No More Pity Parties

Community EmpowermentMicro EnterpriseEmploymentPoor CommunitiesKenya

Meet Moses Wanjiru; he works in some of the Kenya’s poorest slums. But where other people just see hopelessness, Moses sees potential.

It would take a hard-hearted soul not to be moved by the plight of people living in Nairobi’s slums. Large families are crammed into tiny rooms, ten foot square. They have no work, little food and even less hope.

It’s a familiar sight to Moses Wanjiru; this was how he grew up. ‘There were two choices when you finished school; thieving or prostitution.’

Now when he goes back to the slums, Moses sees ‘opportunity and potential.’

‘As I grew up, I looked at how families were getting by. And I realised actually it takes a lot of resourcefulness to survive on just a dollar a day.”


'I looked at how families were getting by. And I realised actually it takes a lot of resourcefulness to survive on just a dollar a day.'

Moses Wanjiru


It’s that resourcefulness that Moses seeks to put to use. ‘They just need someone to show them that they have potential to escape poverty together, as a community.’

Moses promotes something he calls ‘holistic transformation’. ‘What I do is all about people changing their perception; coming from a pity party, where you think “we need people to give us handouts, because we’re not strong enough to do this ourselves,” to having an empowered mindset.’

When Moses goes into a slum area, the first thing he will look for are the local churches.  ‘I invite all the leaders to a special meeting and I tell them “I believe we are called to be salt and light.”’

Anyone hoping for a charitable handout is soon disappointed. First he tells the churches to get to work in their communities without any outside help. ‘They have to go into their communities, seek out the very poorest families and ask “What can we do to help them?”’
Once the church has taken the first step, Moses sets about training them in how they can climb out of poverty themselves. Groups meet once a fortnight for six months and the results can be dramatic.

Moses leads a fortnightly training session


‘I worked in a really poor neighbourhood, that was full of gangsters. When I got married there several years ago, they stole my ring.’

‘I went to the local church and told them “we have to change the narrative that people have about this place.” The church started on the course. Moses taught them about how they could make themselves a better future with their own strengths and abilities – how they could have an ‘empowered mindset’.

‘One of the members came to the church and said “I’ve seen the potential that I have. I just need the church to give me six hundred Kenyan shillings (around £40).’ The church obliged him with a micro-loan.

‘He went to a clothing market that sold oversized clothes dumped by manufacturers. He would set about resizing them. Items he bought for ten dollars, he could then sell for a hundred and twenty dollars.’

Slowly the business grew. Within a month the church member was able to return the money and he started employing other locals into the business.
‘Now when I go back to that church, these same people that once begged me for money to eat, offer to take me to the restaurant of my choice,’ explains Moses ‘They say “Now we can afford to take you out” – that’s empowerment!’

Moses has been supported by Tearfund's Inspired Individuals project. Learn more and find out how you can support amazing people like Moses around the world.

Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for…