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Winnipeg-based organization changes lives in Kenyan slum

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Hope is often hard to come by for children growing up in one of Africa’s largest slums.

Kibera, Kenya, is only five kilometres from Nairobi city centre, and home to approximately 1 million people -- most of whom lack access to basic services including electricity and running water.

Most education centres in Kibera employ volunteer teachers on an ad hoc basis. Despite these challenges, there are some incredible things being accomplished by Winnipeg-based grassroots organizations. While the organizations themselves may be small, their impact is exponential.

No one can appreciate the impact of a grassroots organization more than Millicent Adiyo. Adiyo, 21, grew up in Kibera, dreaming of a better future for not only herself and her own family, but for her community as well.

"My passion is to become a nurse and help people, especially in my community where we have a shortage of nurses," says Adiyo.

She knew that education was the key, but that just completing secondary school would be difficult.

The eldest daughter of an AIDS widow, Adiyo split her time between studying, helping her mother’s small tailoring business, and looking after her three brothers and sisters.

"After school was finished I would go home and help my mother sew, we would work hard together. When my father died she was not in a good position to be able to pay for my fees. It was in secondary school that I met Rebecca and she introduced me to Song for Africa."

Rebecca Nawade is the Nairobi representative for Song for Africa, a Winnipeg-based non-profit organization which has given out 10 long-term scholarships to children from Kibera.

Song for Africa agreed to sponsor Adiyo, and with its support, she was able to graduate secondary school. And just last year, she received word that her dream had come true -- again, with the support of Song for Africa. She was accepted into the Cicely McDonnell School of Nursing in Nairobi.

Adiyo has been attending university for almost a full year now, and already Rebecca has seen a change in her.

"You see she is opening up now. She is more confident, and can talk about things that she wouldn’t have been able to talk about before. So I have seen the change in her, the feeling that there is hope, and I think that’s the main thing that Song for Africa has done for these kids."

Once Adiyo completes her education, she plans to return to her community.

"My dream is that Kibera gets one of the best health workers, that will improve their health status and their social life," she says with confidence.

-- Jaime Cundy BSW MAPP, is a social worker and non-profit consultant who freelance blogs for Psychology Today.

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Song for Africa

Originally established 2006 to raise awareness and funds for the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Founder: Winnipeg music producer Darcy Ataman

Song for Africa has built a school in the Masai Mara, supported two HIV testing clinics, started a small scholarship program in Africa’s biggest slum, Kibera, and produced both the Song for Africa documentary (shot in Kenya) and Rwanda: Rises Up (documentary and accompanying album).

Its main focus is the Music Enrichment Program, in which music is used to give voice to local youth.

“One song’s messaging can reach, resonate and therefore educate thousands of people,” says Ataman.

Song for Africa is now working in Rwanda on HIV/AIDS and the violation of child rights with local partners Uyisenga; in the Congo (DRC) on the proliferation of child soldiers with partners CAJED and UNICEF, and with Congo’s rape victims at the Panzi Hospital.

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