instead of operating purely from charity and governmental support, they’ve been designed to leverage self-sustaining mechanisms, such as a bakery that generates revenue by producing an average of 10,000 loaves of bread each day for the local community; and a world-renowned football (soccer for you Americans) league. As a matter of fact, last year one of their teams beat Barcelona, Spain. Not too shabby. I can only imagine the elated sense of triumph the children had as they returned to Korogocho and their cheering community after their victory.
What’s in a Name?
Over the course of the week we took the children on a journey of self-discovery and authentic empowerment. One of the methods we used to do this was through the exploration of their given names. In Kenya, as with most of Africa, children are given both a Christian name as well as a tribal name. Nearly all the children use their Christian name when referring to themselves and others.
We also found that most children had no idea what their name meant, and to them was usually nothing more than a sound uttered from their mouths. In the spirit of self-discovery and the goal to generate a sense of appreciation for their own history, we gave the children an assignment to ask their parents (or guardian) the meaning of their name(s). As you can imagine with a group of kids ranging in age from 7-14, this resulted in a lively discussion, complete with lots of giggling and Googling.
And of course, we introduced the children to mindfulness. Over the years I’ve been involved in the mindfulness movement, I’ve seen many definitions, but the most useful to me is simply being conscious or aware of something. Because the duration of our class was only for one week, we decided to keep things simple and explored mindfulness in relation to movement. We taught the children how to walk mindfully – mindful to not bump into others, mindful of their proximity to others, and mindful of the speed at which they moved through space.
The end of the week culminated with a performance of movement by the children for the school staff. Moving in time to the beat of the music, the children walked like cats in front of the audience. At the beginning of the week, they were merely an undisciplined gang of fidgeting misfits. But by the end of the week they had transformed into a self-organizing group of disciplined performers.
You can watch their performance in the video below.
On a side note, Adam Chienjo, made his debut this week as Plastic Fantastic Kenya’s new educator. Bringing 16 years of combined experience as a dancer and choreographer in the performing arts, Adam is an absolute natural when working with children. We are truly honored to have him onboard.
Stay tuned to this bat-station for further developments on the frontiers of social change in Kenya.
Image and video credit: Jesah & Ciru Segal
“What you do serves as the proof of what you believe.” – Simon Sinek