Youth Uprising in Kenya

April 11, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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George told me why we are holding the peacesummit next week, I mean I had ideas, but this story spells it out.  During the violence after Kenya’s election last year,  a member of parliament asked a group of 10 youth if they would go disrupt the opposition’s rally. The MP paid the group 500 shillings and they went and caused fear and chaos and stopped the opposition’s event. Afterwards, the politician gave all the money to one youth, and the others wanted it so bad they almost killed him to get it.  When the total was divided up it was 50 shillings per youth — less than one dollar.   And here these youth risked their lives and could have been arrested.    This made them so angry and bitter that they went and smoked weed and then took women and raped them.

Uprising Youth Club House

Uprising Youth Club House

He told this story to a group of youth we visited in the Machako Slums in East Naiobi called Uprising Youth to illustrate why we are holding this peace summit, because youth can be manipulated by politicians.  Uprising Youth is a group of young men that are brought together by a love of football, and their team is in one of the premier leagues.  In order to support the costs of the team, like uniforms, registration and transport to games, they have several businesses to generate income.  A few years ago there was a big trash dump right in the middle of the slum, so they cleaned it up and negotiated with the city to have the space where they built a club house, which they use for almost daily meetings  to plan their game strategy and business ventures.  Their first project was to manage the public toilets installed by city hall, which they still do.  But the toilets were not bring in enough money, so they got a small loan and built a shower next door, where people pay 20 shillings for a hot shower.  Business is thriving, and children play in the hot soapy water that pours out of the doors into the open sewer.

The group also manages 6 rental houses, but their pride and joy is a car wash.  They are the only ones in the area with a power washer, and this means they can charge more than the others for their services.  One month money was short right before a big soccer tournament, and the group pawned the powerwasher to the nearby NGO  for a loan in order to get the boys to the game.   It took them about a month to repay the the 7,000 shillings they borrowed (about $100) all in coins.

powerwasher

powerwasher

Several of them told me, “before I joined Uprising Youth I was a jailbird, a hustler.  I just wanted to be a criminal, and now I want to be the best soccer player in Kenya.”  A couple of the young men, holding babies said, we do this for our children, so they will have better chances than us.    Uprising Youth has also  accessed the National Youth Fund in Kenya, which is hard to do for all the bureaucracy involved, and got a loan of 47,000 shillings  (about $450).  They used the money to buy a PlayStation2, which they charged admission from kids to play, but parents started complaining so they temporarily suspended business until school is out.  They have almost paid the money back to the government.

soccer coach for Uprising Youth

soccer coach for Uprising Youth on right

This group of young men live in one of the most violent slums in Nairobi, but all they talk about is soccer and what their next business plan will be.   Dreaming big has paid off, after 7 years of asking, someone has given them a matatu (a van).  They will use it  to drive to their games, and on the other days they will operate it as a bus. Uprising is such a great example of what young people can do with a little support.  But what sticks with me is despite their difficult circumstances, these young men had passion and drive, and that can’t be bought.

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