UNC Lineberger Scientist Channing Der’s memorable visit with Carolina for Kibera in Kenya

Channing Der and his wife, Kathy, had already planned a 30th wedding anniversary trip to Kenya. After hearing Carolina alumnus and author Rye Barcott talk about his book, It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace, and describe the Carolina for Kibera program in Nairobi, Kenya, they knew they had to see the program in action.



“We asked the UNC-based staff what we could do to help and were told that it would be useful if we took two duffle bags of supplies to Kibera since the cost of shipping is extremely high and because not all supplies make it to their destination. Carolina for KiberaIcon indicating that a link will open an external site. US executive director Leann Bankoski arranged for us to visit.” Der and his wife also visited with Esteban McMahan and his wife, Dana. Esteban is a board member of CFK and had visited Kibera several years ago.

“Our duffle bags contained maxipads, 300 pairs of donated reading glasses, and soccer equipment. Der successfully persuaded customs officials not to make him pay a fee for bringing in the donated goods to Kenya.

Although Der and his wife spent half a day in Kibera, the visit has inspired their deep commitment to the program.  There they saw first-hand the dire poverty that residents of Kibera exist in.  There is no sanitation, running water or electricity.  The typical size home is 10 ft. x 10 ft. for a family of five.  However, they also witnessed the hope and optimism that drives CFK’s success in this community.

Der explains, “We met with George Kogolla, the Kenya executive director of CFK. George’s office includes a Carolina Blue chair and curtains and a 2005 NCAA Basketball Championship poster as well as a Duke banner. CFK received funding a few years ago from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Melinda Gates is a Duke alumna).

"We met with Norbert Aluku Okodoi, the partnerships & sustainability manager. Norbert is a native of Kibera. He told us that many of his childhood friends are dead, in jail, or involved with illegal activities. We asked him how he escaped that life. He told us that he was motivated to try to make a difference despite what seemed to be insurmountable problems.  He said to us, ‘You can make a difference. No matter how small.’”

“Walking through Kibera, we noticed the striking visual aspects, the sounds of many lives lived in close proximity and the smells. We visited the Tabitha ClinicIcon indicating that a link will open an external site.. What impressed us as we saw it was the contrast of this beautiful modern building with the rest of Kibera. The clinic structure seemed to rise out of the ashes. Norbert told us as we came to the entrance, ‘This is what $26.00 built.’  Tabitha Festo was one of the original Kiberans with whom Rye Barcott worked, and one of the co-founders of CFK. She asked him for $26.00 to start a vegetable stand, and used the profits from her sales to start a small clinic that grew in 2009 to the remarkable 3-story, 13-room building that we saw.

“We saw two girls applying to the Daughters United CenterIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., a reproductive health and womens’ rights center for 11 to 18 year-old girls in Kibera. The Center gives the young women of Kibera a place to express themselves through dance, drama, writing, group discussions and photography. They told us they wanted to improve their lives and eventually move away from Kibera.”

Der says, “When I heard about Carolina for Kibera, there were a number of reasons I wanted to find out more about and experience what the program is doing. The program is different from most in the country.  It’s about empowering local people to develop and improve their communities. I live a privileged life and seeing Kibera made me appreciate what I have. I want to help them and have become a part of the effort at http://powerof26.orgIcon indicating that a link will open an external site.. I’m proud as a Tar Heel that UNC initiated the CFK program that is making a tremendous difference.”

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