What you need to know:
- Shauri Yako, a slum in Homa Bay town, is not an exception. Shauri Yako is a Kiswahili word which translates to “your problem”.
- Some residents of the slum have taken the word literally, living in silos and tackling life’s problems in a solitary manner.
- Most youths who were brought up in Shauri Yako slums ended up engaging in crime.
Growing up in slums can be tough, especially for teenagers and youths.
Crime, poverty, drug abuse, sex work, disease outbreaks and other vices that greatly affect the wellbeing of a society are rife in such areas.
Shauri Yako, a slum in Homa Bay town, is not an exception. Shauri Yako is a Kiswahili word which translates to “your problem”.
Some residents of the slum have taken the word literally, living in silos and tackling life’s problems in a solitary manner.
Most youths who were brought up in Shauri Yako slums ended up engaging in crime.
Some of them peddle and use drugs while others have joined criminal gangs that terrorise other residents.
But not all youths are like this.
Job Otullo and Colince Ochieng, for example, turned out different.
They are both aged 19 and although they grew up in the informal settlements. They shunned crime and all other vices, and are now owners of small businesses.
Job is a cobbler in Homa Bay town while Collince is a volunteer at Kenya Red Cross services.
Although some of their peers are actively abusing drugs and are involved in crime, they chose a different path, and are now involved in inspiring other young slum dwellers to follow in their footsteps.
With the help of professionals from different sectors, they offer mentorship to their fellow youths at no cost.
In December last year, they came up with an initiative dubbed Bright Future through which they aim to change the perception of youths, and sensitise them on the dangers of engaging in crime and drug abuse.
According to him, some teenagers end up using drugs simply because of where they come from and the environment they live in.
“We engage professionals such as high school principals and national government administrators who talk to young men via different platforms. Our meetings are mostly held in school halls,” Job says.
The duo mainly targets teenagers who face the risk of being introduced to drugs, and youths who are already taking drugs.
During a meeting on August 22 at Shauri Yako Primary School, youths from Shauri Yako slum got an opportunity to be mentored by County Scouts Commissioner Elly Kisulu, Arujo location chief Robert Lang’o and Nyalkinyi Secondary school deputy principal Martin Abuya.
“We are keen on creating an environment where all parents can be sure that their children are safe. The professionals called to the meeting are tasked with encouraging the youths to always air out their grievances and challenges, and to empower them with ideas on how to avoid succumbing to peer pressure.
Job dreams of seeing children grow up in drug free neighbourhoods.
"Our hope is that one day, our neighbourhood will produce a big name that will be at the top of his career and head a multinational cooperation,” he says.
Job says that in his teens, life in Shauri Yako was very tough.
"I faced a lot of peer pressure from friends who wanted me to join their company. As a minor, I was tempted to hang out with them and be like them. Thankfully, my parents were devoted Christians, and they guided me accordingly.
"I would accompany them to church and almost always, the preaching was centred around the idea of living a responsible and pious life," he said.
Job started school at Lake Primary before he went to Naylkinyi Mixed secondary school. Through his years in school, he saw so many of his classmates give up and drop out of school.
Some would quit school due to challenges they experienced at home while others were influenced by their wayward friends to give up learning.
“Some of the people I grew up with in the same neighbourhood suspended schooling after being recruited into criminal gangs. Some of them died after being shot by police while others were locked in prison when they were found guilty of different offences," Job recalls.
After finishing his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams last year, he faced the greatest challenge a young person can ever experience.
While at home in Shauri Yako, he found himself being invited by friends to engage in activities such as playing ball games or watching movies, which would sometimes end up with a session of drug use.
Fortunately, he quickly realised that some of those friends were bad for him and could not help him achieve his life dreams. He then decided to look for a worthy activity to pass time.
That is when he decided to start repairing shoes.
Today, Job has a stall along Salama Road in Homa Bay town where he repairs shoes.
He and Collince are offering a platform where youths can be empowered through talks on drug abuse, youth and sexuality, talent development, environmental protection and leadership skills.
They hold a series of meetings in schools and social halls and invite professionals from different sectors to engage young people in talks on how to be masters of their future, safeguard their mental health, and avoid crime and other vices.
Job says they expect to have similar meetings in the future to impart more knowledge in teenagers and young men.
“We have scheduled meetings during school holidays. It is the time when most youths are introduced to bad company,” he says.