The Queen of the Slums


The slums of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya are home to approximately 500,000 people. Most of them live in 10-foot, one-room homes made from whatever materials they can find, usually sheets of corrugated tin. Sewage and trash flow through the streets, snaking their way alongside the walls of the homes. Crime, sickness and death runs rampant. There are no government services like water or electricity, leading many to install their own illegal taps and power lines, which are often faulty and can lead to massive fires. According to residents, the people of Mathare are forgotten or ignored by the government, an eyesore on the map.

But within the slums, some residents are working to pull themselves and their neighbors out of the dismal conditions. Mama Lucy, who is called the Queen of the Slum, is one of these residents. After losing her son to the gang violence of Mathare, she started a school to keep children from joining the gangs and has worked to reform criminals, encouraging them to clean up the slum and become entrepreneurs. These men have started urban farms and recycling initiatives that keep them from a life of crime.

Mama Lucy’s school is in dire need of assistance, so she can continue to help these children, many of which are orphans with no other place to go.

This video was produced as part of a larger collection of work on the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.

Camera and Sound by Kathryn Rende and Megan Garner
Edited by Kathryn Rende and Megan Garner
Interviews by Kathryn Rende and Megan Garner

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