A story is told of a Mother bird and her chicks. They used to occupy a farm. This farm was empty for many a year. Mother bird never worried they would lose their home, because the land owner was far away.

One day, the land owner decided that he would like to till his farm. So, he hired a few workers and sent them there. The baby chicks heard about this and went to tell Mother bird. “Mother, Mother, the land owner has sent workers to till the land! Are we moving?” “No,” Mother bird said, “nothing will happen, you’ll see my little ones.” And indeed nothing happened. The hired hands took the land owner’s money and disappeared.

In the second planting season, the land owner – still determined to till his land – decided to send his nephews to get the job done. The nephews were a sly, rebellious lot and they too took the land owner’s money and disappeared. Mother bird, knowing this would happen, reassured her chicks and they still had a place to live.

In came the third planting season. This time around the land owner, having run out of people to send, decided to go himself . Mother bird then told her chicks that they had to move on now. The chicks were puzzled. “Mother, ” they said, “nothing happened the last two times, so why must we move now?” “Because my little birds” said she “only when you decide to do something yourself will anything happen.” And so Mother bird and her little chicks moved away. And the land owner tilled his land that third season.

On the news, a story was highlighted about a Mathare residents and NCC (Nairobi City Council) initiative to improve housing in the slum area. The residents are building 2 storey housing blocks – each house has 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchenette and indoor plumbing i.e own bathroom and toilet.

The residents will pay 50 shillings a day as mortgage. Each resident will therefore pay 1,500 KShillings monthly. This will go on for a period of 8 years after which the resident owns the house. This translates to 144,000 KShillings to own a 2 bedroom apartment in Nairobi, within 8 years!

The residents have even thought long-term in that you are not allowed to sell your house, rather since the residents have families the house shall be passed down the generations through inheritance.

This initiative is driven by the Mathare residents. They say that they want to eradicate slums. I believe they are well on the way to doing that. Because this first project has succeeded, other slum dwellers are apt to follow suit.

This story of dignity in living and ownership of personal destiny reminded me of Mother bird’s wisdom. Until we decide for ourselves that we shall put effort in making what we want happen, all our wishes will remain barren dreams, not transform into splendid reality.

Previous slum improvement initiatives, started by churches, NGOs and local government, failed. At that time we thought all is lost, nothing shall ever change.

This 50-bob-a-day-mortgage is working.

Why? Because it is the will of the people.

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