Carolina for Kibera Turns Five, Launches New Initiatives

The photo Rosemary took for the new book LightBox shows her cousin washing clothes in a small basin, at home in the Nairobi, Kenya, slum, Kibera. Rosemary’s caption reads in part:

“She is the only girl in the house and she has a big brother . It is her job to wash his clothes for him, and then also wash the utensils at home. You know, it is not good for girls to do all the work at home. Even boys can fetch water, wash the utensils and do the laundry. Here in Kibera, boys say that girls are the only ones who are supposed to wash the clothes, carry the babies and fetch the water.”

The book, introduced in late June 27 in New York, offers photos and essays by 30 girls, aged 13 to 18, members of the Binti Pamoja (“Daughters United” in Swahili) women’s rights and reproductive health program that is part of Carolina for Kibera. The nonprofit organization is based in the University Center for International Studies at UNC.(It also was the subject of an in-depth feature in the Carolina Alumni Review in May/June 2004, available online to GAA members.)

LightBox, to be celebrated again on Aug. 31 in Washington, D.C., is one of four new initiatives this summer during Carolina for Kibera’s fifth anniversary year. Besides promoting the book – a fundraiser for school scholarships for the girls – the group will break ground for a new building for its medical clinic, funded in part by musician Sarah McLachlan.

Carolina for Kibera also will expand its partnership with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lastly, the group is facilitating a business development process led by Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management.

Kibera, regarded as East Africa’s largest urban slum, is home to some 700,000 people living in an area about the size of New York’s Central Park – 843 acres. Ethnic clashes and a lack of basic services characterize life there.

Carolina for Kibera serves about 10,000 residents each year through the clinic; a soccer league involving about 5,000 young people, who play in exchange for community service; a waste and recycling program also carried out by youth; and Binti Pamoja.

Carolina alumnus Rye Barcott ’01 founded the nonprofit group just after he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UNC. An ROTC student at Carolina, Barcott has just returned from duty as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

“That experience reinforced in my mind the importance of programs like CFK that, with minimal resources, make great strides in preventing armed conflict in disenfranchised places and promoting grassroots development,” Barcott said. “My goal now is to raise an endowment for CFK so that it can be a sustainable non-governmental organization based at [UNC].”

Carolina for Kibera was honored as one of 10 “heroes of global health” in November at a Global Health Summit, which brought together leaders in medicine, government, business and other fields to seek solutions to health crises. Time magazine, which convened the summit, called the heroes innovators whose projects could become models for others.

LightBox: Expressions of Hope from Young Women in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, was edited and published by Emily Verellen, a 2002 graduate of American University who co-founded Binti Pamoja as part of Carolina for Kibera. She had visited Kenya through study abroad. The book offers a candid look at the lives of young women in poverty, Verellen said: “Their photography and essays display a powerful message of struggle, perseverance and hope.”

Now working at a home for pregnant teens in New York, Verellen obtained a $23,000 grant from the Fledgling Foundation of New York and Boston to produce and print 2,500 copies of the book. Sales support the Binti Pamoja Center Scholarship Fund, which helps members attend high school.

Carolina for Kibera is raising funds for the new clinic building, but McLachlan already donated the lion’s share. In her video titled World on Fire, McLachlan breaks down elements of the average cost of a music video – $150,000 – and compares typical prices for each, such as directing and editing, with the good each sum could do in the world.

Instead of making such a video, she gave $150,000 to 11 sustainable development charities in Africa, then shot her video for $15 with a simple camera. The $30,000 that McLachlan donated to Carolina for Kibera will pay for part of the new 16-room building and medicine for 5,000 people for six months.

The Tabitha Medical Clinic, which began in a ramshackle one-room structure in 2000, is named for the late Kenyan who founded the facility, nurse Tabitha Festo. Two doctors now staff the clinic, which treats 80 to 90 people daily, Barcott said. With the new building, the clinic will have 20 staff members and be able to treat about 200 people a day.

The added space is key to expanding Carolina for Kibera’s partnership with the CDC, begun about a year ago, Barcott said. The CDC’s long-term project in Kibera aims to monitor and help contain four major illnesses: pneumonia, diarrheal disease, febrile illness and jaundice-associated illness. The CDC hopes to enroll 30,000 participants by year’s end, Barcott said.

“For participating, residents and their families receive free medical care at our Tabitha clinic,” he said. “The goal is to improve health care and reduce physical suffering in Kibera.”

The Cornell project involves executing a new protocol for partnering multinational corporations interested in serving the poor with poor communities. The protocol seeks to co-develop new businesses that serve the communities and are profitable for the companies. Erik Simanis ’00 (MBA), now a doctoral candidate in management at the Johnson School, co-directs protocol project.

In Kibera, the project matched youth groups with SC Johnson, a 100-year-old company in Racine, Wis., that produces products including Windex, Shout and Glade. The two parties are at work on a business plan.

Barcott attributed the ever-expanding network of Carolina for Kibera contacts, supporters and participants to the organization’s philosophy of not providing or directing services in Kibera but enabling, facilitating and advising Kenyans who do.

“That type of participatory development appeals to Americans,” he said. “You start doing good work, and you hope people will find out about it and help in any way that they can.”

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