Today, I ventured into the heart of the Kawangware slum, with two of my Glide teammates and one of our Ray of Hope colleagues, Hendricka. Hendricka is the Community Health Worker for the Ray of Hope, and every morning, she does what we spent three hours doing this morning: conducting home visits to the Ray of Hope Medical Clinic patients, to assess their health and encourage them to continue with their medical regimens.
Following Hendricka, I dodged sewage streams while tiptoeing through what I can only hope was mud, noting the doorsteps that stretched on endlessly, each home separated by only a thin sheet of corrugated tin. As I turned a sharp corner between alleys, to find a stray cow walking toward me from five feet away, I landed squarely outside of my element. I began steeling myself for what I knew would be a heart rending series of home visits.
On this trek, I encountered attack goats; shared narrow alleys with wayward chickens; watched a cat crawl in and out of a woman’s home through gaps between her tin roof and tin walls; witnessed flies landing repeatedly on almost every child and adult I saw; noticed ants marching across the cement floors of people fortunate enough to have a cement barrier between their feet and the earthen mud; and hearing the pitter patter of rat feet on the roofs above us while sitting in various Kawangware homes – dark, smelly rooms the size of a 10′ X 10′ storage unit, with no electricity or water.
No one should have to live in these uninhabitable conditions. Based on what I saw, and the many stories of crime I have heard, I feel that having a “home” here is far more threatening to health, safety, and happiness than being homeless in the United States.
And yet, I see profound joy and gratitude in the spirits of every person I’ve seen who lives here.