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Presenter: Welcome to another episode of In Focus, a youth program that focuses on people who have a positive impact on this generation. (Pause) Imagine being trapped in the world of drugs and the sex trade. These issues feature strongly in the stories of youth in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. In today’s program, a former drug addict, Joshua Sepipe, shares how he got hooked on drugs and how he then managed to change his life. We will also speak to Akinyi, who used to be a sex worker, and later on speak to Raphael Omondi from Pamoja Youth, a community-based organization that is changing lives in the slum. Welcome to the program, Sepipe.
Sepipe: Thank you; it’s my pleasure.
Presenter: What is the life of a young person like, living in the slum?
Sepipe: Generally, life for youth in the slum is hard. In this place, certain deeds are done in the open, others underground. The drug abuse rate is high, especially hard drugs like bhang (Editor’s note: marijuana), khat, and cocaine. Jobless youth stroll along the railway line. Sex work also takes place, though it’s not as obvious as in places like Majengo. Staying out of trouble is quite difficult. There are lots of drugs peddled around. Kibera is like the drug headquarters. But we don’t know where the drugs are coming from.
Presenter: Why do you think young people are involved in drugs?
Sepipe: I’d say idleness and bad company. Young men are abusing drugs as early as two in the afternoon. Many here are jobless, whether they’re educated or not. There is also a lot of peer pressure to abuse drugs. Both ladies and men are involved. If they could be occupied with a job, then they could avoid drugs.
Presenter: How did you get involved in drugs?
Sepipe: It all started when I was in Form 3 in high school. I had lots of friends who were involved in drugs. We went to a party one day and they introduced me to drugs. At first, I declined. But they insisted. They bought me cocaine and soda. One of them told me it’s a harmless drug. I tasted, and over time became addicted.
Presenter: How did the drug addiction affect you?
Sepipe: (Remorseful) It affected me negatively. I dropped out of high school. My life was ruined. I neglected my family, despite living in a Christian home.
Presenter: Coming up, Sepipe will continue to share more about his changed lifestyle. Don’t go away.
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Presenter: Welcome back. With us is Mr. Sepipe, a young man who was once a drug addict and is now a youth trainer. What made you join Pamoja Youth Foundation empowerment programs?
Sepipe: Pamoja is the most popular organization in Kibera. Back then, Pamoja used to run theatre and sensitization programs during weekends. I admired their outreaches and programs. I saw they were committed and that my life would change. So I joined. After joining Pamoja, I was rehabilitated. I realized that I had messed up my life. It took a U-turn from then onwards.
Presenter: How have you benefited since then?
Sepipe: (Happy) I was able to complete high school. Later, I underwent counselling and training in leadership. Today, I do public speaking, though I used to be shy. I have developed my self-esteem by going out with the organization to talk to the community about various issues. I am now in charge of the Democracy and Governance program at Pamoja!
Presenter: What are you doing to encourage other youth still involved in drugs to improve their lives?
Sepipe: We go to speak to drug addicts in the places where they do drugs. We share the experiences we had before being rehabilitated from drug addiction. After a lot of talk and counselling, they often decide to quit drugs. Today, of the four friends of mine who were addicted to drugs, three are no longer addicted. I am working on the remaining one. Our programs are having an impact. We make sure to do monitoring and evaluation of our projects periodically.
Presenter: What words of advice would you give to other young people?
Sepipe: As youth, we have many opportunities, especially with Kenya’s new constitution. Let us not be idle. Don’t wait for the government to intervene in your problems. You are the government. You can start your own business and grow.
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Presenter: You are still tuned to In Focus, your weekly educational program. Before the break, we heard from Sepipe, who was involved in drugs before getting counselling and treatment from Pamoja. According to the research conducted in 13 villages in Kibera, Pamoja seems to be the most popular organization, bringing change to the lives of many. Up next is yet another success story, this time a young lady who was forced into the sex trade by poverty, but is now into business, thanks to Pamoja. Welcome, Akinyi.
Akinyi: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Presenter: Akinyi, how was life for you as a young lady in Kibera?
Akinyi: Life was tough for me and my family. I grew up in a humble background. We barely had any food on the table. When I was fourteen years old, our parents died of AIDS.
Presenter: How was life with no parents at such a tender age?
Akinyi: As the first-born of five siblings, I had to be the breadwinner. I would beg for food from neighbours, or be at the dump site and wait for garbage trucks from Nairobi. Sometimes we would be lucky to get fresh food from sealed bags that were thrown away. While my peers went to school, I would go to the city and beg in the streets. Once, I met some girls who suggested I try the sex trade. It was hard for me to decide at first. But then I consented. It gave me a few more shillings to take care of my siblings.
Presenter: How long were you living that kind of life?
Akinyi: After a year and a half, I really despaired. Business was bad and most clients would leave without paying, and even beat me up! As I sat in our shanty one Saturday, I heard an announcement through a public address system that Pamoja was collaborating with an NGO to invite the youth for training in the area. People who were interested could attend. I went and it was a great enlightenment for me. I met with Raphael Omondi and other officials of the group and shared my story.
Presenter: How did they help you?
Akinyi: They sent some members to our home to evaluate the need. They talked to my siblings and neighbours. Eventually, I enrolled in the business training. I decided to quit my former job and start a vegetable selling business.
Presenter: How did you raise the start-up capital for your business?
Akinyi: Getting capital was hard. The group helped us by linking us to micro-finance institutions such as Equity Bank. We got soft loans with a good repayment period. They are still mentoring us and helping whenever need be. I also went back to high school with a scholarship I got from Pamoja’s partners, and my siblings are also in school.
Presenter: Besides the business you are running, are you involved in any community development work?
Akinyi: I am also involved in the reproductive health program. I went for volunteer AIDS testing and I was lucky to be negative. We are helping other girls with health issues by providing counselling, sanitary towels and training. I am grateful to Pamoja for coming to my rescue when I was in need.
Presenter: Raphael Omondi is the Director of Pamoja Youth Foundation in Kibera, the community-based organization that changed the life of Sepipe, Akinyi and others. He shares with us next.
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Presenter: Welcome to the program, Raphael.
Raphael: Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Presenter: How did Pamoja Youth start?
Raphael: In 2004, my friends and I formed a youth network in our high school. We lobbied local leaders to establish a government high school in Kibera, named Olympic High School. Later, I noticed that, despite the fact that there are many NGOs in the slum, the residents’ lives were not changing. My friends, whom I lobbied with, formed Pamoja in December 2004. It was registered in the following year.
Presenter: What are some of the initiatives that you are currently running?
Raphael: Firstly, our green slum initiative through afforestation: we planted over 26,000 trees on public land. We also want to reduce the number of polythene bags being thrown away in Kibera. Further, we’ve partnered with Strathmore University and Nairobi University to train our staff and the youth in Kibera on reproductive health. Our computer literacy program was launched in 2008 and has trained at least 50 students. Recently, we held a city festival. The police and youth did hip hop music. This was to enhance the relationship between the police and youth. Our media for social development program has trained youth to work in print and broadcast media. Finally, we have study circles, where we discuss young people’s issues. It’s a forum where the community can say what projects it wants carried out.
Presenter: How have Pamoja’s activities impacted the youth of Kibera?
Raphael: Economic empowerment is the main concern of Pamoja. We have linked young people to microfinance institutions. The youth now run their own businesses. Our youth literacy program has resulted in some youth being enrolled in high schools and colleges. Some have been linked to NGOs where they have found jobs. Most importantly, we have promoted the unity of young people by eradicating negative ethnicity. For a long time, tribalism has dominated the slum. Politicians have used the youth to spread tribalism in order to get votes.
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Presenter: We have been talking to Raphael Omondi, Director of Pamoja Youth Foundation. He has shed some light on the kind of projects the group is involved in. The organization has helped Joshua Sepipe, a Kenyan youth, recover from drug addiction. Sepipe is now a leader, reaching out to youth affected by alcohol and drug abuse. Akinyi, a young woman forced by poverty to engage in sex work, now runs her own business.
(Pause) If you have any questions on today’s subject or any other concerns, send them via SMS to 2992. In Focus would be grateful to hear from you. Until next week same time, my name is Charles Kemboi, wishing you a blessed week ahead.
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