It was a rainy afternoon in Kampala, Uganda's capital city, when I got the call from Danny. “Mate, i'll pick you up 8 o'clock tomorrow morning”, he says. “And make sure your wearing some proper boots. The Slum got flooded through the last heavy rain and it's gonna be very muddy”.
Danny is an israeli volunteer who is working at the Little Light Children's Center. A program that first began in 2007 and today provides a kindergarden, a work group for women, as well as a little clinic for the people of the nearby Namuwongo Slum. The slum is located southeast of the city centre and one of the poorest areas around the whole country. It inhabits an approximate population of 15.000 people, mostly refugees who fled from DR Congo or Sudan.
As we arrived the next morning I get introduced to Joshua Ogen. He is a friendly, skinny 19 year-old who grew up in the slum. Today is his first official working day as a guide and i'm going to be the first proband to be guided through his neighbourhood, the Namuwongo Slum. Before we actually enter the busy paths and hallways between the little houses, we need to obtain permission from Omonyi Kungu John. He is the chair man of Namuwongo Slum and responsible for peace and order. He friendly welcomes us into his house for a little chat and finally agrees with our venture.
Now we're ready to start with our little tour. And while we are making our way along the old railway line, Joshua eagerly explains how it is like growing up in this kind of neighbourhood. He was originally born in Kitgum District in Northern Uganda, but soon came to Kampala, where his family settled in the busy Slum. As a little kid, he tells me, he used to play a lot of soccer with his friends, go into the bushes to hunt for grasshoppers, or swim in the nearby water logged areas. We arrive at the house of his older sister. Ataro Carolin is one of Joshua's 17 siblings. She shyly invites us into her one-room-house, where her little three month old daughter just awakes from a nap. The house is a twelve square meter, windowless room that shelters her whole family. And still, however, it is a much saver and more comfortable home than many other places around here. Also she is a proud owner of one of the newest inventions of Little Light. It is a filled plastic water bottle, halfway stuck through the tin roof. A simple, cheap, and very effective solution to bring daylight into those many dark huts and houses in the slum. We're passing a distillery, where a few women distil the local liquor, that gets sold on every little corner bar around the slum. Mostly men are found drinking all day long, wasting the little money they have on beer and liquor. While their children have to run around to collect plastic waste, which they drop of at the recycle centre, to get about $ 0,20 cent per kilo of waste.
As further as we're walking into the slum, away from the main freshwater spring, little water stations appear along the small hallways. For around $ 0,08 cent they supply enough freshwater to fill up one of the yellow 20 litre jerry cans. Heading towards the wetlands, we finally arrive at the Nakivubo Channel, which is one of the major drainage channels in Kampala and up to now, the northern end of the slum. It's water is highly polluted by contaminated waste of the industrial area a few kilometres upstream. Everyone knows about the danger of the dirty water, though as we pass by, we can see a young boy swimming through the brown stream, diving and searching for plastic waste. During the rain season, or even after a heavy storm, the channel rises and flooding huge areas of the slum. Especially the scanty huts, build out of thin wooden frames covert with clay, just melt away in the floods every time the dirty wave hits the area. Also the small, handmade pit drainages get chocked and filled to overflowing, causing the rubbish and the flying toilets, plastic bags used as latrines, to swim all around.
With the help of an organization called HOPE, people are working on cleaning and unblocking those many necessary trenches. Though more efforts are needed, Joshua seriously explains, to prevent an overall pollution of the slum.
On our way back to the Little Light Center I ask Joshua about his future plans. He says his dream would be to launch his own travel company in Uganda one day. But for now he will further his education and study.