How the man turned a slum into a decent and safe neighborhood

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The two-story building in the Bondeni slums in Baringo is slowly transforming from a slum into a modern housing estate. [Yvonne Chepkwonyi, Standard]

Ten years ago, the Bondeni slums, located 500 meters from the Baring County seat of government, was a no-go area.

The informal settlement, which houses 2,500 families from the Nubian, Swahili and Tugen minority communities, was feared by many.

The crime rate was high and the teenagers smoked bhang in the open air, while their parents drank illicit beer under the trees and in the shacks that dotted the slum.

The squalid living conditions and poverty were a sad story.

For the residents, it was always an ongoing battle with the police, who suspected them of being criminals.

Residents were looked down upon and many children from poor families dropped out of school.

But today Bondeni, which means valley in Kiswahili, is the envy of many, thanks to former media personality Mustafa Ali, who used his passion, skills, connections and experience to transform the slum. in a haven of peace.

The 45-year-old, who was born and raised in the slums of Bondeni, works as general secretary of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC).

Ali’s dream was to provide the residents of Bondeni with a decent life and true to his word, in 2012, with the help of supporters and community members, he started building modern homes for the residents. .

Most of the newly built houses are brick. Bricks, sand and cement are locally sourced and transported to the site by volunteers.

Abdi Ishmael, one of the beneficiaries in front of his modern home in the Bondeni slum, County Baringo. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

So far, his efforts have resulted in the construction of four houses and a two-story building with 13 apartments. A mosque is also under construction and is funded by the UMMAH foundation.

“I encourage community members to pool resources and build decent houses. I make a few personal contributions, but I don’t build houses for them from scratch, ”he said.

In addition, he built rental houses for residents, who owned land, but could not afford to build modern homes. “Most of the dilapidated houses had mud walls. We demolished them, and with a little savings that some landowners had, we built houses with brick walls.

Abdi Ismaël, one of the beneficiaries, could not hide his joy. He now owns a three bedroom house. “I now live in a modern house, something I never imagined in my life. My children have not yet accepted the changes, ”said the father of two.

Ishmael, 42, showed us old photos of his demolished house. It was a muddy one-room structure, with old doors and windows almost collapsing.

He inherited the old house from his parents, who died when he was young.

He remembers the days when he would go out to make a nature call in the bush near his home.

“My children and my wife collected human waste in plastic bags and threw it on the streets due to the lack of toilets. They are delighted to have a toilet now. If this is a dream, Allah, please don’t wake me up, ”says Ishmael, who is employed at Ali’s construction site.

Mustafa Ali, 45, former journalist and philanthropist who currently works as general secretary of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), spearheading the transformation of the Bondeni slums in Baringo County. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Ali also fights crime, illicit beer consumption and sale, bhang trafficking and smoking through the Bondeni Renaissance Group, whose program is to rehabilitate young people.

“Bondeni has been neglected and marginalized,” says Ali, adding that the journey to change Bondeni’s slums has not been easy.

“There was resistance at first, with some locals skeptical of the idea. But with the support of the local administration and security officials, the community accepted the idea, ”he said.

He added that he wanted to make sure all the children in the slum were enrolled in school to tackle cases of rape and give them a better future.

Using local Muslim leaders, elders and the local administration, they engaged parents and educated them on the importance of a good upbringing and proper upbringing of their children.

“The rates of poverty and violence against children were relatively high in the slum. Most of them were soiled and the cases would go unreported. We are modifying this script. We ask children to report any case of rape to the imam or the police, ”Ali said.

Ali says residents appreciate his efforts and some are supporting him by offering few resources to support the initiative.

“We always meet the community at the mosque at the end of the year, where they share the problems they encountered during the year and how they solved them,” he said.

Ali admits he encountered difficulties in stopping the sale of illicit beers in the slum, especially from brewers.

Musa Daudi, another beneficiary, says the community has been exposed to injustices for years, but thanks to Ali’s efforts, their lives have improved.

“We lived in fear of the unknown, unable to do anything that could help or support our families. We don’t have any farms to cultivate. We lived like squatters, ”says Daudi.

Renaissance member Adam Yusuf says the two-story building is to boost economic activity.

“We want to bring business closer to people by creating stores, building a market here and having a one-stop-shop,” says Yusuf.


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