Reuben Centre, and the Slums of Africa

Some of the younger girls at Reuben

Some of the younger girls at Reuben

We went to four schools in the slums of Africa, and it has changed my life forever. I had heard of the slums of India and Africa and had heard descriptions of these places but I guess I never truly understood what it was like.
The drive to the Reuben Centre had me in a state of shock, The roads were covered in a layer of black mud with huge pot holes and bumps throughout it making it almost un-drivable. Along the side of the streets were stands made out of tarps, sheets, scrap metal, basically anything they could find. next to the stands were giant mounds of trash. Trash wasn’t only in those mounds though, it was everywhere. There was trash every few inches, on the roads, the side walk (where there was a side walk), and in peoples makeshift houses and stands. There were also tons of goats and cows just roaming around eating the trash. And among all of this, people. People, who eat here, sleep here, work here, live here. Women dressing the nicest they can and marching off through the mud to go to their jobs. Men in their stands selling whatever they can or burning the trash to cook their food on. Children running the streets or on their mothers backs. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s amazing that these people survive in such an environment, It really gives me a different prospective on the world and the life that I’m living.
After seeing the Reuben Slum I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Reuben Centre, But it was definitely a pleasant surprise. The Reuben Centre is a safe haven in the middle of the slum. It’s basically a village of classrooms. There’s dirt walk ways between flipped over shipping boxes (the classrooms) and in the back a wide open space where theres swing sets and a slide, and toys made out of old tires, which is the play ground. They also have a health center, a sewing room (where they make the uniforms), computer room, and the largest room where they practice their dancing, singing, acrobatics, juggling etc.
Frank, our friend and director of the school had us wear the school uniforms and go to our grades and experience a day in the life of a Reuben Centre student. I’ve never experienced anything like it before, but let’s just say I now know what it feels like to be a celebrity. The kids came and swarmed me, they all wanted to touch my hair, rub my arms, and hold my hands. When I was finally pulled into the classroom everybody wanted me to sit at their desk, so I sat at the one where most people pulled me to. Once I was sitting I lost all sight of daylight when 50 kids formed a den around me and asked me questions about America, my school, American celebrities, etc. they asked me to sing for them and I ended up singing You’re Gonna Miss Me at least 8 times.
When it was “class time” a man walked down the narrow paths between the classrooms ringing a makeshift cowbell and all the kids would pull out their books get into groups and start reading and discussing questions. When they weren’t sure of an answer they would flip to the back of the book and the answers were there for them to look at! I couldn’t help but think about how whenever our teacher goes down to the office for two minutes it’s an all out free for all party, and here the kids at Reuben diligently studied all of class period with a teacher never coming in. I was also thinking about how if the answers were in the back of our math books most the kids in our grade would just mark down all the answers and goof off the rest of the class. The one appearance of a teacher I saw was when a teacher came in and passed out a writing exam and then came back 40 minutes later to collect it. When I was handed my essay paper Bernard my desk mate and good friend tried to explain to me what to do but it was a little hard so I ended up just writing a mystery story on a surprise Birthday party.
After my hair had been redone and the kids satisfied with all my answers,they decided to show me their school playground. To get to the playground we had to pass through the little kid sector. The little kids being younger were not as aware of personal space as the older kids in my grade, so when they saw me they would run up and grab my arm or my hand and yank on it and push and shove each other to get to touch me. The older kids would start yelling at them in Swahili and they would scamper off like mice. The few other brave little souls who would run up got the stiff arm from the older kids who formed a sort of barricade around me. It was slow going to get to the play ground since everyone had come out of their classes and wanted to see the white kids. When we got to the play ground they took me straight to the swing sets which I believe were installed last year and the kids all seemed really proud of them, so I let them push me for a bit, but when a crowd had swarmed around the swing and I was just barley missing some faces with my feet I decided for the safety of all, that swing time was over. I managed to push some of the younger kids before I was pulled away by Margaret, Joy, Jane, Scholastica, and Zum Zum, those were some of the few names I was able to remember out of all of the kids who came up to me yelling their names and testing my memory later by asking what their name was and if I’d remembered. After the swings I jumped rope with the younger girls and boys before going back to class for social studies.
In the middle of social studies Victoria came in to take me to lunch, which we spent at the grill restaurant, in a mall. Frank had ordered something off the quick’n easy menu and had told us we should too, but we all ordered from the lunch menu. Frank’s lunch showed up last out of all of ours and he was really quite angry about it. The waitress tried to give him a free coffee but all he would say is, “No, I don’t want it.” Over and over again stubbornly while the waitress tried to explain it was on the house. Vivian was trying really hard not to laugh at Frank while he fumed about his quick’n easy meal.
After lunch when we returned to the Reuben Centre we went to the biggest room and they were going to put on a performance there for all of us. The performance began with a puppet show in Swahili, and then after a lot of dancing and singing and a family pyramid which the kids loved, they started doing acrobatics. I swear every kid in the school is required to be able to do some type of Ariel handspring or flip.
After their amazing performance we had to say good bye. One girl named Sophia told me to remember her, and the Reuben Centre, don’t ever forget she said. My other friends Vincent and Lily told me, “to tell all my friends in America about Lily and Vincent and the Reuben Centre.” It was a touching moment and a little hard to leave, but I hope to go back one day.


Skip to comment form

  1. G. Molly

    What a marvelous story, and recall of your time in Africa. I loved the line where you said “it has changed my life forever”. Because that means you are a person who has grown and learned and will make the world a better place. Love, GM

  2. nic and bill

    Hey guys…traveling again! Glad you got to have this experience. We miss you guys and want to keep in touch. Do you have FB? OH and I finally have instagram which I should have gotten it when John told me, I really love it. Ours is @hakuexpeditions please find me on there John so I can see yours! Take care and let me know about FB.
    Bill and Nic in Cusco

  3. Sidney

    Oh how I miss all of your blog posts…but the good part is you’re back in the neighborhood. Thanks for sharing this experience, Molly. You write beautifully.

  4. Gretchen Jones

    I’m not sure why this post of Molly’s showed up again, but it was kind of fun to see it in my inbox. Missing the open road.

Comments have been disabled.