Today in Kibera, a slum that’s home to 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), 15 year old Fredrick Oloo dribbles a soccer ball in the blistering sun. He springs left, right, left– like a tiger in a cage– effortlessly handling the ball with his bare feet. When he pauses and looks up, his face melts into an infectious smile. Like many boys his age, Fredrick dreams of one day being a professional athlete. However beneath his agreeable exterior there are scars, symbolic of the violence that rocked Kenya after disputed elections in December 2007. Like many of the 400,000 young people living in Kibera, the political unrest left Fredrick an orphan.
Fredrick is no stranger to loss. His father walked out on his family six years ago leaving his HIV positive mother Atieno to fend for herself and her three children. When Kibera exploded into violence, she suffered a wound while running to safety; with no access to proper healthcare the injury would prove to be fatal.
Fredrick now lives with his older brother in a shack constructed of sheet metal and mud. Their family can barely afford to put food on the table let alone pay the $200 annual fee to enroll Fredrick into high school. Instead he works along side his brother selling bread most mornings and watches his peers walk to school and pursue a life that was once his.
Violence is a daily concern for Frederick and the millions of people living in the slum. Because Kibera is an illegal settlement, there is little assistance, protection, or law enforcement provided by the government. As such, Kiberans exist in lawless limbo. Just two years ago, Frederick’s fifteen-year-old best friend was hacked to death by a gang armed with a meat hook.
Fredrick mourns the loss of his mother and his best friend but says life must continue. When asked about the violence he grows quiet and explains that like many others he was caught in the crossfire. Though he has learned to live with grief, he is adamant that the violence must never happen again. A model of resilience, he dreams of reclaiming his destiny by excelling in sports. For a young person like Fredrick, whose sprinting prowess is that on an Olympian in the making, one man is working to make that dream a reality…