PRESENTATION OF KOROGOCHO SLUM
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
Kariobangi Parish ? Eastern Deanery
The Parish covers an area inhabited by 500,000 people and it is situated between two constituencies: Starehe and Kasarani. It includes also Mathare North.
It is subdivided into 4 zones: Central and Huruma, Ngei (St.Martin), Korogocho (St.John), each with its own chapel. The parish counts an overall population of some 60,000 faithful spread over the parish territory. There are over 74 Small Christian Communities stretching out all over the territory and some 230 leaders (3 for each Community).
2.Comboni Presence at Kariobangi
The Comboni Missionaries have been present at Kariobangi since 1973 where they have accomplished a great deal of undertakings carried out by many missionaries of different nationalities who worked with great zeal, enthusiasm and foresight. Currently the Comboni religious community is made up of 4 members: Frs. Paolino Twesigye (parish priest), Mario Porto, Paolo Latorre and Daniele Moschetti, the two latter ones residing at Korogocho.
The Comboni Sisters are at present 6 and carry out most efficiently the pastoral work and human promotion in the parish with a big dispensary, a dress making school for underprivileged girls from the neighbouring slums.
Two lay Comboni missionaries, Susan Coopersmith (American) and Luca Clochiatti (Italian), offer their professional skills in human promotion in the parish with street children, alcoholics and as teacher in the girls? school.
3.The Korogocho slum
Korogocho slum houses some 120,000 dwellers crammed within one single square kilometer. It is made up of 7 villages called: Highridge, Grogan, Ngomongo, Ngunyumu, Githaturu, Kisumu Ndogo/Nyayo and Korogocho.
It is one of the more than 200 slums of Nairobi, covering together a mere 5% of the city territory. The population is estimated at 2.5 millions, out of the total of 4 million Nairobians.
Korogocho ranks fourth in the size of population after Kibera, Mathare and Mukuru Kwa Jenga. It is an illegal settlement born in the early eighties. Over half of the land is State property and the rest is privately owned ? it seems ? by a single person, Mr. Gatheca. The slum is multi-ethnic, counting some 30 ethnic groups: Kikuyu, Luo and Luhya are among the major ones. The Chief and the Administration Police have a permanent residence at the very centre of Korogocho village.
The slum socio-economic reality is very poor: there are no public services and the absence of the State is keenly felt. There are 2 City Council schools with over 4,000 children and many other informal private schools are mostly inefficient. It is well to note that 70% of the Korogocho population is less than 30 years of age. The most relevant problems are: prostitution, unemployment, drug addiction, alcoholism, rapes, criminality, domestic violence. There is also a massive presence of street children who try to escape from police round ups in the city finding a hideout in the slums. Also many illegal firearms find a place here, furthering criminality which is now moving to the city.
4.Presence of Comboni personnel at Korogocho
In 1983 the existing two Small Christian Communities built the first chapel of ease of the central parish. From 1990 Fr.Alex Zanotelli went to live in the yard of the informal school for poor children. A year later he moved to Githaturu in the old chapel which, in the meantime, had been replaced by a bigger one in the area of Highridge having the catholic community increased numerically. Adjacent to the chapel a community informal school was built which served and still serves some 1000 children from poor families, with kindergarten and primary school.
For the last 16 years a small Comboni community has been living fully within the slum reality with all its problems and richness. A valid choice, lived in full awareness and sobriety but above all seeped in spirituality, sharing and solidarity with the slum poorest. The missionary presence, along with the growth of the Christian community, has addressed the pastoral and human needs existent in the territory. Along the years many projects of human promotion have been realized like the informal school, the kindergarten, the rubbish recycling co-operative, the care of the sick, etc (see # 13).
The religious Comboni community has always consisted of two priests and one lay missionary. Currently, and for the last few years, the personnel is made up of Fr. Daniele Moschetti, Fr. Paolo Latorre, two lay missionaries, Gino Filippini and Luca Clochiatti and two jesuit pre-novices, Chrisantus Odhiambo and Michael Ochieng. The community has hosted and accompanied, for periods of one year in turn, during the last four years, some 20 pre-postulants of various religious congregations on agreement with their superior provincials and vocation promoters.
5.The land of Korogocho
It is government property for the great majority, but a good piece is in the hands of a single owner: Mr.Gatheca. Our compound is in fact on the borders of these two properties. The church/hall, the library and the court-yard of the informal school are on state property, while the foot-ball ground and the amphitheatre are on Mr.Gatheca?s which has been drained, reclaimed and fenced, over the years, after years of general neglect since it was a dump site for garbage, human waste and others next to an abandoned quarry, now turned into a large pool, all in the hands of Mr.Gatheca.
6. Neighbouring Parishes and territories
The parishes bordering with Korogocho are: Kariobangi and Dandora (Eastern Deanery) and Baba Dogo (Ruaraka Deanery). Between Dandora and Korogocho lies the only City Council dumping site, the cause of great health hazards (dioxin and cancer), insecurity (Mungiki and hidden illegal fire-arms), exploitation of under-paid labour. Other churches and mosques have joined us in asking the government to relocate the dumping site
7. The Korogocho christian community
We have 26 Small Christian Communities spread all around the Korogocho territory. Two of them, Mukuru Recycling Centre and Ujamaa, are made up of scavengers who work in the next dump and Tanzanian lepers who go begging in the city and live in a degraded area called Grogan. We reckon the practicing faithful to be around 3000. All the pastoral activities have always been coordinated with the central parish of Kariobangi. We notice also the presence of youth groups: under and over 16, the liturgical dancers, altar boys and girls, the Sunday school for the youngest. The children catered for, between the school and the community, are over a thousand. We celebrate two Sunday Masses with a particular Misa ya Sinodi (The Synod Mass).
8. Services (Hudumas)
To express concretely the charitable activity of the Small Christian Communities, 16 services have been set up. Each service has a representative from each community for every specific service to be offered to the whole christian community in the territory. They are autonomous, have their leaders and have days and times to meet and organize the services. Each Huduma chooses its leaders every three years.
The services are: Justice and Peace, Faith, Liturgy, Council of Leaders (Baraza), Catechists, the Poor, the Sick, Legio Maria, the Eucharist Extraordinary ministers, Alcoholic Anonymous, Ushers, School, Funerals, Pro-life, Widows, Sport. There are also three Associations: Catholic Women Association, Pioneers and Korogocho Women Awareness Programme (KWAP).
9. Baraza St. John (Zonal Council)
The Baraza is composed of 78 leaders: 3 from each Christian community, democratically elected every three years. One of the 3 must represent the youth of that community. The Baraza meet every Wednesday evening for a couple of hours, twice a month to discuss emergent problems and possible solutions and the other two times for moments of spiritual and human formation open to the whole christian community. It is an important organization for programming and realizing the evangelization and human promotion in the territory. The Baraza elects an Executive body of 10 people who hold the office for 3 years. Responsibilities are shared among the members: chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, vice-secretary, treasurer, vice-treasurer, ambassador and 3 youth representatives. They prepare the Zonal Council agenda and implement the baraza?s resolutions. Five representatives attend the monthly Parish Pastoral Council at Kariobangi.
Biblical and human formation of the leaders, youth and children has been a priority for the last 16 years. There are many formative moments through the year and a workshop of a couple of hours on specific topics for all the community is given every other week, say, on Aids, the sacraments, alcohol/drugs, Bible, visit to the sick, counselling, etc. A specific formation is also given to those directly involved in the performance of each particular service (Huduma). Three times a year Bible Weeks are organized, open to the whole community.
This formation courses are often supported by the projection of videos and documentaries that help to absorb more deeply the message we want to convey.
11. The Synod Mass (Misa ya Sinodi)
The christian community, jointly with liturgists from the catholic university, other priests and missionaries, has endeavored in these 16 years to inculturate the liturgy with symbols and signs meaningful to the Kenyan and African culture and traditions. It is in this way that the Misa ya Sinodi has been celebrated at Korogocho for the last 10 years. This Mass respects all the canons of the roman rite, but is enriched by an attempt to inculturation that the people feel to be their own. Other prayers and liturgical celebrations have been prepared to answer the requests of our reality, such as the prayers for the sick and funerals. After a period of trial, the community wishes to submit it to the competent diocesan authority for approval.
12. Catechumenate and Catechists
We count 80/100 new candidates to the catechumenate every year. They are conducted by 15 well prepared catechists, all volunteers. The catechumenate lasts 20 months, in association with Kariobangi parish. All the sacraments are registered in the central parish.
13. Collaboration and networks
From the very beginning, the Comboni missionaries of Korogocho, together with the Kibera Christ the King parish, have relished a combined action in the two slum realities and a pilgrimage to each respective parish. They founded the Kutoka Network in Nairobi to unify the parishes bordering with the slums that intend to fight for the improvement of the conditions of life in the slums, including the land.
There is also a good relationship with pastors of other churches and from time to time we meet for formative encounters, prayer and community initiatives.
As a pastoral team we are committed to the campaign for the debt cancellation in collaboration with the Amecea and the Catholic Economic Justice, and other NGOs and various organizations.
14. Projects at Korogocho
Over the years the Christian community, in collaboration with the missionaries, has strived to meet the most urgent needs in the territory, aiming at making the projects self-supporting.
Here is a brief description of the projects now in progress, also sustained by pastoral care
Bega Kwa Bega: A women?s autonomous co-operative which produces excellent handicraft.
Boma Rescue Centre: A day centre situated by the dumping site, to rescue and re-educate some 100 street children who work in the dump.
Korogocho Street Children Programme (KSCP): Street work and a small shelter for over 40 children who sniff glue.
Alcoholic Anonimous: Support for alcoholics to help them overcome the addiction.
Napenda Kuishi Home: A rehabilitation center at Kibiko on the Ngong Hills, 40 Km from the slum, for the rehabilitation of alcoholics and street children drug dependent. Assistance to the sick: Medical and spiritual assistance to the sick in their shacks, with a special attention to HIV-positive. With the support of the Comboni Sisters.
St. John?s Sports Society (SSS): 10 sports to bring out young men and women?s talents, to avert criminality, alcoholism and drug abuse, joining human and spiritual formation.
St. John Informal School: 750 poor children from various ethnic and religious groups, who attend the primary informal school and who also receive a daily hot meal.
St. John Nursery School: The community kindergarten attended by some 150 children.
Library: Help daily by over 200 youth and children of the slum. It houses some 6000 books.
Mukuru Recycling Centre: A co-operative 40 members strong that recycled materials salvaged from the dump and town collection. Autonomous.
Pro-life: A concrete help given to young mothers tempted by abortion. Sustained by the Comboni Sisters.
Hair Dressing: A school of hair-dressing for young women in difficult situations. Sustained by the Comboni Sisters.
Ndoto Art People: A studio of ?African? art for talented self-taught people.