First 30 Days Blog

20 jan

Recognizing the Small Things in Life

ErastusMy Name is Erastus Wambugu, male, 31, from Kenya. I was born in and still live in one of the major informal settlement areas known as Majengo Slums with lots of overcrowding and poverty.

My community faces many challenges, such as, housing—most houses are in bad condition as they lack toilets. Health facilities are fair, the youth hardly go to school, and unemployment is high. Many of my peers end up using drugs or go into prostitution.

Little girls who drop out of school either engage in prostitution as a way of earning a livelihood or get married at an early age. Young boys can be found drinking illegal brew (chang’aa) or taking drugs as they try to escape from the reality of life.

I come from a small loving family of three brothers and one sister. I, who was the first born and according to African customs, have the extra responsibility of ensuring that family members live together when the parents are not around.

The first born is assumed to be mature compared to his siblings and is expected to make effective decisions concerning their lives and always to give them direction.

My mum was a housewife and used to put a lot of emphasis on education. She made sure that we all went to school when some of my friends’ parents didn’t care about it. We used to play in the gutters and pools of dirty water. Today all those grounds have been grabbed for construction of more houses.

Living within the community has not been an easy experience. Countless number of days have I survived on eating a meal a day. On several occasions I recall sleeping on an empty stomach after drinking a bottle of water and covering myself with a blanket hoping that the following day would be better. In such situations, I used to feel my stomach make strange noises and time moved slowly. Sleep would be far from me leaving me rolling from one corner of the bed to another.

Crime is a way of life as I remember painfully how Sam, who used to be my neighbor, was shot dead after mugging a lady in an attempt to steal her handbag. He did not obey police orders to stop to be apprehended and was shot while escaping.

I count myself blessed for going to college and earning a certificate in Photo-Journalism despite being unable to continue due to lack of college fees. I had to sacrifice the opportunity so as to enable my younger siblings attend high school, too.

After being introduced by a friend to a nearby Community Centre known as St. John Community Centre, I started volunteering for community work which used to include a weekly youth forum. The purpose of the forum was to bring youths living in this Community together to discuss issues affecting them and find solutions for our many problems. Some of the topics included early pregnancy, abortions, crime, unemployment, early marriages, among others.

The majority of the guys who used to attend this forum were primary school drop outs who lacked truth about these subjects. I felt a great passion to share what I knew with them by doing research on the subject and bringing it to the discussion the following week. Through my commitment, this organization sponsored me to attend workshops on peer education, youth mentorship and, most recently, training as a Paralegal on Human Rights.

It was not until three years ago when a Community Radio station known as Ghetto FM was started in this Community and I was among the first unpaid volunteers. I am a presenter and head of the Governance program. I host two programs named Maisha ya Ghetto (Life in the Ghetto) and Soul Train. Maisha Ya Ghetto runs Monday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is an interactive programme highlighting different socio-economic issues affecting the community and giving listeners the forum to debate and seek solutions to the problem facing them. The programme invites call-ins and short text messages. The aim is to have listeners make informed choices and empower them to improve the value of their lives besides contributing to the social and economic progress in their own communities.

My research on the programs airs via the internet besides going only to stakeholders and opinion leaders in the community to get facts about the topic to be discussed. I then deliver the package effectively in the language they can understand and appreciate. I organize and welcome experts to be part of the discussion as panelists so that they can provide professional views and opinions on the topics we discuss. I encourage feedback from my listeners about the program through calling, sending short messages, or emailing to tell us the effect of the program.

The second show is called Soul Train which runs from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. every Sunday. It’s a life-changing program which invites guests to share their inspirational stories, because many of my listeners are at home relaxing o the show and enjoying the soul music.

I spend time earning a living from washing cars in neighboring car wash and sometimes fetching water for the residents when I am not in the studio making ends meet. I compile my program research at night using a kerosene lamp.

It was during my research work that I came across Kasha Glazerbrook. We have started with a book club here in the slums with few books, from our own savings. Guys in the slum borrow the book to read and return free of charge. Our plan is to access more books and donate to schools in the Community. Also writing materials for needy children in the community. The name of the club is Riz and Kasha book club.

I feel also honored for donating some books to give some members in the communities who really deserve them and the number have been overwhelming to get a chance to read. These books are giving hope where there was none and encouraging following one inner voice. Ariane de Bonvoisin is training me how to learn how to write stories.

My dream is to get back to college and pursue Journalism so that I can be able to work effectively in my work as a radio presenter. I will also be competitive in this industry by highlighting issues affecting people. I will be in position to earn a living through my career and support my younger brother who I am living with and much willing to go college.

I have come to learn to recognize small things in life which many people never spend some time to recognize and bring much joy and laughter inner being. A person will always be judged according to how he reacts to a problem but not the situation he is at the moment. The more challenging situation life throws at you should be a golden opportunity to learn something new and accept the responsibility. Follow your heart to achieve your dream as it will never lie to and stop listening to people as they will always judge you. I take as my inspiration a saying from Winston Churchill, who once said “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!”

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below. You may contact Erastus Wambagu directly at wambuguerastus@yahoo.com

Posted by Erastus Wambugu on January 20th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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