Andrew Otieno

Andrew grew up in the Kibera slum with a single mom struggling to care for numerous children yet was able to provide him with a loving role model of strength and perseverance. It is the place he has chosen to remain and run a clinic in order to meet some of the vast medical needs and under-served population there. His official title at Jamii Bora is Head of the Health Insurance Department but he clearly does so much more.

Andrew played a key role during the post-election violence of 2007/2008 to mobilize rampaging gangs into protectors and helpers, distribute food and necessities to displaced people, treat the wounded, and eventually rebuild the Toi Market (the huge market in Kibera that was burnt to the ground during post-election violence). This retiring, intelligent man literally put his life on the line, repeatedly. We were told about how he was approached by leaders of the gangs while attempting to assist wounded and panicking people and was told, “Leave or we’re going to kill you.” He replied, “Well then you’re going to have to kill me because I’m not going to leave. And you should put down your weapons and come and help too.” Miraculously he wasn’t killed. And miraculously, eventually, some of those people did put down their weapons, and in fact ended up walking away from their former lives entirely and now work with Jamii Bora.

He has two teen-aged daughters (both want to be doctors) and is a rarity in Kenya, a single father.

“St. Andrew”
Photographed by Malcolm King-Fontana

We dubbed him St. Andrew after becoming more familiar with his selfless work and seeing how he interacts with people in the community, giving equal attention to his colleagues, the myriad people who know him in Kibera, visiting mzungus like us, and crying dirty-faced kids wandering the streets. When Malcolm came down with severe flu-like symptoms Andrew and Kadidi stopped what they were doing in the middle of the work day, drove across town (no small feat in Nairobi), picked us up and took us to Andrew’s clinic for Malcolm to get a blood test. (Malcolm got his African initiation, malaria! After feeling ten kinds of awful, he is now fully recovered.) This act of kindness was repeated about a week later when I came down with similar symptoms (turned out to be a gastrointestinal thing).

“In Jamii Bora, we love one another.”  And evidently, everybody else too.

“Gabriel ‘Angel Gabriel’ Kadidi”
Photographed by Malcolm King-Fontana

Gabriel Kadidi

Gabriel also grew up in Kibera and chooses to remain there, close to his roots and the ability to reach out to the community in meaningful ways. Both he and Andrew were introduced to Jamii Bora through their mothers, who are members. He studied journalism in college and is Head of Information at Jamii Bora; photographer, videographer, journalist and much more.

“There is no university that can teach you what you learn in the slums in terms of tactics of survival. The slums also teach you that change begins with an individual.”

Kadidi played a critical role, like Andrew, during post-election violence and nearly lost his life more than once. The fact that he speaks multiple languages (9 to be exact) was one of the things that saved him because he was able to convince various tribal gangs he was not from whatever tribe it was they were trying to kill. Kenya is comprised of 42 tribes and unscrupulous politicians have not hesitated to play various tribes against each other for political gain. They also haven’t hesitated to prey upon the poor and desperate, especially the youth, to become in essence, their mercenaries during election times.

In addition to his work at Jamii Bora, this dynamic, forward-thinking man has a radio program that airs in both English and Swahili called Step By Step Moments where he interviews people who make a difference in society. During the post-election violence his show was the only radio program preaching peace.

He recently started Race4Change Football Team (and by football I’m sure you know that I am referring to soccer) which he modeled after Race4Change Road Rally, a million dollar dignity drive on the backbreaking East African Safari Rally founded by Dr. Steven Funk, an international philanthropist and empowerment pioneer. The mission of the organization is to “empower the potential of woman and inspire their journey in life.” Dr. Funk is a Jamii Bora supporter and one of Race4Change Football Team’s biggest fans. Find out more about Race4Change here: [wpvideo lMcM2Qvg]

Kadidi’s Race4Change Football Team already has close to 300 team members, both boys and girls, all of them from slums all over Nairobi. Some of these young people were the ones that were recruited by the government to act out the violent political agendas of the contenders vying for office. But Race4Change is much more than a sports team. It is about helping kids fight idleness and giving them hope. Kadidi’s broad vision includes helping youth learn how to change their lives, access loans for businesses or education, get to know their talents, get out of drugs, prostitution, and crime, and to be great ambassadors for Kenya and role models to others.

“It will be great to see how these kids, despite playing barefoot, bare-chested, and on bare ground all for the love of the game, can spread the message of peace.”

Gabriel is a happily married guy with an adorable daughter and a brand new baby girl (born in the early morning hours after I had started writing this very post).

“I live by the motto, a person is not finished when they are defeated, they are finished when they quit.”