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This Daily Nation article estimates that half of Kenyan women with HIV were abused in 2009, based on a recent self-reporting study.

The study finds that rape and sexual exploitation are prevalent in Nyanza, Coast, Western, and Nairobi, the provinces in which researchers carried out the study. As might be expected, female, HIV-positive orphans are at the highest risk of forced marriage, in addition to other forms of abuse.
It is striking that a place of such natural beauty, spiritual generosity, and cultural strength holds this dark reality. There is so much life in Kenya ... and yet, as these jarring statistics show, the lives of many Kenyan women are compromised. Somehow, both truths exist.

This morning, I attended a screening of  Brownstones to Red Dirt, a compelling documentary film spotlighting an inspired international pen pal program. This project pairs children in Brooklyn with children in Sierra Leone, in the same way I am matching Kenyan and U.S. children: through classrooms, orphanages, and 1:1 connections. The filmmakers were at the screening, so I told them about my project and said I would love to collaborate with them. I hope something cool comes of that.

Sierra Leone's Civil War (1991-2002) left many orphaned children as its truest casualties, and now they are forced into child prostitution and other inhumane circumstances, just to survive. Similarly and differently, the poverty and gang violence in Bed-Stuy/Marcy Park, Brooklyn kills its children, both literally and metaphorically, as they are either gunned down or forced into premature adulthood. The correspondence between children of those two worlds is heart rending: Rather than becoming hardened and cynical these children shine when invited to share their respective lives with each other.
The movie is poignant, entertaining, and validating for anyone doing this work. I walked out of it feeling encouraged about the endless possibilities, for children to make friends across the world. I identified an overarching theme - finding power in witnessing the triumphs and struggles of another - that breaks through the common thread of poverty, violence, and isolation in these two communities.
I encourage any interested person to join Brownstones' mailing list (instructions on the website, linked above) to find out when it will screen where you live.
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 04:24

Life in Nairobi's Slums

This Daily Nation article provides an illuminating and sobering glimpse at life in Nairobi's slums. Particularly haunting was the quote that it is "not uncommon for a lively child in her class to go home with a drunk father, only to return home the next morning 'like a torn and tormented ghost, who never smiles in the same way again.'"

Yet, as residents or even one-time visitors can attest, depravity is not the only face of the slums. I frequently speak of the palpable joy that effuses from the people who suffer as this article describes. The Nairobi slum dwellers I know are heroic, forever shining their bright spirits. Notwithstanding the atrocities of their daily lives, their cultural gratitude is immense.
Before I traveled to the Kawangware slum of Nairobi, I had never seen such spiritual wealth - even in my own country, the United States of America, where we have many collective blessings to celebrate.
Spiritual riches aside, those in the slums need help. I continually ask myself, "What more can I do to keep their felicity bulbs burning?"
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 04:23

Plie! Allegre! Pas de bouree!

This is just wonderful. Augmenting children's joy by encouraging their creative expression - what could be better? Michael Wamaya deserves a standing ovation, as do these little dancers.

Brava and bravo!

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