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Service Programs

Trees and Toilets to Transform Nairobi Slum

Nairobi, Kenya - Two hundred trees were planted in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, on January 21, the start of a “Peace Highway to Kibera.” In addition, ground was broken for a unit of ten public toilets, the first of 13 units of public toilets that will improve sanitation for the million-plus people of Kibera who are packed into 1.5 square kilometers of Kenya’s capital.

The project is a partnership between the Universal Peace Federation of Kenya and the Triple Gem Society. Dr. Hasmukh Dawda, Chair of UPF-Kenya, and Bhante Wimala, Chair of the Buddhist Triple Gem Society, planted trees during the launch ceremony, which was attended by the district commissioner, Ambassadors for Peace, and community leaders.

The driving for behind this project is Dr. Dawda, a Buddhist known for his philanthropy, chair of Manji Foods Industries. Among his many global responsibilities, Ven. Bhante is chief monk and Spiritual Director of the Theravada Buddhist temple in Nairobi, which is his base for humanitarian projects in Africa.

When completed the "Peace Highway" will be lined with 5,000 trees. Due to dry whether conditions on the launch date, only 200 trees were planted, and Dr. Dawda employed residents to water the trees regularly. When the rains begin, more trees will be planted.

Most of the people who live in Kibera have no access to basic necessities of life such as clean water, toilets, or electricity. In most of Kibera, there are no toilets. Residents have to stand in line for as long as 30 minutes to use what toilets there are, and those do not have the money to pay use a plastic bag.

“Mr. Dawda, in his first visit to Kibera slums, was shocked to see the conditions of how people were living without basic facilities,” reported Ven. Bhante. “When he returned from the trip to Kibera, he came to see me at the temple in Nairobi and told me of the appalling conditions that people were living under. We discussed the urgency of need for the toilets. Mr. Dawda invited me to visit the District commissioner and meet the community leaders. After our meeting, they agreed to give us all the support we needed to accomplish the task.”

Engineer Nanubai Vitlani volunteered to design toilet units that suit the environment and supervise the construction work. One unit, consisting of ten toilets including a septic and water tank, will cost $5,000. This cost is for the materials and labor. There are many issues to deal with, including location, land ownership, government permits, and community cooperation. Plans are to build units of ten toilets each in 13 communities of Kibera. The additional costs for supervisor, transportation, permits, and so on, will be handled by Dr. Dawda.

Unlike some monks who live ascetically in monasteries, Bhante Wimala, exemplifying the principle of Engaged Buddhism, travels the world to teach and to heal and to bring peace to the people of our planet. He has been involved in restoring entire villages in Sri Lanka ravaged by the tsunami and war, earthquake relief in Haiti, and cyclone relief in Bangladesh. He personally oversees countless projects across the globe, especially in Africa and Asia, to restore eyesight, bring medical supplies and wheelchairs where there were none, educate youth, build orphanages and hospitals and bring hope to prisoners and suffering people.

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