Featured Storyteller

KENYA: My Vision Will Eliminate Starvation in the Slums

TERESA
Posted July 28, 2021 from Kenya

As a community social worker, Teresa Wambui knows the devastating impacts of hunger and poverty. She says there’s one thing that can help everyone meet their basic needs.

“A hungry nation cannot work in order to sustain its economy.

I am a community social worker. For more than 10 years, I have been visiting the slums outside the Nairobi suburbs. These household visits have been challenging; the heartache and suffering, palpable. Slum dwellers suffer throughout their lifetime, and the majority of people I meet there—especially youth, the elderly, the disabled—are jobless with few prospects and little education.

In order to protect, empower, and enable the livelihoods of those who are living in the slums—to have a better economy and a healthy nation—we must first eliminate poverty and hunger. 

When you ask children in the slums why they don’t attend school, they’ll respond by saying, “Hunger, how do you expect a child to concentrate in school on an empty stomach?” Many of the children spend their days in the streets of nearby residential areas, searching for food from the dustbins of the middle class. These same children are at risk of child marriage, a husband sometimes seen as the only economic opportunity available to them.

Still more, the women and girls who are lucky enough to attend school avoid classes during their menstruation periods. They stay home and bleed into old clothing in private to avoid humiliation and shame. Slums should be provided with free sanitary pads. 

Economic desperation can push children to drugs and violence. Once, two boys demanded a man’s cell phone. When he refused, they attacked him from behind, stabbing and killing him. A mob of residents came after the boys, seeking justice. One of the boys escaped, but the other was lynched. If only the boy had something to eat so he may not have been driven to crime. Horrific, untimely deaths would have been avoided. 

Recently, I have witnessed an effective solution to address food insecurity: direct cash transfers to households in need made by NGOs, private organizations, or local governments. As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people further into devastating poverty in the last year, international donors sustained most of the poor households in Kenya. Organizations began providing cash transfers to households in need: offering a lasting solution to support people in the slums. 

I helped direct these transfers to older persons, disabled persons, orphans, those with HIV/AIDS, and destitute mothers. I helped ensure that people in the slums had proper identity cards and were registered with Safaricom Mobile numbers to be able to receive the payments. For around four months, households had income and money for basic necessities: food and hygiene products.

I’m grateful for the donors worldwide, such as USAID and World Vision, that have stepped up to support people struggling in Kenya during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the Donor COVID Cash Transfer program through GiveDirect and the World Program has ended. The beneficiaries in the slums ask me when the aid will return. During the aid period, their children never went to bed hungry.

My vision is for other countries and NGOs who work in these countries to continue to provide cash transfers directly to people in need in countries such as Kenya so that basic survival needs are met. My vision is to create a structure in my country where organizations provide at least 1,000 Kenyan shillings per week to every poor household. 

Economic prospects are slim for those who dwell in the slums, and this structure would provide a needed safety net. Young mothers in the slums wash middle-class people’s clothes for a living and are paid very little because they don’t have alternative options for work. They make 200 Kenyan Shillings (about $1.85 US) per day. This is hardly enough for food, let alone other basic needs. Now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even harder for women to make an income. Those who had businesses or jobs found their employment wiped out due to the pandemic.

I have been going into the slums to offer seminars since the tribal clashes that started in 2007 and 2008. Those living in the slums were impacted greatly by this violence. When I was there, I learned that the majority of dwellers’ adolescents never attended school. They requested that I reach out to the authority on adult education on their behalf. 

Without education, without income, slum dwellers wake up in the morning to no tea, to no hot water, to little to no food. Hunger is the worst enemy. Many become involved in prostitution in order to obtain food. This leads to early pregnancy, young mothers dying prematurely, others being struck by HIV/AIDS. In eastern and southern Africa in 2017, 79% of new HIV infections among 10–19-year-olds were among females, according to UNAIDS. An estimated 50 adolescent girls die every day from AIDS-related illnesses.

I remember a girl child who was nine years old. She narrated to me how her mother was a barmaid. Often she was accompanied home by different men. They lived in one room, and the partition was a simple bed sheet. The mother asked the daughter to have sex with a man, and when the daughter did and complained that the man was hurting her, the mother told the daughter to persevere so that they would have enough money for food. The daughter told me this through tears, asking to never be with her mother again. 

Community social workers like me help amplify the slum dwellers’ concerns. I tell them in front of the government officials that the government office belongs to all. The officers are there to serve all without discrimination, so one should never fear.

A hungry nation cannot work in order to sustain its economy. When we ensure households can meet their basic needs, we can help them access education and pursue work opportunities. Let us talk of a world where people are fed and clothed. 

If the payments were ongoing during this COVID-19 pandemic era and beyond, no children would go to bed hungry, crying to their mothers for food. My experiences in the slums have shown me that most mothers opt to sleep hungry so their kids can eat. Imagine a world where every woman and child and household in the slums of Kenya did not have to worry about food security. Where every girl can attend school and not stay home due to a lack of sanitary pads. It would be an admirable, enjoyable environment. We would be a healthy nation and world with enough food security and stable housing. 

This is what direct payments can accomplish; this is why we must make this system a long-lasting solution for the vulnerable Kenyans who are known to be hard-working but lack money and resources. Let’s join hands and assist those in need, let’s ensure children cry no more, let’s be compassionate, loving, and merciful.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 27

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megsmueller
Jul 28
Jul 28

Congratulations my sister on this awarded story! Keep on working sister. It does not go unseen. Thank you for your work! Much love to you.

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 28
Jul 28

Dear Teresa,
This is where our collective focus needs to be. Can we send your story on, through Facebook and whatever ways we can? We must develop emergency lines to get funding to the people you are with, and to you, to keep you in support. Funding circles directly to sisters like you.
Sisterhood love,
Tam

TERESA
Aug 09
Aug 09

Hello Madam Tam,
I appreciate your continued support, Ideas, recommendations and advise on how we might go about to solve this long term suffering issue on the hungry vulnerable including older persons, Disabled, Orphans. Youth Street children in my Community.
The same suggestion you had suggested.

I air my views in order to find solutions on the hungry vulnerable poor.

May GOD our creator grant you long life and family in order to serve HIM in GODs poor children. Amen,

Madam Tam in sisterhood love lets assist them. see you online.

Sorry. for having not replied your message earlier I have been bedridden but I thank GOD am better now I was able to come reply,

GOD bless you.
Teresa

Anum Shakeel
Jul 28
Jul 28

Dear Teresa, Thank you for sharing your story, "A hungry nation cannot work in order to sustain its economy" this is a powerful and deep thought. Wish you best of luck and keep going!

TERESA
Aug 09
Aug 09

Madam Shakeel,
I appreciate so much your comment. Thanks for your kind response.

TERESA

Queen Sheba D Cisse
Jul 29
Jul 29

Greetings!
What a great Vision sister Theresa.
We at www.queenshebavillage.org share the same similar vision and yes funding and plenty of resources is the major key but most of all direct Education related to much you have written here.
Keep the vision strong and seek collaborations in partnerships as well. Additional resources you may check here on World Pulse in that section pertaining to NEED and Resources.
Also I am here(message box me) to help as well if you need me.
sincerely,

Mama Queen

Jill Langhus
Jul 30
Jul 30

Hi Teresa,

Congrats on winning the Featured Story Award! Keep up the great work. You rock!

XX

TERESA
Aug 09
Aug 09

Madam Jill,
I appreciate so much, I feel nice. I feel better
I thank you all the World Pulse Directors,
my World Pulse Sisters Members. I thank GOD for all of you.

Teresa

Jill Langhus
Aug 11
Aug 11

Hello, Love,

I'm glad to hear it:-) Thank you, for all that you do, and the selfless things you do every day. XX

ARREY- ECHI
Jul 30
Jul 30

Dear Teresa,
Congratulations for your story award. It is a well deserved award and thank you for the amazing work you are doing. It is a sad story which needs to be told. I wept for that young girl of 11 being forced by the mum to have sex for money.
You are right that such remittance need to continue but I wish there was an even more sustainable project to economically empower these people so they can better take care of themselves whether these remittance come through all not.
One day we hope , God's kingdom would bring to us the security, peace and all that we yearn for where humans continue to fail.
Sending you lots of hugs and courage.

Laa'iqah SeedSower
Jul 30
Jul 30

Dear Teresa,
Thank you for raising your voice for the many voiceless people in your beautiful country.

I was so saddened to read of the child marriages and sexual exploitation. The struggle for survival is heart-rendering. My younger sister is a social entrepreneur. I know she works with a group in Kenya. Please see your inbox for their details.

We are stronger together!
In solidarity <3

Dear Teresa,

I am struggling to type words of encouragement due to many shoulder surgeries, but want to tell you that you are an Angel of Hope for Nairobi.

God bless you and I hope I can come and support your work one day if God wills it.

I would seriously ask you to approach the World Food Programme team and see if they have a representative in Nairobi.

Much love and respect to you and your dedication to you community social services.

In solidarity
Your sister
Sabeena

TERESA
Aug 11
Aug 11

Hello Madam Sabeena Ahmed and the LIFT,
I appreciate so much your words of encouragement. I thank GOD for you, you are selfless, your action of struggling to type words of encouragement while in that sorry state/pain of shoulder surgeries tells it all you have a big heart, loving heart, kindness. How I pray that GOD heal you completely so that you may continue serving GOD"s needy pooe children. You are most Welcome to come and support my/GOD's work. I wish you quick recovery.

Your loving expression sounds musical in my ears

John ,9 yrs old. mother she was disabled had a stroke her condition became worse, she was admitted in a referral hospital but she died on last Sunday. Sshe was one of my group of these disabled, those who have disabled children.

I talked to our Priest in charge of our church. I requested him to be giving them food they are given 2 packets of Maize flour every Tuesday. Yesterday, they were so many Vulnerable some did not manage to get even a packet of Maize flour some while going back to the slums they usually come to inform me they did not get the maize flour. On most occasion , whenever they come to me I try to give them whatever I have to take to their poor hungry children in the slums.
I have been sick, so Yesterday I was not able to give them anything to take to their poor hungry children.
Even today they came still I did not have anything.
Madam Sabeena, I appreciate so much the love/kindness you show in asking me to approach the World Food Programme Team. I wish you could introduce me to them through sending me an email to take to them.
Much Love and respect to you madam Sabeena for your concern.
See you online soonest possible I request you.
cheers!!! Madam GOD bless you.
Teresa
Volunteer Community Social Worker

TERESA
Aug 30
Aug 30

Hello Sister Sabeena Ahmed and the LIFT

Hope you are Okay now. Today is exactly one month since we communicated. Hope you are fine, you have recovered from the shoulder wounds.

May GOD heal you completely. Amen.
Thanks

Kat Haber
Jul 30
Jul 30

Powerful! Please checkout ideas about poverty on TED.com. You can find some of them here: https://www.ted.com/playlists/67/the_quest_to_end_poverty

Abundantly grateful for your writing. Keep telling us stories!

Elizabeth Francis
Aug 01
Aug 01

A blessed good morning teresa
I'm so happy for you, congratulations
You are definitely passionate about making a difference in an area that's so critical at this point. The story is filed with daddness, but also hope as you endeavour to raise your voice and call attention to the problem. Its so crazy that people go to bed hungry when in other nations billions worth of good food is thrown away. You are so right nourishment is vital to progress, I pray you get the support you need to succeed in your endeavours. Blessings love sbd light my sister

TERESA
Aug 03
Aug 03

Hello Sister Elizabeth
I appreciate your loving kind comment. Am the vice of the Voiceless. May GOD touch the hearts of the Nations billions worth of good food that are thrown away. I pray to GOD that may my vulnerable Community get right nourishment

TERESA
Aug 30
Aug 30

Hi Elizabeth Francis,
Apologies, for having not replied your email on time.
Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging email. Continue to pray for my Community in the slums so that they get the support am requesting youMembers/Collegues/Donors to assist the hungry who go to sleep with nothing in the stomach while in other Nations billions worth of good food is thrown away, as you are saying .
GOD bless you. Amen
TERESA

Olutosin
Aug 01
Aug 01

I say Amen to your vision.

TERESA
Aug 03
Aug 03

Amen my sister from another mother

Teresa

SIMON MUREU
Aug 03
Aug 03

Wambui--mwari,it is a very good story you are telling.I believe thing are like as you say it and wish you the best in your work.

simon mureu
kikuyu kenya

TERESA
Aug 03
Aug 03

Mr. Simon Mureu -Muriu,
Thanks for your comment. Things are as you read.
May GOD assist HIS poor vulnerable people

securemyassets
Aug 04
Aug 04

Hi Teresa, congratulations on having your story featured and thank you for sharing the needs of Kenyans. In addition to direct cash payments to alleviate poverty and hunger, improving agriculture may be a solution. Community farming using permaculture practices, and rooftop food gardens could be included as part of long term solutions. Thank you for your service and dedication as a social worker for communities in need, you are a blessing.

Lily Habesha
Aug 12
Aug 12

Dear Teresa,
Habari
Your vision will eliminate starvation in the slam. We'll not see any chekora on the road sniffing gum, dehydrated, women in corners of Kayole , behind Gikomba, Kilimani….and other slams, their lives will be changed by this dream.

You sister Lily,
From Ethiopia

TERESA
Aug 15
Aug 15

Habari ni Mzuri sana my sister Lily,

I appreciate so much your kind, loving response,
My sister everyone will leave only once in this World. If only everyone those who could afford could do at least something small to assist the vulnerable.

Do you know. the World would be an enjoyable place to live in, no starvation, Shelter, Affordable Health Facilities etc..
Thanks so much my sister from the same Continent,

Teresa
Volunteer Social Worker
Kenya

Harriet Kamashanyu
Aug 27
Aug 27

Thank you my sister Teresa for sharing. Like Mother Teresa said, you may not feed hundreds but you can feed one. Thanks for the great initative.

I am actually running the same camapign in Uganda and am happy it resonates with this!

TERESA
Aug 28
Aug 28

Hello Madam Harriet,
Thanks so much for your response.
Sharing gives one/me joy. When you share with the poorest of the poor those who cannot give you anything in return. The tired smile that she gives you expression on his/her face tells it all.
You will be blessed Madam Harriet. so keep up the good spirit GOD will bless you. Amen