When I visited the Kawangware slum for the first time, what I saw as we drove towards the project really shocked me to the core. I expected to see poverty but was still surprised at what it was like. The roads became nearly unusable, and the quality of the houses decreased so quickly from the richer district to the slum, there are no words to describe the degree of difference.
Once we reached the Karibuni project itself, a gated area with a few buildings inside, the difference was unbelievable. I can only describe it as an oasis, a wide open courtyard with enough room to have a tree! That might not sound like much but the Kawangware slum is so short on space everywhere else that this one tree seemed worlds apart from the surrounding shacks and alleys. The area even had gravel underfoot which made a change to the mud damp with the foul water that made the streets of Kawangware.
As we had driven in, the looks we received ranged from utter indifference as the people went about their daily work, to complete bewilderment at seeing a Mzungu (white person) in the slums. It's not that they've never seen a white person, Nairobi has several expats from the UK, just that it is very rare to see a white person in the slums.
Something that I've noticed having walked through Kawangware a few times now is that when the people here say it used to be worse and more of a slum, I can fully understand how. Despite my first impression the people here for the most part do have some form of employment, not too many are ill and conditions are generally improving.