Famous, Rich and in the Slums – Part 2

Lenny Henry, Samantha Womack, Reggie Yates and Angela Rippon in kibera slum

Just watched the second part of the series Famous, Rich and in the Slums.

It was a heart-rending episode but I also felt really uncomfortable with parts of it.

First of all I must say I thought the person who came out best of it was Angela Ripon. She lived the experience with the family. She tried to do something within the rules of engagement. She tried to help through advertising and things that others in Kibera could do. She expressed her anger at the conditions that people lived in. She did an interview for the telegraph which is well worth reading and stresses how she is going back out to be involved. I thought she was great.

Angela Rippon, Lenny Henry, Reggie Yates and Samantha Womack in Kibera for Famous, rich and in the slums

Angela Rippon, Lenny Henry, Reggie Yates and Samantha Womack

But most of the others tried to use their money or their influence to sort out the individual problem. There is nothing wrong in wanting to help an individual but this project was aimed at looking at the whole reason why these slums exist,surely, and how the root problem might be tackled. I was left feeling that they were acting out of guilt and not engaging with some of the root problems. To take out your western cheque book after a few hours or introducing the person you are living with to a recording artist (who is your mate) does not help other than a very few people. If you are a well known person then I think that you have a duty to look at some of the structural issues and help others to be involved in tackling them.

So for the sex worker I would want to ask how she could be helped out of that situation. What programmes might work to get her off the street – or is she in some way attracted to the fantasy of getting out of Kibera for the night? Or the music artist. What ways might be taken to encourage and develop musicians and artists in Kibera? Or for the orphans – how about the thousands of others there – how about better schooling and support. How about lobbying for more of our overseas aid to go towards the schooling of the Kibera children?

As I said in my first post on this Andrew and Lucy from RUSH who lived in Kibera for three years see that the problems with the slums will not be solved by the government of Kenya. When new apartments are built the poor cannot afford them and they are taken by the well off. Also the Kibera slums provide a plentiful supply of cheap labour for the middle and upper classes. They see that the only hope is more structural – moving people back to their homelands where they can feed themselves and live.

What I was left with was a very emotional and powerful sense of the appalling and overwhelming problems facing Kibera but I didn’t see anything that would help me engage with it to help it – other than to chuck £5 by a text message.


9 comments on “Famous, Rich and in the Slums – Part 2

  1. Chris
    March 14, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I guess these programmer are all about raising awareness not expecting the celebrity to set the example of how the issue is to solved. The risk is always that people in the west respond out of guilt and not love, but hey I am not sure the recipient of your £5 will actually care why you gave it. You never know perhaps someone will respond out of love and through love make a sacrifice that will make small difference.
    These programs always raise issues about charity / reasons for giving / the further exploitation of the poor etc… But in the despite their failings there is a place for them and they should continue to be made.


  2. Harvey Edser
    March 14, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    I haven’t watched the second part yet but the concerns you’ve raised sound very valid. With Chris though, I still think it’s worth texting the £5. 🙂

  3. Will Cookson
    March 14, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Chris & Harvey,
    I am pleased that the programmes are being made. I am pleased that people are seeing the issues involved and I am pleased that money is being given to Comic Relief.
    What I didn’t see was any appearance (other than by Angela Rippon) of some of the structural issues involved. And Lenny Henry stated that he has often been to Africa. I would have thought that they might have asked some of the fundamental questions regarding why this was allowed to continue – that’s all.

  4. Esther Somerson
    March 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Angela used a business model to tackle the problem. They all had charitable reasons for going about it the way they did. It is often good to step outside the ‘rules’ – like Jesus did and does! No one can know what the others give or indeed Angela Rippon to charity. The record man might make a huge difference at some point and able to employ others. It is very dodgy ground, I think, to say what you said about the sex worker ( ‘fantasy’ and ‘getting out’!). You, as a man,are much less likely than any woman to ever have responsibility of children alone (a plethora of stats to indicate that ) and be living in abject poverty. If a woman knows that all she has is her body to sell and absolutely nothing else then any Christian worth their salt can have nothing but compassion for her – there but for the grace of God go I, many women will say. ( She might be able to get her hair done at that hair dresser’s with the men’s dirty money).
    I agree wholeheartedly with your responder Chris.
    It all ties in with physics really – the macrocosm and the microcosm and God through it all.
    Did you text your £5 before or after purchasing your Cartier watch & Armani shoes?!

    • Will Cookson
      March 15, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      Esther, I have huge compassion for the sex worker shown on TV. However, you can’t close down a debate or questioning by saying that you aren’t female. Just as I am opening myself up for criticism and questioning by writing this blog she is also opening up herself for questioning by appearing on a TV programme – indeed I felt rather uneasy when it was stated that her family didn’t know that she was a sex worker (Kenya does have TV) – and she presumably also thought that the TV programme might change her life – which the credits at the end appeared to say had happened.

      My unease is the one I have stated above. There are big structural issues with dealing with Kibera, I would have hoped that some of them would have reflected on this. I am still really pleased that people are giving money and I hope that there is a more structural side to their expenditure. I commented on this in a previous quote. https://willcookson.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/aid-and-reflections-on-our-trip-to-kenya/
      It is well worth reading the links to the external article by Ian Birrell on the post.

      • Esther Somerson
        March 16, 2011 at 8:03 am #

        It is in the way of Haggai, interesting dates and numbers coupled with the intrinsic message.The whole world is in a stew. So many ‘acts of God’, such gaps in poverty & wealth, ever widening. In my lifetime I have never known so many natural disasters – global warming debate, so very much knowledge and understanding and yet so much misery and hate. And in our own country the ‘U’ K – how long before there is an uprising. This country now is largely apolitical, which I feel to be rather dangerous. I can see north and south at loggerheads as political institutions cause more grief. Middle East a timebomb and what might be said to be ‘ordinary’ people rising up via social networking and onto the streets saying ‘no more oppression’.
        In the place where I have to function (God given) I have witnessed and observed one person have a real evil impact on others (not a Christian) to further their own ends. Thankfully and praise God someone of great diplomacy has been able to turn things around. I am lately of a mind to pray very hard about evil and pray against it. We seem to glory and praise God and to emphasise the positive but afraid to tackle evil – to have concerted efforts to pray against it – unless people’s health. I have been shocked at what I have come to realise in one person – that in their personal life too, they cause nothing but misery and hurt and have the most charming exterior. Perhaps God is willing His people to wake up and smell the coffee…and on that note had better get commuting!
        By the way never meant to end a debate – if have picked up your tone correctly – would be rude to do so on surfing somebody else’s blog I think. (Many families do not know what their members are up to – like ‘Mrs Warren’s Profession’.)

  5. Esther Somerson
    March 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    It is interesting seeing how blogs evolve and have been researching setting up one myself. Christian ones are particularly interesting. There is an issue about Kenya and a charity there with a group from my own church. One of the people who is heavily involved and a key person in that charity asks us to ‘buy a bed’ re disabled children sleeping many to one bed in appalling circumstances, no hygiene. What I sometimes feel like though is the person in your ‘home’ picture at the top of the mountain. Sometimes one feels elated to have done the climb and reached the summit, but, Christ like, one also feels such anger and frustration : about 50 of us were placed into small groups of 5-6 to do a Lenten Bible Study. I happened to be in this woman’s group, went to her palatial bungalow – the like of which I have never seen before (apart from stately homes ). She recalls how she & husband had the Kenyan rep of the charity to stay a few days and how he said ‘ oh, (looking through conservatory, dining room, lounge from where he sat) this is interesting, why do you need so many chairs?’ And then she ponders on how ‘we’ have too many possessions and there’s an insinuation of ‘I am very kind helping the poor people’ – which she is – but getting paid for. I want to stand on that mountain and scream aaaaaagh! Drippingly rich people telling others to help buy a bed for £13. Yes we can and do help but this couple could buy a dormitory or three! and still have plenty of change left over to purchase a smaller pretty bungalow. I do give to charity and support my church, but I do keep thinking what right to the uber rich have to preach (albeit in a nice way) to others who are just making their way… but we will pray about unemployment, now, lest some have to make do with only one car and only one holiday a year. Thank God for God, for His message through Christ and the Holy Spirit and for disciples like Desmond Tutu who speaks volumes of good about the politics of the Bible. (Perhaps some of us will be given a diplomatic strategy to debate the issue in our Lenten groups – she gives up chocolate for Lent though!)

  6. Will Cookson
    March 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm #


    I think that it is very difficult, I agree. It has been very humbling to have Andrew and Lucy from RUSH stay in our house twice recently. It does make you realise that although in UK terms we don’t have tons that actually in world terms we do. Reflection, as you imply, always must start with ourselves. It is always too easy to use the “get out of jail free” card by blaming all ills on society generally rather than ask the question what can I do?

    • Esther Somerson
      March 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      Oh but it is more difficult for one and others like oneself of similar views,I am sure – it is not so much agnosics or atheists or should I say unbelievers how they use their wealth as they are not professing, but it is people who profess to be Christians and it is just not the way that Christ teaches us to be.
      I never ever have had any ‘crisis of faith’ in Jesus, in my Maker (even if I am made from stardust!), one just feels as if one is colluding with the materialism. One feels so judgemental, but of course most of us have a level of materialism. I expect that it is Christ’s way of letting His people know how he felt when he had righteous anger in the Temple. Some people don’t feel humble meeting people living in such circumstances because some in this country have come from almost nothing in the past (and some still are in relative poverty) just worked really hard to become valued and respected. Such people look at your friends and know this does not go away it grinds on day after day for them the stultifying effects of poverty – but often – the great dignity and true spiritual wealth of these communities. When Jesus said the poor would always be with us he didn’t mean so that is OK. ( I have a tousle with myself and just do not know if I can go back to this person’s house as by doing so I am feeling very uncomfortable – but the chairs are comfy!! I am of course giving an example of one situation but there is so much of it about.) I think I had better get myself some sweet mountain air. Your picture is beautiful.

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