By Roberta Alves
AVSI-USA Communications and Outreach Manager
Ruth and Elizabeth lead the group through an intricate maze of tin houses. The terrain is muddy. We are in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in Africa and the third largest in the world, with a population that varies between 500,000 to well over 1,000,000 depending on the source. Here, most residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$ 1.00 per day. Along the path, we see children playing dangerously close to the open sewage. A colorful mural brings some beauty to Kibera, but hope seems to be a concept that abandoned this place a long time ago. For Ruth and Elizabeth, on the contrary, hope is alive and well. They were both able to open their own small businesses thanks to AVSI’s “Tumikia Mtoto” (“Serve the Children”) project. We are on our way to visit their businesses.
We first stop at Ruth’s “store.” She unlocks the door and brings a big yellow bowl full of silvery fish, tilapia to be precise. At lunchtime, she will begin to fry them to sell to people coming back from work later in the day. Ruth could afford the “jiko” (a small metal container used for burning charcoal), frying pan, and sieving spoon thanks to “Tumikia Mtoto.” Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by AVSI in partnership with World Vision Kenya, the project supports HIV-infected orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), and their households. This includes families like Ruth’s, in which two of her three children, ages 3 to 18, are HIV-positive.