Three cheers to the Kenya Red Cross who always seem to be in the place that they are needed most every time that disaster strikes. I just dropped a donation at Kuwinda PCEA church in Karen, behind which some 2,200+ people were displaced last night due to a raging fire through slum housing (News story here).
I was a little unsure of heading right to the disaster to scene to drop my bits and pieces. To be honest, until today I had no idea that Kuwinda slum was even there, nestling in the neighbourhood where I live just a stone’s throw from the nursery school that my kids once went to. Seeing people salvaging charred mbati (corrugated iron) sheets from the wrecked settlement in wheelbarrows was an extremely humbling experience. But as I entered the church compound, it was also humbling to see men and women in Red Cross bibs already on the ground helping out with practical support less than a day after the disaster. Two women judiciously listed the items I was handing over and gave me a receipt. More helpers spirited the mattresses, nets and clothing away before I could even pick up a carrier bag. Other wellwishers arrived with donations while I was there. They were told where to park then offered help to unload. There were security guards in place. The scene was well organised and above all, it was easy.
The timely presence of the Kenya Red Cross in the heart of a crisis reminded me of seeing their ambulances screaming down the road toward Kibera in the early hours of the morning when large areas of that slum were on fire during post election violence in 2007/2008. And they were there again during the terrible drought of 2009, when Red Cross bins were coordinated to be placed outside major supermarkets to make it easy for shoppers to donate. And again, the Red Cross were compiling missing persons lists and putting together a much needed blood drive during the Westgate crisis in 2013. In fact it was Red Cross workers who were first on the scene, guiding out wounded and traumatised hostages.
This is not a sponsored post. I’m just seriously impressed by those guys. Without any real (or at least formal) emergency services in Kenya, where would we be without them? As it was, I gather that the fire fighting effort last night was desperate in Kuwinda since water trucks apparently had to head miles away to the CBD to refill.
So after dropping the donation today, I nipped in to pick up some imported/fresh pasta at a glitzy shopping centre for a quick and easy celebratory family dinner (the kids are home), passing coffee bars selling cappuccinos and stores full of expensive clothes (places that I love to frequent). This city surely is a place of extreme contrasts. So many lives playing out in parallel in such very different circumstances. I wonder where all of those poor Kuwinda residents will be sleeping tonight?
#WeAreAllKenyans – Kenya Red Cross drought appeal. I like their motto ‘We are always there‘. In Kenya, it’s true.
Image credit: AllAfrica.com