A child that was placed into one of our church-based orphan homes mentioned to us that, as a former street orphan, he would run from trash heap to trash heap each day in search of food. If he came upon a particularly good bounty, he would then stand guard over it so that he could continue to eat from it during the day. He would sit in the pile and, with weapon in hand, protect his treasure.

Boy_on_trash_mathare

Slum dwellers use everything. Very little of worth actually makes it to the trash heaps. This isn’t a case of "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure." It is all trash. Only the foulest of food scraps and animal waste would end up there. This is not a world where a child could find half-eaten Big Macs or leftover mash potatoes. Even the eyeballs, entrails and genitals of animals are eaten. The foodstuffs that are discarded are decaying, maggot-infested mounds of waste and remains.

We were walking along the train tracks that cut through the Kibera slum in Nairobi. We had just come from one of our church partners that is taking care of 16 orphans that they liberated from the trash piles. We came to an overlook where the horizon revealed the enormity of Kibera. Countless rusty tin rooftops stretched out for as long as the eye could see.

Kibera_trash

This overlook was absolutely covered in rotting garbage. Perched on top of it was a lone boy sifting through the layers in search of anything useful or edible. His back was to us and he stood as a silhouette against the backdrop of sprawling slum dwellings. He was one out of a million. But his present actions were a microcosm for thousands of street orphans of his community – desperate souls simply trying to make it through the day; discarded children living on discarded scraps.

Boy_on_trash_kibera