History is being made in the largest slum in Africa.
Kibera is where almost 2 million people huddle in concrete, 12-foot square rooms pinched along the hills – no electricity, no water, no plumbing. Grandmothers struggle, like most residents, to care for their families that can include as many as 10-12 people living in these concrete squares. Cardboard is spread on the floor for sleeping, and four or five people sleep horizontally across a mattress. Clothes are kept in plastic bags, meals are not always possible, and frequently, school fees are impossible to provide.
In 2008, grandmothers were trained by TNP in Business Skills to strengthen the profits of their small vegetable stands. Profits quadrupled and the grandmothers said that many of the other grandmothers and mothers in their neighborhoods in Kibera saw the positive changes that were happening to them and wanted what they had. How could they have better lives, too, they asked?
The grandmothers had an idea: To open a preschool in Kibera where they could prepare hot meals and help the teacher and other women could feel safe about sending their small children there. In six short months, the grandmothers had become entrepreneurs. TNP said, yes, we would help. TNP Founder, Mary Martin Niepold, met with Prime Minister Raila Odinga who said he liked what we were doing and sent staff to show us a suitable location.
By 2010, the preschool moved to a larger location – three rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, outdoor toilets, a sewing center, playground equipment. Today, we have a beautiful, strong preschool where children are taught with Montessori method and matriculate easily into public schools.
Grandmothers cook, and small children teach the grandmothers how to read!
By 2012, more than 200 children have been taught here, and most impressive of all, the preschool supports itself almost entirely through a sewing cooperative where the grandmothers sew and sell school uniforms.
An ngo business run independently by the Africans it serves is virtually unheard of in Africa – a project that is run and sustained by the participants themselves, with no handouts.
The grandmothers have shown all of us – here and in Africa – what hard work and dedication can create. Because of them, in Kibera today, dreams are realized, a brand new model for self-sufficiency has been created, and the preparation of new and stronger generations is happening every single day at a beautiful preschool operated by grandmothers.