We walked through the streets of Kibera and made many stops at the various homes. “Hello, where is Mama Mimo?” we asked a vendor next to Mama Mimo’s vegetable shop. The vendor directed us to where we would find her. It was a hot sunny day and Mama Mimo was seated under an umbrella behind her shop. The moment she saw us, her face lit up in a smile. We could tell she was happy to see us.
“I miss the food I normally get at school, some days we don’t have enough food in the house” reports 10-year-old Alex, a student from the Fountains of Hope School.
Before schools were closed, we provided daily breakfast and lunch to over 170 children in our programmes. These children represent 150 families in Kibera. Since coronavirus reached Kenya, many of these families have lost their sources of income. Many of them dropped down to eating just one meal a day to stretch out the little that they have.
This is why we are providing weekly food vouchers to the hardest-hit families.
How does the voucher scheme work?
Firstly, we identify which families are most in need. There are still a handful of families who have managed to keep their jobs while others are sustaining their small-businesses despite the present challenges. We survey the families every two weeks and add to the list of those who need the vouchers. This list has grown from just 30 families in the first few weeks to over 130 as the ongoing challenges take their toll on more and more families. To date, we have distributed 1733 food vouchers in total.
Why vouchers? Why not food packages?
The current situation is a strange one. On the one hand, there are families in Kibera who were incredibly vulnerable before the pandemic hit. They were already living on the edge of getting by and the pandemic and its economic impacts have pushed them over the edge. These people need help. On the other hand, there are people in Kibera who, before the pandemic, were running strong businesses. These businesses are struggling now as fewer people in Kibera have money to spend in their shops, but the businesses are still needed and are working hard to stay open. We distribute our vouchers through local shops in Kibera. The families can visit their local shop and collect what they need while the shopkeeper benefits from their business.
If we were to give out packages of food, this would have a detrimental effect on small businesses in Kibera. Shopping vouchers also give families a bit more flexibility to buy what they need each week rather than a prescribed package of food.
We are so grateful to all who are supporting us to provide these much-needed food vouchers to some of the most vulnerable families in Kibera. We aim to continue the programme until schools reopen in January. If you would like to donate towards this ongoing programme, visit: https://goto.gg/46252
When we heard that coronavirus had reached Kenya, straight away, we set up the handwashing stations the children use in our centres outside the gates of our projects for the community to use. But we wanted to do more.
At this point, we turned to our friends in the community.