The faces changing Kibra amid Covid-19 pandemic

Mr Bobby Berry

Mr Bobby Berry, 25.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Bobby Berry

In December 2020, Mr Bobby Berry, 24, lost his mother to diabetes.

The 57-year-old woman, whom neighbours described as kind, compassionate and with a heart of gold, spent half of her life taking in and caring for children and women fleeing gender-based violence and sexual abuse.

“Mom left me the greatest inheritance – love. She started Parents Community Centre because many people in Kibra are hurting. It is my duty to make sure her dream of seeing to it that they have a safe space to call home lives on,” he says.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The young man who was born and brought up in Kibra is now responsible for more than 50 boys and girls aged two to 25 years, as well as women fleeing abusive marriages.

A few days ago in the evening, Bobby received a call alerting him to the case of  a boy sleeping in an abandoned building.

“I went to pick him up in the wee hours of the night and he told me he couldn’t put up with abusive, drunken parents anymore. Many women too are fed up with men who brutalise them. They assist me in taking care of the kids, cooking for them and cleaning up.”

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The shelter where they are housed is sandwiched between residential structures in the heart of the slum, with no space at all for children to play and be children. 

The structure is old and dilapidated, with one floor and double-decker beds crowded alongside each other.

“In the streets I used to sleep hungry on a daily basis and my guardians mistreated me. That is why I ran away and a lady brought me here after I was raped as a child.

“I love it here because I am not mistreated or judged. I get to live with amazing people who have experienced a lot of suffering like me,” one of the girls said.

According to Mr Bobby, the girls’ dormitory is upstairs while the boys sleep in a congested room next to what is their sitting room.

“I have kids as young as four who have been sexually abused and need special care and I am always in constant touch with the children’s department because everything has to be official before I take anyone in. We survive by the mercies and grace of well-wishers who donate to us.”

Bobby organises counselling sessions as well because many of the victims who knock at his door are usually mentally and physically tortured.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are depressed in these slums. They hurt each other so much it’s as if there’s not much value attached to human life nowadays,” he says as he distributes face masks to the children.

The footballer who dropped out of school when he was very young hopes to  go professional in future, but insists the shelter needs all the support it can get to change more lives.

“My ambition is to defend these children and do my best to make sure they have a safe space,” he says.

Eric Agoro Simba

For a man who has known poverty and the challenges faced by many families in Kibra, Pastor Eric Agoro Simba decided to do something about it. 

He is the founder, Christian Best Camps of Kenya and a popular face in Kibra.

The organisation has been providing for destitute children for the last 10 years.

“I started the programme in 2010 because I was born and bred here. And even though we have a Christian foundation, we serve everyone in our community,” the married father of three says.

The man of the cloth says the opportunity to serve less privileged children and families came when the US equipped him with the skills and networks he needs to get the job done.

Most of the sponsors and well-wishers who fund the day-to-day activities at the rescue centre come from his American networks.

“We used the gospel in America to educate and inculcate values in the less privileged in communities. Our main goal now is to ensure children in Kibra, Mathare, Huruma and other slums in Kenya are cared for and brought up in a godly manner because they have no one to bring them up,” Mr Simba explains.

He approached the government for a small piece of land where Mugumoini Community Centre sits.

The facility has to date served 24,000 households with a maximum of eight people in each, has a well-equipped community library with computers that serves community members and local schools without access to electricity.

“What we have has been keeping the children busy throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. They are much safer here than in the slums,” the pastor insists.

The day-to-day running of the place is, however, done by Ms Linah Wambui, a former journalist who is very passionate about children, as Mr Simba globetrots in the company of like-minded individuals in America looking for partnerships and well-wishers to keep the children alive and cared for.

Eric Agoro Simba

Mr Eric Agoro Simba, the founder of Christian Best Camps of Kenya.

Photo credit: Pool

According to Ms Wambui, they handle between 100 and 200 children and youths aged four to 25 years. They also nurture the children’s talents in music and basketball, among other activities.

It is a challenging task, according to the founder, considering the current lockdowns and the fact that well-wishers are affected by the pandemic globally despite possessing kind hearts.

“We spent about Sh50,000 a day just to feed the children, men and women who come here so that they do not die of starvation. Our founder has to make it available or else there is no hope for them,” a staff member at the centre revealed.