Walking through the slums of Mombasa, I start to think of all the other slums I’ve visited around the world. They can vary wildly, but all have similar through lines. You can feel the hopelessness, the despair, the lack of self-worth. There’s a longing for opportunity, for a dying dream to be reborn and displayed in front of you, not as a dream, but as your reality. Many dream of breaking free from the vice like grip of the slums, yet few seem to achieve it. Why is this? What makes escape so seemingly improbable, if not impossible?
Many have been born into the slums. Never having a chance, never knowing what one would look like. They’ve lived in dilapidated shacks, hastily thrown together, barely standing, their whole lives. They walk barefoot, through heaps of trash with raw sewage draining beside their walkways. Many have never even left the confines of the slum.
I walked through the slums of Mombasa, stepping on piles of fermenting and rotting garbage, over small pools of toxic looking green waste. We made our way down the coastline at the base of the slum, stepping around piles of feces littering the sand, as there are a lack of bathrooms. If you are not careful, you can feel the overwhelming hopelessness creep over you, like a thick fog that has no intention of releasing you from its misty haze.
But hope cannot be kept down. We are with a few of the Action Ministry team. They begin to introduce us to people they are working with in the slums. And they being to share their stories. Hope rises. Families that started out in a home that was literally falling to pieces, has now moved to a better part of the slum into a small mud and brick home. It may not seem like much, but it is a huge step for them.
We hear stories of teenagers and twenty-somethings, that have taken up soccer and boxing in Action Ministry’s sports program. We visit the gym where the boxers train. It is an incredible sight. They tell us how much they love it. How it is teaching them discipline and how those they train with have become like family. We hear of the programs and initiatives that Action Ministry has in store for these slums in Mombasa. And the misty haze begins to dissolve. The fog begins to lift. Hope, as it always does, rises to the surface.
We can be so quick in dismissing those of the slums, those living in abject poverty. We can throw our hands up in despair and walk away. Never looking back and muttering the question of what is the point. Let us not be so quick to judge, to dismiss. There is a strong tide beginning to shift in the slums of Mombasa. The team of Action Ministry knows the potential of these precious lives. They see the possibilites of these forgotten children. They refuse to let their vision be clouded by the fog of doubt and defeat.
It will be a long fight, yes, but one worth fighting. No one should ever be dismissed for not having the opportunities growing up that so many of us take for granted. No one. Let us link arms with Action Ministry as they support and love the people of the slums of Mombasa. Action Ministry is assembling many practical ways for you to get involved with helping the people of the slums. Keep visiting the Needs page on Know.Think.Act. To see how you can be a part of lifting the fog of hopelessness off of these precious people.
U.S. Programs Director