Where are you?
Mattijs: “In Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya and one of the biggest slums in Africa. I will be here with another student for five days (between 22 and 27 March – ed.), visiting a project run by Doctors Without Borders. We are staying in the DWB guest quarters and are taken along to work with the organisation every day.”
How did you end up there?
“I participated in a competition to promote a documentary about DWB on your own campus. A student at UCL and I were selected to be youth ambassadors: we will be the face of DWB for young people for the rest of the year.”
What is Kibera like?
“You cannot imagine it until you have seen it. The stench alone… Living here, in an area that stretches for nine square kilometres and has a quarter of a million people living in bitter poverty packed on top of one another… You can watch as many documentaries as you like, the reality only gets to you once you are here, on the ground.”
What did you do this week?
“We spoke to DWB workers and their patients. DWB runs projects for HIV, TBC and sexual violence. Working here is by no means self-evident but they do get a lot of respect from the local population.”
Were there any special encounters?
“I met Jimmy, an admirable man who is HIV positive and actively works to raise awareness among the population. Aids is an enormous taboo in Kenya, just as every disease is. I have enormous respect for Jimmy’s openness and the way he deals with the disease.”
What did you learn this week?
“I realised fully the amazing work DWB does. It is much more than crisis intervention; the projects I visited have all had a positive impact in the long term. They also devote much attention to psychological guidance, in the project for victims of sexual violence, for example.”
Have you found inspiration for the future?
“I would like to study for three more years. After that I would like to work for an organisation like DWB. They have many people on staff who don’t have medical training, so who knows…”