Helping the families of Gioto escape poverty

About Gioto Garbage Slum

Gioto Garbarge Slum is situated on the outskirts of Nakuru, Kenya. The slum is home to an estimated 600 people, their homes balanced on 50+ years of waste from the surrounding city. Of these 600 people, around half are children.  It is estimated that around 45% of the population of Gioto test positive for HIV. Along with HIV, other diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions, malnutrition and no access to clean water are worryingly high.

The people of Gioto live hand to mouth in the literal sense of the phrase. Each day at noon, the garbage trucks come from the city and dump the previous days waste into the area these people call home. Residents flock to the new waste and pick their way through, searching for food, clothes, useful materials or things to sell.

Families compete for food amongst the rubbish with pigs, dogs and vultures. These animals can be vicious and have been known to harm people.

Many families cannot afford to send their children to school. Although there are no tuition fees in Primary School, parents have to pay for uniforms, shoes and exams. When children reach Secondary School age they also have to find money for tuition fees and books. These costs are far beyond the reach of the families who live in the slum. This means that most children cannot finish their education, limiting their job opportunities and so the cycle of poverty continues.

In August 2010 a group of volunteers from all over the world offered their services to International Volunteers HQ and were sent to Gioto to help in any way possible. The result has been overwhelming. Please see the projects page to learn more about what has been achieved.

This website is designed not only to raise awareness and encourage donations for those who need it most, it is also a tribute and a massive thankyou to ALL the volunteers that have been involved in any of the projects, and encouragement/motivation for anyone thinking of becoming involved. Volunteers work hard and tirelessly to make life better for other people with little in the way of thanks or recognition. Without my fellow volunteers, none of this would have been possible; Thankyou.

The video below gives an account of one of my fellow volunteer's time in Nakuru. Ross Floyd is one of the original volunteers and is largely responsible for much of the success the projects have had.


About me.

My name is Hannah. I volunteered with International Volunteers HQ for two months. This is the story that changed the way I see the world and the things I thought mattered.


I was born in a small town in the Lake District called Kendal. When I was 14, my family and I moved to Barrow-in-Furness. A small industrial town on the west coast of Cumbria. This town was responsible for the nurturing of my teenage years and the shaping of the person I would grow to be.
Having spent 4 years at the University of Salford, in July 2009 I was awarded with a 2.1 BSc degree in Criminology and Sociology. Honestly, I didn't know what I was supposed to do with that. I thanked my tutors and packed my bags, heading back to my mother's house back in Cumbria. Still no ideas as to what I was supposed to do with my life.
For 12 months I worked for the NHS in England. I worked as part of a large team responsible for the deployment of a brand new I.T project. The role was fast-paced and often stressful, but I enjoyed it and I loved the people I worked with. But do you ever get the feeling that there is more to life? Something else that just needed to be done? I think I was bored. Bored with the same day in-day out feeling that small town life often harbours. Luckily, I was in a situation to do something about it. Having been putting away money for the 12 months I had been working, I looked into volunteering, having always had an interest in teaching. By chance, I stumbled across International Volunteers and signed up almost instantly. In January 2011 I packed my bag (just the one, honestly) and stood alone on Roose Station platform waiting for the train that would change my life. Overdramatic? maybe.

Many exhausting hours later, I landed in Nairobi and was picked up by Anthony, an employee of IVHQ's Kenyan sister organisation, Fadhili. It was in the back seat of this car that I met my first fellow volunteer and now very good friend, Sarah 'switcheroo' Janewski. Sarah and I were driven to "THE VOLUNTEER HOUSE" approximately 10 minutes away from Kibera slum. We stayed here for 4 days until we learned of where our placements would be. Within these four days I was introduced to other volunteers; Erica, Kendra, Will, Michelle, Kaitlyn, Shannon and many others. Some were just starting out, others had been working on their placements for a while. All people I will never forget. The thing about meeting other volunteers/travellers is that you're all the same. You have the same mindset, the same attitude and generally, as a rule, you get on just swell.

On January 16th I was transferred to a city called Nakuru, around 3 hours west of Nairobi. I was not alone. Another volunteer, David Blair, was joining me from Minnisota, USA , having been travelling for a few weeks previous. Neither of us knowing what to expect made for an exciting but quiet journey. We arrived at our placement just after midday on Sunday. When volunteering through IVHQ, you pay a programme fee. This fee ensures that fadhili place you with a host family. Yes, a REAL African family. Exciting stuff, right?

That evening we met the family. Pastor Anthony and his wife Anne, Anne's sister Catherine, Anthony and Anne's two year old daughter, Joy and Miriam. Along with the family, me and David, there were 7 other volunteers. Anthony's house can house 12 volunteers at any one time, although in all honesty, I think it was overcrowded with the 9 of us. It was invigorating, meeting so many new people from all around the world, and believe me, these people deserve a mention -

Linh Do- Vietnam
Emily Anderst - USA
Jeremy Flowers- USA
Andrew Carroll- USA
Kate Macdonald- Canada
Kyle Froese- Canada
Yvonne Middlemiss- Scotland
David Blair - USA and of course, little old British me.

 It was scary, I wont lie. You are thrown into a situation like this with no expectations or experience. It is daunting, especially when it feels like everyone there knows what they're doing and has been doing it forever. I admit I was nervous.
The following morning, the rest of the volunteers introduced myself and David to Gioto Garbage Slum and the projects they had running. These projects are based on ongoing ones that previous volunteers (founders if you will) had originally set up. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet the original gang of volunteers, I can only thank them most genuinely for the work they did.
That hot Monday morning was the morning that changed my life. I remember walking to the bottom of a hill, except, it wasn't really a hill. It was a huge pile of trodden rubbish. 50 years worth, I was told.
The smell is undescribable. Without any doubt, the worst smell to ever enter my nostrils. It was sweet and sour at the same time (but not in the nice way) A sickly, rotting smell that will strip the flesh from the back of your throat. You're stuck; breathe through your nose and you fear for your life. Breathe through your mouth and you'll never eat again. The smell makes you feel physically sick but you can't let anyone see you experience this foul concoction of nasal displeasure - think about it, is there anything more offensive than throwing up at the smell of someone's home?

Don't worry, you get used to the smell. It fades and you learn to live with it. But the sight of children, babies, mothers, fathers, the elderly and the animals all living together in such extreme levels of poverty, poverty that you could not even begin to imagine, is a sight that I will never get used to.
That morning changed me. Ross Floyd, a predecessor of the volunteer group, highlights my point perfectly when he described leaving the slum for the first time;

"I left the slum that afternoon leaving a piece of me lost amongst the garbage"

As I told my friends and family upon return the UK in March, I fell in love 600 times over out there. Every child, every family, every friend I made took a piece of me and now, I feel like I am missing half of myself.
So this is my mission. To return to Kenya and my missing half and continue with the projects that have been started. My time in England is taken up with fundraising and charity events, but I'm lucky enough to have a strong connection of friends, family and the other volunteers that are all willing to help. I hope you will take a look around the site and experience for yourself, a taste of Gioto.

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