Can Anything Good Come From Kibra?

Leadership Foundations

Leadership Foundations

If you are a stranger, Nairobi is a city that will welcome you,” said Gideon Ochieng, the Executive Director of the Center for Transforming Mission (CTM) Kenya. “Here, we will still stop and help a stranger.

In Kenya’s capital city of five million people, Ochieng’s work at CTM (the local Leadership Foundation) is focused on the poorest residents. “Here, 80 percent of the population is crammed into 20 percent of the land area,” he said. “And most of these people live in what we call ‘unplanned settlements.’ According to the UN Habitat report, the number of people living in these slums will double in the next fifteen years.”

“As much as it looks unbearable, living in these slums is still better than other places. While some places are drought-stricken and food cannot be found, at least here there is access to healthcare and food and water if you have even a little bit of money.”

That need to find “even a little bit of money” means that more than a third of children in Nairobi don’t finish their secondary school education.

Those children that drop out of school are more likely to get into gangs, drugs, abuse, unplanned pregnancies, prostitution, and even terrorism. That is why it is so crucial for kids here to have a mentor- someone to disciple them, guide them, and give them the critical skills to remain safe and productive in this very challenging environment,” said Ochieng. “It is the only way to stop the cycle of violence and poverty that makes our city dangerous and uninhabitable.”

As Ochieng and his co-laborers in Nairobi began meeting with the young adult residents of a particularly impoverished neighborhood known as Kibra, they hoped that starting a sports program would be an avenue for teaching leadership to their new friends. After a few attempts and misses and some support in fundraising from the LF global network, they started building basketball courts at local schools. Basketball coaches and volunteers circled around the students in their sports leadership programs, and CTM began to see remarkable success.

Basketball is an elite sport in Nairobi- only the schools in expensive neighborhoods usually have a basketball program. As we focused on improving the physical, mental, and social health of the young athletes, as well as their discipleship, we started to see them become proud of themselves,” said Ochieng.

Ochieng’s proudly brags about Veronicah Ayoo (pictured above), one of CTM’s successful students. “Ayoo is called ‘The Soldier’ by her teammates and has lived up to her nickname. She joined the basketball program when she was 14, and life at home was very hard for her. She is one of seven children, and her mother was a widow and working lots of manual labor jobs trying to care for all of them. In fact, her mother thought that basketball was probably a waste of time. Her sister had already gotten pregnant and dropped out of school, and Ayoo was worried that the same fate awaited her and hat she would never be someone important.”

“Now, Veronicah is the top ranked under-21 basketball shooter in Kenya. She got her grades up from a D average and earned university scholarship. And her mother is on top of the world with pride.”

CTM’s successes since it began the basketball and leadership program five years ago include more than 200 graduates, no unplanned pregnancies amongst the girls, several students going on to college, and four players on the team representing Kenya in the East African Championship.

“In the Bible, Nathanael said, ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’,” said Ochieng. “And now when people say, ‘Kibra! Can anything good come from there?’, I say, ‘Come and see. Come and see what good God does in Kibra.’”

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Celia Vigil

Communications Associate

What book, movie, quote, or tv show has most shaped your understanding of leadership or the city?   

A quote that has shaped my understanding of leadership and the city is, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

While the amount of work there is to do to transform cities is great, this quote reminds me that we are freed from having to complete it all, though our obligation to continue remains. We may never see a huge transformation in our lifetime. The work stretches far beyond us. However, this does not make our acts of faithfulness in the day to day less significant, no matter how small they may seem.