NAME ALLAN WASONGA
AGE 12-years-old (at time of filming)
PEACE PROJECT Performing Arts Youth Empowerment Group
ALLAN WASONGA & FAMILY
At 12-years-old, Alan’s hallowed eyes speak volumes. Alone on the crowded, dusty roads, he was one of the first people we met in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, the largest in East Africa at over 1 million residents and the epicenter of the post-election violence. He speaks with conviction and solemnity informing us of the multitudes of tensions that gave rise to the chaos that turned his world upside down. But the story doesn’t end there. Alan introduces us to his family’s youth group, Agape Hope for Kibera. Together with his 12 brothers and sisters, 12-year-old Allan is bringing warring tribes together and promoting peace throughout the slum through dance, song, and performance arts. Allan shows us that peace is more than just the absence of violence, it is taking action and raising, not your first, but your voice.
On the days following Kenya’s rigged 2007 presidential election, women like Margaret Okoth – Allan’s mother – stood watch at her home’s doorstep, made of nothing but sticks, earth, and a tin sheet roof. On the day of the riots, her husband was away and their one-bedroom shack was at the epicenter of Nairobi’s post election violence. Alone and afraid, Margaret and her children defended themselves and the few goods they laid possession to. Looters and angry voters ransacked the impoverished streets of Kibera in protest, violent youths allegedly paid off by the government were shooting indiscriminately dressed as the soldiers residents thought were there to protect them. Allan and his brother Collins fended them off with sticks and stones, even seeing their friend get shot in the leg. But as Margaret points out, “Not all of us were fighting, we were just protecting ourselves”, adding solemnly, “What would you do?”
Margaret and her husband Reverend John Wasonga are well respected in the community. Selling second-hand clothes in Kibera’s Toy market, Margaret is the bread winner for her entire family. Both she and John have passed down and spirit of service to their children, so when the violence quieted down, the first thing the Wasonga children did was go into the makeshift camps, passing burnt down homes and businesses, and simply asked, “What do you need?” to those displaced. It wasn’t long before the boy literally gave the shirts off their back to the women and children suffering in the camps. But they knew that wouldn’t be enough.
So began Agape Hope for Kibera. Agape Hope for Kibera is centered on the principles of community and leadership, and most importantly, peace. The children saw that tribalism was literally killing their friends and neighbors so their first order in creating the youth group was to bring together members of as many tribes and faiths as possible. Next, was to preach the message of peace. But how? Naturally gifted at song and dance, they brought their message to youth in the elementary and high schools in Kibera through original songs, dances, raps, and plays – all centered on the message of peace, love, compassion, and well-being.
Since 2007 when we first captured their story, Hope for Kibera now supports 50 children from ages 5 to 16. The Wasongas are doing their best to fundraise for their education, but the challenges and many and the access to resources too limited. Education in the slum is hope for a future. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated with every child that misses out on a proper education, and thus so too is it for their future generations. Their efforts to end tribalism among their peers has been established. Now, the next order of business is getting these kids in school so they too and spread the message and be advocates for peace.
ALLAN ON WHAT HE’S DOING TO BETTER HIMSELF
“I am trying to learn in school and I’m trying my best to be good and to be kind to everybody… all to change my life.”
MARGARET, ALLAN’S MOTHER, ON WOMENS’ SUFFERING
“The women suffered so much, because even rape cases which come out, it’s women and children who were the people who were raped. So I pray for God, this post-election might not return again.”
ALLAN ON WHAT HE WOULD CHANGE IF HE WERE PRESIDENT
“First thing, is peace; second, is tribalism to be finished; the other thing is corruption.”
SPONSOR A CHILD'S EDUCATION
The Wasongas’ youth group, Agape Hope for Kibera, is a peace-centered, anti-tribalism empowerment group by youth, for youth. They’ve done what they can with what they have, but as the group head count expands, so too does need. Consider sponsoring a child for just $450/year – that’s $1.20/day! – and get free updates on your child’s progress right from Kenya!