Meet Hellen. Hellen lives in the Kipsongo slum.
Kipsongo Background – The Kipsongo slum came into existence when the Turkana tribe who lived in Northwestern Kenya for centuries fled harsh conditions and midgrated to Kitale. Fourty years ago, severe drought and famine made survival inpossible. The ongoing conflict over resources forced them to look for a new home. They were unwelcome and desperate to survive, they found refuge in Kitale’s dumping site called “Kipsongo”by the people of Kitale—meaning, “Place of the Dogs” or “Place of Hopelessness.”
The levels of poverty in Kipsongo are extreme. Mostly forgotten, the people are associated with horrible crimes, drugs and underage prostitution. Homes used to be made from sticks and trash and were in constant danger of accidental fires during the dry season and washing away in Kenya’s rainy season.
Eventually, the huts were torn down and replaced with mud huts with a tin roof. Many have dirt floors. The huts are made with mud and cow dung which makes the mud hard and able to withstand the rains and other weather.
The huts in Kipsongo have no running water, no kitchen, no bathrooms. They cook on small BBQ pit burners that are fueled by charcoal. There is 1 water pump in the slum that works. The other 2 are broken. Sometimes they go to the river to get water. The slum is a very violent place and there are assaults and violence there on a regular basis. Most are unable to buy food, get medical care or send their kids to school because of no work. Many of the women survive by selling themselves or illegal alcohol. Some pick food from the dumpster.
Hellen has 2 children; Melody and Oliver.
Hellen’s life has changed as a result of Baskets and Beads. Before the beads she was unable to feed her family or get medical care or pay school fees for her children. She learned how to make the beads and joined the group of women making the beads. She sells beads in town and Baskets and Beads purchases from directly from her and the other ladies in Kipsongo. Listen to her story here:
Since she has been making the beads, her family has never gone hungry. She used to have an alcoholic husband and her life was not good. She left him and is able to sustain herself with the beads business.
She dreams of getting out of that slum especially because she has a daughter and it’s extremely dangerous for young girls to be in the slum because of all the violence.