When Hamilton Ayiera walks the dusty trails of Korogocho, he has to shake hands a lot. Everyone wants to say hello to him, everyone wants that special handshake from him: grab your hand, then hit it, then grab it again. You just shake hands with strangers. But at Hamilton Ayiera everything is special. He waves his cane in the air, like the Maasai do a few hundred kilometers to the south, to show their cows and goats the right way. Except that Ayiera’s herd are the residents of Korogocho. He has already led hundreds of young people out of the slum.
The compact man is a kind of saint in Korogocho. Korogocho, this is his home and his destiny. The word means “mess” in local slang. The name is program. For decades, Nairobi has dumped its rubbish on this one heap. “It used to be flat here,” says Ayiera. He and the dump share the year of birth: 1982. Mighty hills now rise behind the Nairobi River. They are made entirely of waste. A slum with about 200,000 residents has formed all around. And on top of that, the slum dwellers are on the move. They sort and collect rubbish to resell or pull leftovers from the hills.
Just too much to die for
Hamilton Ayiera was one of them. As a boy, he started climbing the dump. His teeth fell out a while ago from the toxic fumes and all the junk he’s been eating over the years. School ended after fourth grade – “Not because I was stupid,” says Hamilton Ayiera. Education costs in Kenya and the Ayieras had no money. The parents were themselves on the way to the dump. What they found there was just too much to die for.
The only thing young Hamilton had besides the trash was football. He kicked with the other children every free minute. That was his life, year after year. Up on the rubbish dump, collect sacks of bottles and other scrap, fight with the marabou for leftovers, then football until it gets dark and it’s better to hide in your hut. Korogocho in the dark is a dangerous place, even today. Employees of the German Doctors only go into the slum with Hamilton Ayiera at their side.
One day, while Hamilton had just come down from the dump and put down his sack, a scout came into the neighborhood. He saw Ayiera play and chose him for the Kenyan team in the Homeless Cup, an international soccer tournament. And the young man, then just 21 years old, won prize money of 1000 US dollars. That was roughly equivalent to the earnings he earned from collecting garbage for three years.
About education and football in a better future
Now Ayiera could have moved away with $1,000 in his pocket, started a small business, or at least ate well for a few months. But he took the money back to the slum and set up a youth club. The “Ayiera Initiative” has existed in Korogocho for 16 years. She wants to change the slum through education and football. The young people should get a perspective and a future.
The initiative started small, in a shed on the dusty main street in Korogocho. Then Ayiera rented a bigger house around the corner. He is a resourceful man, has sought support and landed large donors for his idea: The Care Foundation supports him, as does the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In the meantime he has built a two-storey house himself, where the youngsters can play and learn. He had a federal eagle painted freehand on the façade in honor of the great supporter. He also makes it available to the German Doctors once a month. They then offer an impromptu consultation for the slum dwellers who otherwise have no access to medicine. So that the help of the German Doctors can be sustained, half of the donations from the “FAZ readers help” campaign this year will go to the organization.