Hope Oasis in a Pandemic Desert.
Life in slums of Nairobi is tough but it is even tougher to the school going boys and girls. More so, when the schools are closed for a long time and there is no even a shred of hope for reopening. With the indefinite closure of the schools in Kenya due to COVID-19 pandemic, these dreams and ambitions- obsessed Kenyans easily become a prey of hopelessness. In addition, they are prone to sexual harassment and vulnerable to drug abuse, early marriages, just to mention but a few. All these risks notwithstanding, they need someone to affirm to them that their dreams are still valid regardless of the myriad challenges they are currently going through and especially those resulting from the mercilessly biting COVID-19 pandemic.
It is in the midst of the pandemic and in the sea of hopelessness that U-Tena identified an opportunity to push on their hope restoration agenda among these young Kenyans living in the Viwandani slums of Nairobi Industrial area. I came to know U-Tena through TUJIFUNZE program where they brought me on board as a temporary academic coach for form three and four students from this area.
I have worked with several Non-Governmental Organizations, but U-Tena has its incomparable uniqueness. Firstly, the organization highly regards transparency and fairness. This was evidenced during the interviews which were conducted with the utmost openness and integrity they deserved. In U-Tena, there is neither godfather nor godmother; it is purely merit.
U-Tena management and leadership are outstanding. Initially I thought the executive is drawn from old high profile, international dignitaries but I was very wrong. The leadership is full of youthful breed of leaders currently led by Mr. Peter Mokaya. These managers have first-hand experience of life in slums so they know these teenagers comprehensively.
Teaching and counseling these young ones was an eye opening experience. I happen to work in a school located here but I have never understood these kids better than I did during this period I spent with them. Just like others, these students have ambitions, life goals to achieve, target academic grades and much more. What they need most is not the material gifts but resource persons who can encourage, guide, counsel and give them moral support; this is exactly what U-Tena has been doing.
I can be very unjust if I end this blog without mentioning the hospitality of U-Tena. Hospitality and compassion are intertwined. U-Tena quintessentially proved this through how they treated us during the induction and introduction to parents.
In conclusion, I paraphrase Marjorie Macgoye Oludhe’s words “People will forget what you said to them, but they will never forget how you made them feel” The impact of what U-Tena is doing to the youth of Viwandani will be lifelong and in the near future testimonies of their exemplary work will be all over.
Truly, U-Tena is an Oasis of Hope in the Desert of poverty and pandemics in the slums of Nairobi.
The author is a professional chemist, a high school teacher, and a post graduate student at the University of Nairobi.