Tag Archives: hygiene

Why We Do What We Do

In her words, this is the reason I do what I do for the POWER OF HOPE KIBERA:

The Reason Why

Kelly Fenson-Hood
Executive Director, Power of Hope Kibera

People often ask me why I do this work. I’m not sure why, but I never give a very straightforward answer. I guess it’s because it’s personal and it makes me feel vulnerable somehow. Well, I’ve been working with Power of Hope Kibera for three years, and I guess it’s time to share.

When I first met Eventa and Emma, they didn’t speak English. They were five years old.
I spoke basically no Swahili.
But somehow I understood Emma ask Eventa if she knew what my name was.
Eventa just shrugged.

That was six years ago.
Now their English is almost perfect.
It’s absolutely amazing.

My first research partner and I sponsor the girls to attend private school in the slum.
These are two girls that got a chance to succeed.
I empowered them to go to school.
And in front of my eyes, I watched them grow up and transform into smart, beautiful, bright girls.
But the thing is that the Power of Soap Project impacted their lives behind the scenes.
This project kept them healthy so they could attend school.

I am proud that I created a program that makes a real difference with big problems.
And to see first hand how it made a difference in the lives of these girls…
Well, there’s the answer.
I do it all for them.
For Emma and Eventa.
And for all the little ones.

 (Please click the link below to watch our video:)
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Third Time’s a Charm

This is my third trip to Kibera, in Nairobi Area, Kenya, to do volunteer work as a photographer with Power of Hope Kibera (POHK.org).  As I’ve said before, there are many non-profits working in the slum here, but this one is unique in a number of ways.  First, it was started by local residents, several of whom remain key players in the organization.  Secondly, POHK merges private sector business approaches (micro-enterprises) with research-based behavior change strategies.  The ultimate goal here is to reduce diarrheal disease in children, which is the major cause of death in children under age 5. We would like to thank Toilet Hackers for funding this project. We would also like to thank Alfalfa’s and individual donors for their generous contributions.


On My Way to Kibera!

I’m getting excited about my upcoming trip to Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, leaving September 3, 2014, to continue my work with the Power of Hope Kibera (pohk.org).  Stay tuned for more adventures in hygiene and friendship.

Just to remind myself and everyone else what it’s like there, here’s a GoPro Video I shot last February…

http://youtu.be/PsltQeO-O2s (we enter the actual slum at minute 4:15)

The soap sellers' daughters enjoying some traditional chai and chapatis (in Kibera)

The soap sellers’ daughters enjoying some traditional chai and chapatis (in Kibera)

Read more about it on Slate.com…

also, see the entire portfolio on maureenruddyburkhart.com


Kibera Slum: Why am I here?

Well, it’s February, 2014, and I’m back in Kenya working with Power of Hope Kibera ( POHK.ORG ), a Kibera and Boulder-based NGO (non-governmental organization) whose mission is to improve health in families through hygiene awareness — employing liquid soap hand-washing techniques and behavior change.  They have a wealth of information on their website so please go there and read all about it.

Following a hand-washing lesson in Kibera

Following a hand-washing lesson in Kibera

Kibera is Kenya’s largest slum and the arguably the largest urban slum in Africa. The population numbers are almost impossible to gauge, but Wikipedia puts it at anywhere between 150,000 and a million.  Kibera is divided into 9 “cities”, one of which is Silanga, in the middle, where we are working.  See our GoPro video of our ride into Silanga: click here.

I feel it is important to note that this particular project, unlike other hundreds of NGOs working in Kibera, was founded by activist residents of Kibera to fill a very specific need: to reduce the death rate of children under age 5 of diarrheal disease.  They eventually partnered with the University of Denver (Global Washes) and now have their own non-profit NGO status with a new fiscal sponsor, Living Green Foundation.

The business model is simple: train women in hygiene and sales techniques so that they go out into their own communities and repeat what they have learned.  These same women will eventually become trainers.

POHK team members

My own involvement with POHK started because of my personal relationship with Chris Okere (co-founder and community director) and Kelly Fenson-Hood (executive director).  Knowing that I was a photographer, world traveler, and adventurer, Kelly invited me to be POHK’s documentary photographer.  I was ready for this type of volunteer position and so I gladly accepted.  My first trip to Kibera was July, 2013, where I stayed for a month.  I am here again for another month and am pleased to report that the project is coming together nicely in part due to the efforts and expertise of Chris (Junior) and Kelly, Nicole Grable and Heather Winner from the U.S., Rhynna, Sylvia and Claire from Kenya…and of course the amazing soap sellers: Hellen, Ruth, Loreto and Angeline.  I should also mention our security team, Joshua, Willy, and Jon, without whose help we would not be able to do any of this work.

On Saturday, February 8th, POHK sponsored a community-wide event combining a soccer tournament with soap demonstrations and a hand-washing station. Here are some highlights…


A Tree Falls into the Snake Pit…and OUT-TAKES from Kibera Shoots

While visiting the Nairobi National Museum and Snake House yesterday, a tree fell over, a large branch falling right into the open snake pit!  At first, when I heard the loud CRACK and CRASH, I ducked and hid behind a wall…you never know, right?  Then I shot a video and a panorama…

snake pit panorama

Thanks to my guesthouse peep, Maneesh, for suggesting the title of this post…

In closing my Africa chapter, I thought I’d post some out-takes, some images from ‘behind the scenes’…

Many thanks to Power of Hope Kibera (follow on Facebook) for this opportunity to travel to Kenya and document their wonderful project. There are many positive aspects to their work, but what really speaks to me is how it empowers the women and mothers of Kibera.  They are teaching their children and others about the importance of hygiene and then they are selling the home-made liquid soap: a win-win situation.


What would YOU do for clean hands?

I had a whole new blog post describing the WASH Festival in Kibera yesterday, with detailed descriptions of the various hygiene-related activities and photos to illustrate.  And I still might post that.

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But at this moment I can’t get my mind off the children who eagerly lined up to patiently wait for their turn to use liquid soap, scrub for 20 seconds…then rinse…with water.  Such a simple task, yet so unreachable for so many people here.

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Kibera: a Slice of Heaven

ATTENTION ALL YOU RE-BLOGGERS!  This work in Kibera is a result of an INVITATION by the Power of Hope Kibera (pohk.org), to be a guest documentarian.   POHK was started by RESIDENTS of Kibera, Chris and Sylvia Okere.  They invited me to Kibera because they loved my photography and they know me personally. We all want to make this a better place to live, to improve the quality of life here.  The photographs will hopefully assist with that, that is our goal. 

I know it might sound odd to refer to Africa’s 2nd largest slum as  a ‘slice of heaven’, but the term just came to mind when I was looking over the day’s photos.  Indeed, there was solemnity, but the joyous looks on so many faces was quite contagious.

I’m in Kenya as a project documentary photographer for an NGO Power of Hope: Kibera.  It’s basically a hygiene project that empowers poor women through soap-making and selling.  There’s also an important education component.  This project overlaps with another NGO named Global Washes.  These grassroots movements were begun by activist members of the Kibera community and are now nurtured and supported by a wider group of non-governmental organizations.  More on that later.

Today I’m just going to post images that really caught my eye and my heart too, I must say.

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I couldn’t resist this dad who kept balancing his 4 month old son, Dylan, on his hand!

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These two chickens were peacefully resting on the doorstep looking inward to their futures…the stove

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More balancing act…keeps them occupied and everyone else entertained…
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Keli Fenson-Hood Okere, co-pilot of Power of Hope…and my host in Kenya.IMG_5372 IMG_5377 IMG_5380 IMG_5381 IMG_5385This is a mission school in Kibera.  It’s very costly to send a child here and many of them are sponsored by individuals of means.  But these kids seem to love their school and the teachers keep some kind of magic control over their powerful energy…how DO they turn out such joyful little children?


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