I thought it would be the smell that got to me, that invaded my nostrils and turned my stomach. The 5 miles to Dandorra had taken nearly two hours. Two hours in chaotic traffic, road and roadside merging seamlessly into one dusty continuum. Lorries pushing cars pushing motorbikes into ever decreasing space and impending gridlock.


The chaotic road into Dandora, Nairobi

There was a smell, and storks and pigs foraging on the same mountain of rotting waste that both blighted and to some degree, fed a community. But it wasn’t the smell that got to me.

It wasn’t the hardness of it all: the roadside shacks selling a handful of tomatoes or a few onions, the beauty parlour that looked anything but beautiful, the butchers shop with two unpromising scraps of meat hanging in the window attended by a cohort of flies.

It wasn’t even the litter, which emerged from every strata of the sparse patches of tilled soil, lined the roadside and peppered the whole landscape.


Where the Nairobi city garbage goes to die


No, it was the hearts.

It was the hearts that brought the tears to my eyes: The big hearts that said ‘we can change this,’ the strong hearts that set themselves to labour, the generous hearts who sacrificed the ‘widows mite’ to make it happen, the brave hearts that said we stay and we transform this together, the leader hearts that saw a different future and began to write a different story, the patient hearts modelling the way for the next generation.

Amongst the many broken hearts, barely begun hearts, sick hearts, twisted hearts, hopeless hearts, there is another story.

It was the hearts that got me. Walking briefly with those hearts left my spirit soaring, blew the boundaries from my expectations and rekindled the dimming embers of an ‘Africa’ fire. It was the hearts that got me, my eyes damp with tears and my own heart enlarged because of the gift of just one day in their presence.



Dave and his new Dandora friends


 – Dave Pepper