My Christmas in Mathare Slums
By Lilian Kaivilu
It is a chilly Monday morning and life is seemingly busy in the Mathare Area 10 neighborhood. Hawkers and outdoor vendors are busy going about their business. Not even the drizzling rain will stop them from carrying out their daily duties.
It is a few days to Christmas and back at the major city bus stations, Kenyans are flocking the public service vehicle termini to travel upcountry for the festivities. But here in Mathare informal settlements, life goes on as usual. “Sasa utaenda wapi na lazima tufanye biashara, (How do you travel when you have to run your business),” poses Mary Wairimu, a Mathare Area 10 resident.
Wairimu’s first born plays outside his mother’s house, oblivious of the struggles that her mother goes through. He persistently asks his mother for a sweet, then shortly after he wants a bite from the nearby shops. “This is how I spend money every day. I cannot even keep track of how many times I have to buy him something every time he asks. I just need to always have some money with me,” says Wairimu.
To the mother of one, the looming financial responsibilities seem to scare her more than the fun that comes with festivities. “Now this son of mine is joining school in January and it is so costly. So Christmas to us is not really a priority in terms of huge spending,” says Wairimu.
The 24-year-old is expecting her second child in February, a situation that she says has completely changed her priorities regarding Christmas. “If we had the money we would have gone to a good hotel as a family. But now I am saving every small amount I get in preparation for my next child,” she adds.
Wairimu’s son is expected to join school in January at Nayoth Kindergarten in Mathare. His mother, however, is not working at the moment, citing some minor complications with her pregnancy. Previously, she worked at a bakery in Mombasa town before she relocated to Mathare in 2013 when she got married.
Although Wairimu has always travelled upcountry during the festive seasons, she says that this year she will stay in the city due to financial constraints ahead of an early school term next year when her son joins school. “But we will go to Uhuru Park for a walk and have my son play with others,” she says. According to her, however, not many people from her neighbourhood travel upcountry for Christmas. “Here, business operations run as normal while other families take their children to Uhuru Park.”
Wairimu urges other parents to teach their children to be satisfied with what they have. “If you do not have money as a parent this festive season, thank God that you have life and be satisfied,” she adds.
My dream Christmas
To take my children to Safaripark Hotel where they can swim and have a good lunch
Most memorable Christmas
In 2002 when my father took us to Malindin beach for a beach walk. We did a boat ride and later had lunch at a tourist hotel
Childhood Christmas memories
My parents always bought us uniform Christmas clothes as children