With music, dancing and speeches, HNP celebrated its Community Opening on July 24th, 2014 near the brand-new Town Centre. After the Ododa Band played, Pastor Okech and Sheikh Hamisi provided the opening prayers. Juliet Mmbone, our new General Manager, led the group through the program, with manager Kevin Opiyo as the emcee. Next, Connie Nielsen and David Warner emphasized that though it had taken four years from inspiration to completion, the Kibera Town Centre was a promise fulfilled. As they reminded the hundreds of HNP supporters gathered for the celebration, the Kibera Town Centre is a gathering place for residents to meet their basic human needs as well as gain the knowledge, skills and networks that can help transport them out of poverty and on the road to fulfilling their dreams. Even the construction phase was integral to this promise, for hundreds of Kiberans were hired to work in the construction and thus not only received income but also were trained in modern construction techniques.
Photo: Many Kiberans were so pleased to witness the Community Opening.
Photo: David Warner and Connie Nielsen, with William Ogutu, proclaimed that the Town Center is sign of a promise fulfilled to the people of Kibera.
Two of our managers, Byrones Khainga and Lucy Monchere, shared that the managers’ training entailed challenges and sacrifice, but also gave them the confidence and knowledge to launch the Centre. They also thanked all the teachers and mentors that helped them along the way: Martine Kappel, Lillian Ogola, Elizabeth Owiti, Christopher Oyoo, James Tinker, Megan Warner, Nicolette Louw and Yvette Naufal. Lillian Oyugi exhorted the crowd to change their lives by joining the SACCO (Savings And Credit Co-Op) to gain real financial independence through this microcredit organization whose office will be hosted at the HNP Centre. John Otieno Milla, the chairman of the Community Coordinating Committee (3Cs), affirmed that the Kibera Town Centre would have the full support of the community.
Photo: John Otieno Milla thanks the leadership of the Community Coordinating Committee.
Dances and singing launched the next part of the program, with both the Doluka Traditional Dancers and the Kibera Hamlets performers gathering guests from the audience and inviting them to join in the dancing while the band played. The Road to Freedom Scholarship girls sang and Teresa Nasambu, an HNP manager, read a poem. Amidst this merriment, the managers provided a play that they had written, illuminating why residents would want to come to the Centre and what services they could obtain. With costumes and jokes, this play (in Swahili) was a favourite of the hundreds of residents gathered who no doubt were curious about the big white and blue building now in heart of their community.
Photos above: Children from Kibera Hamlets entertain the crowd.
Photo: One of the dancers invites Frantz Beznik, our Procter & Gamble partner, to join the dancing.
Several political speeches followed, including the Member of Parliament Ken Okoth, the Sarangombe Area Chief Mr. Mutai, and the County Representative Mr. Kotieno. A representative of the Ministry of Health also talked about the importance of clean water for health. Several of our partners—Emmanuel Achayo of Alro Construction, David Githende of Davis and Shirtliff, and Charity Munyori of Equity Bank—used this opportunity to thank the community. A highlight for the Americans was a speech by Isiah Parnell, the Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy in Kenya, who told the community he was attending the celebration because he had been informed that President Obama has taken a special interest in the Kibera Town Centre.
Virginie Helias, who has consistently championed the Town Centre, described the commitment of Procter and Gamble to the Centre and the benefits of the laundry room. David and Connie wound up the speeches by gathering some of the many groups who have been instrumental in building the Town Centre on stage, as well as thanking many people who could not attend the event but were critical to its success. (Many of the names of our supporters were also posted on the front of the Town Centre in gratitude for their help.) Our project manager Chris Sutton received special recognition for the years that he has contributed to the construction of the Town Centre. Then the formal program was concluded with candle lighting and a blessing by elders from some of the 13 villages in Kibera.
The crowd then moved to directly in front of the Town Centre facility. With the HNP managers on the stairs in the background, Virginie and Frantz Beznik of P&G, our manager Julien Atieno, MP Ken Okoth, Connie and David cut the ribbon on the building in front of the water borehole. Balloons dropped as the crowd roared and Teto Ole Tutuma played his music (Masai roots with a modern twist.) The ribbon cutters then gave a toast and drank our delicious water.
Photo: Ken Okoth, Member of Parliament and Connie Nielsen, toast the crowd with HNP water.
Honoured guests were then allowed into the Centre to see this grand building. Our managers were stationed throughout the Town Centre to answer questions. Virginia and Frantz proceeded to cut the ribbon in front of the Ariel laundry room, and several women went in to use the hand-washing laundry stations. HNP Executive Director Meri McCoy-Thompson and David Githende of Davis and Shirtliff cut the ribbon at the filtration room. John Gage used his computer for a show-and-tell of the high speed internet installed upstairs. Jay and Mick Larson of Tunapanda, our training partner, also provided demonstrations on the computers.
Photo: Many people wanted to tour the Town Centre.
Photo: John Gage’s internet tours were a big hit.
Photo: On the tour, Lucy Monchere explains the Adult Education program to the community.
Photo: David Warner models how the drinking fountains work.
A highlight for many, aside from the free drinking fountains in the centre of our atrium (almost non-existent in Kenya), were the cappuccinos available from Connie’s Coffee Corner. As one guest exclaimed, “This is the best cappuccino I have ever had.” And most were so surprised to know that they could now drink cappuccinos in the middle of Kibera every day. As the tours wound down, five Warburgia trees were ceremoniously planted in front of the Town Centre, to be nurtured with our water.
Photo: Connie Nielsen, David Githende of Davis and Shirtliff, and Meri McCoy-Thompson taste cappuccinos in Kibera.
Gradually the honoured guests moved to Olympic Primary school field directly behind the Town Centre, where tents, tables and chairs had been set up for an afternoon feast. Along with an extensive menu, helpers served up three goats that had been roasted in our water kiosk area (inaugurating it with an unexpected use!). HNP Corporate Relations Manager Margaret Koli had organized the whole day and it was a grand success!