I'm very interested in development so on a six week work trip to Nairobi, my top priority was visiting Kibera and scheduled a tour with Explore Kibera for my first weekend.
The tour was good but there are are two things people should note about the tour.
The first thing is that whilst the tour confirmation stated that the tour would be for three hours, my tour only lasted for two hours for the same price. I was told later on that because the tour was on a Sunday, the orphanage and another of the stops were closed and therefore my tour cut short. I do think this is something that should have been disclosed by Explore Kibera - that if one booked on the weekend, one would get a much shorter tour than someone who booked on a weekday, so I was a little disappointed. Other than that, the tour was great and it didn't feel vouyeristic. It was a great insight into how people lived and it was a great way (I thought - see caveat below) to give back to the community in Kibera.
Before I get into the second point, I should explain the background of my findings. After a few more weeks in Nairobi, I decided to go back to Kibera with a friend, independently of Explore Kibera. The reason for my second visit was that I was keen to visit the orphanage as I heard many lovely things about it. Along the way, I spoke to many people in the community in Kibera. The stories I heard alarmed me somewhat as although I was told by my Explore Kibera guide that USD$5 of my trip fee would go to the orphanage (and another USD $5 would go to another of their local community partners - I can't remember which), the people I spoke to were adamant that this was untrue and the orphanage did not see any of the money.
If that were true, whilst Explore Kibera is still doing a great service to the community by opening outsiders' eyes to how people in the slum live, and bringing people to the orphanage so that such people can choose to individually help or volunteer at the orphanage, it's still not right that tourists are being misled on how the tour fees are allocated. These allegations may equally be untrue but people should be aware in any event that there's a possibility their tour fees do not get donated to the relevant causes in the community as they purportedly are.
I would still recommend Explore Kibera with the above caveats as it is nevertheless a great way to see the slum for those who feel unsure about venturing around on their own (and it is a bit of a maze!). I would also highly, highly recommend seeing the orphanage one way or the other as it's an absolute joy to behold. The place has clearly been upkept with love and pride as it is clean with lovely murals on the wall and doors. It is very capably run by a passionate and impressive young lady named Lucy and her tiny team (of two others) and there's so much scope for people who want to help there. I would also recommend jbuying some supplies in Kibera (e.g. maize or sugar etc from the shops) before you visit the orphanage as every little donation counts and makes a huge difference to the children and the incredibly team who work at the orphanage. Do also feel free to contact me if you would like Lucy's details so you can get in touch with her directly.
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