- Calvin in his room, as phone keeps ringing with friends call before him living to Canada the next day © Joan Bardeletti
Calvin Mbuga is 45 years old. He lives and work in Matahre, one of Nairobi (and maybe Africa) biggest slum area. He chose it, as he could afford to live with his wife and 2 kids in much wealthier neighborhoods. He is the director of « Reality tested youth program » association he created years ago and aimed at supporting the slum’s people initiatives to improve life in this challenging environment. He feels this is the best way to make things move forward rather than foreign NGO tailored solutions that do not always meet the real people needs.
- The beaten up wife with her baby (in center) listen to her husband (on left) explanations surrounded by the association workers. © Joan Bardeletti
Quiet talks in a room of the association : a women suffering domestic violence by his husband was brought here by two of her friends. Now the husband has arrived and conversation is becoming louder : at last, association members will have him accept to pay for hospital costs. « We have about 5 to 10 cases like this every day. People trust us because they know we have human rights specialists working for us, and we can take legal action if we have to »
Calvin grew himself in a slum area with a more than 12 persons family. His mother was selling illegal alcohol and his father “was not of much use for the family as he was spending his money in drinking”. His abilities in school persuaded his mother to invest on him for school fees. “Studying out of the Matahre, the teacher was making fun of me even though I was top of the class, telling other students that if they would not study, they would end up living in a slum”
He finished high school, was then hired as a social worker for various NGOs for many years, even accompanied a slum football team to a tournament in Norway “We wanted to stop cars to tell them, Hey ! you kow we are going to Norway !”, and got different scholarships to study in Canada where he got a PhD.
He complete his 200€/month salary as the association’s director by working as a consultant for foreign institutions for projects dealing with slums. Periodically he also invests his savings in enlarging the building he built and is living in to have more rooms to rent (currently he is renting 9 of them). His monthly earnings are above 800€.
To him, together with the money income (from 400€ per month), the neighborhood they live in, the low number of kids, the key characteristic of the middle class is its high education level. He consider being part of it and is investing himself a lot in his children education and his daughter is going to a private school costing over 450€ per year. “ I proposed a contract to my children : I pay them good education in universities in Canada to allow them to be critical but they have to then to come back and work in Kenya to use their skills in their community”.
He is part of a social club, as many Kenyans do, where he discuss about society, politics, religion… The other members can be lawyer, policeman, or teacher, all of them part of this middle class. This club is also a social security net, as members should pay each other funerals and have the obligation to help other member in money trouble.
- “After saturday’s workshop with slum habitants, everyone wants his email address before he leaves” © Joan Bardeletti
But now, he really has to go since he is leaving the next day and has not yet done his suit case…