Reaching Out with Compassion in Kibera (ROCK) Is Changing Lives of Young People in Kibera Through Education and More

ROCK students studying

ROCK (Reaching Out with Compassion in Kibera), a not-for-profit organization that was started by Dan with the help of Jason and Ghoncheh about ten years ago has been playing a vital role in changing the lives of young people around Kibera. Currently, ROCK has over hundred fully sponsored students in different high schools in Kenya.

With the Wikipedia’s estimate of between 1 to 2 million people, Kibera is one [if not the largest] of the largest slums in Africa. Lack of employment, poor health facilities, lack of proper shelter, lack education facilities, and criminal activities are some of the problems people living in Kibera are facing. Lack of money from parents has rendered a larger portion of young people in Kibera uneducated. Lucky people like Melkizedec Owuor (me) who joined ROCK, got sponsorship and attend high school without being sent out for school fees reasons need to really appreciate ROCK.

As a beneficiary of ROCK, I am thankful and grateful for Dan, Ghoncheh and Jason. Without ROCK, most probably I couldn’t joined high school or proceeded with my education after primary school. Dan, Ghoncheh and Jason have been my “step parents”. Larger percentage of my high school moments were spent in a house Dan rented for me after facing tactical challenges with my uncle. Most importantly, when I was in my fourth and final year of high school, Dan took the responsibility of providing me with food and clothing, something I would never forget. Through all the challenges as an orphan and people I have met in this life, the only person/organization apart from my grandmother (who raised me since the death of my parents when I was only 4 until I finished my primary school at 15) Dan, Ghoncheh and Jason are so far the best. The past five years I have spent with them will never get out of my memory. For these reasons, ROCK is the best organization in the whole world, personally.

Inefficient distribution of hospitals in Kibera has been a great challenge too.

Photo: bbc
There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. Around 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds — AfricanSpicesafaries

Malaria, cholera, diarrhoea, bilharzia, among other water-borne diseases top the list of the killers of Kibera people. I can’t forget to mention crime activities that happen on daily basis at the slums of Kibera.

The question is: why crime activities? A young person cannot afford to pay for his/her school fees, the parents too. The only option for this kind of person is to get involved in drug abuse, which later leads to this person getting involved in criminal activities.

“I don’t have a degree, diploma, or high school certificate which I can use to apply for job in well paying companies, so how will I survive? Ooh my parents and siblings also want my financial support. The only job I can afford is “mjengo” where I’m paid only KES 300 (~3 dollars) per day. If I subtract my lunch, bus fare and supper from this cash, I’m done, I mean no enough money to support my parents and siblings. I haven’t even included buying myself clothes and shoes or savings. For me to survive I have to join gangster crew around me, start robbing people, and stop this stress of lack of money each and every time. I want to be rich, I want to live a lavish life just like ______ of the _____ gang crew”.

This is the type of conversation young people of Kibera usually have for themselves before getting involved in drugs and criminal activities.

ROCK is coming in to save these young people from these kinds of conversations through offering scholarship for students, organizing mentorship programmes for the youths and providing space for young people to discover and learn their skills and talent. Each year it organizes several workshops for its students. The workshops cover a variety of fields such as career choice, peer influence, growth and global mindsets, talent nurturing among others.

Some of the ROCK kids

Apart from the workshops, every December, ROCK pays for its students to attend change-making seminars around Kenya. Here, its students interact with different people from different backgrounds including people who achieved a lot and were from the slums. These types of seminars open up the minds of the students and motivate them to work hard and one day live a life they desire.

Most of the students come from poor backgrounds, some are orphans. They don’t have happiness in their hearts, and ROCK discovered that. Even though they have access to education and mentorship, they are still worried about the situations at home — parents separated, HIV/Aids within the family, no electricity to study at night, siblings are sick, condition of their house is poor (when it rains, the walls of the house are swept away and water enters the house) among other problems. To curb this, ROCK organizes fun days more often so that the students can forget about the situation at home and focus on having fun with their fellow students. The event is always accompanied by lots of food, dancing, storytelling, and playing games like football, UNO, and chess. This is always a party!

ROCK students having fun
ROCK family on a fun day

ROCK works hand in hand with Tunapanda Institute to provide its students with ICT skills. Tunapanda Institute helped to set up a computer laboratory at ROCK centre to make it easy for the students to access and gain computer skills. At ROCK we believe that equipping a youth with a degree, diploma or high school certificate alone is not enough, 21st-century work skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity and creative thinking must be incorporated for someone to go far. And that is why we are working closely with Tunapanda Institute which trains youths within Nairobi [and beyond] in practical tech, design and business while incorporating the 21st-century work skills.

Our computer lab crowd-funded by friends of Tunapanda Institute

It is through associating with Tunapanda’s Mick Larson and Jay Larson that I gained curiosity for computer skills. They started to teach us basics of computer skills such as keyboard shortcuts and typing skills. They made learning computer [which I though is hard]easier for me by incorporating videos and images in their tutorials. After high school I joined Tunapanda’s three month intensive learning and that even propelled my ego to advance in computer skills. Currently, I’m developing my craft web design and digital marketing skills at the same institution. For any web development and design, SEO, software usability testing, and human centered design works, Tunapanda Institute has a strong team to handle the work with competence. Email me at melkizedek@tunapanda.org for the related jobs mentioned above.

Visit ROCK and Tunapanda Institute and be part of changing the lives of Kibera’s young people.

To know more about ROCK and Tunapanda Institute visit rockkenya.org (ROCKKENYA.org@gmail.com) and tunapanda.org (info@tunapanda.org)