Gnarled strands of wire, precariously wrapped around protruding roof beams and a swaying television antenna, serve as makeshift clothes lines running the full length of the ally. Tattered blankets, socks, and garments hang in the air forcing passersby to the edges of the corridor. Bags of charcoal, water jugs, and bicycle tires further obstruct the path. Colorful fabric identifying home entryways breaks up the monotony of the rippled metal walls every 10 feet. A peach and cranberry-striped sheet marks Esther’s dwelling.
The interior is dark and stale. She pulls back the green cloth covering the tiny window to let in additional light. Like most of the 130,000 Kawangware slum residents, Esther’s home is a tin-lined 10 by 10 foot space with six-foot high curtains partitioning the area into “rooms.” A make-shift table made from thin wood paneling propped up on buckets sits in the middle of the space. A large dull knife, a book of matches, and a tiny worn-out Bible are scattered across its surface. A small dilapidated couch sits next to it. She looks into my eyes as she tells me her story.
Esther learned about Vapor Ministries a few years ago when her four children became involved in the discipleship league offered at the nearby center. Then, when the pandemic peaked in 2020 the family received life-sustaining food supplies as Vapor increased its community outreach efforts in places hit the hardest.
People struggling to make ends meet before the global breakdown were thrust into survival mode when day labor, that was already scarce, became all but extinct. Economic recovery has been at a crawl across Kenya over the last few years, leaving employment opportunities difficult to find for those living in Nairobi-area slums.
Providing for four children in these circumstances is incredibly challenging, but the weight became almost unbearable when Esther’s husband suddenly passed away in October from what she was only able to describe as “chest issues.”
“We have certain people we always try to remember during our outreach, even as we try to serve new people,” said Charles, the Poverty Alleviation Manager at the Vapor center. “There are those critical situations we always have to consider. This family is one we try to help whenever possible.”
The 42-year-old single mother operates a small food stall in a stretch of similar stations along one of the busier paths near the edge of the community. Most of the foot traffic consists of other slum residents, however, leaving profit margins small on the sales she does manage.
The financial burden is heavy, but individuals in this area must also overcome other obstacles in daily living. Running water, for example, is a luxury unknown in Kawangware slum. Esther and her two youngest children collect water at the Vapor center every day. The trio travels with jugs to Ruth’s Well where they can wait in line for more than an hour before each one carries 25 and 40 pounds of water over a quarter of a mile home.
While this process is time-consuming and labor-intensive, the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. Many people living in slums travel multiple miles to find water, and these supplies are often contaminated and difficult to access. Drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, and even Esther’s small business are possible because of this FREE, clean, life-giving resource.
Food. Water. Prayer. Discipleship. YOUR love and generosity permeate the communities we serve like light through a prism. You helped sustain Esther and her family through unimaginable challenges, and you continue to help transform her and thousands like her every day.