Swahili 101: 12 Words to Know

When I first went to Kenya I realized that there were words and phrases that I caught onto quickly because I had to use them so much.  While I didn't have much trouble communicating in more popular areas like the capital, Nairobi, or where I was going to University, Eldoret, once I got into the rural area of Bungoma things got a little tricky.

Here are some important words I learned while hanging out with the kids living on the streets of Bungoma...the Children of Bungoma:

1. Hello, what's the news? (Greeting) - Habari?

Habari? Habari yako?  These are typical phrases heard as greetings throughout Kenya.  You may have heard the popular phrase, "Jambo!", but this is seldom used and is really just what foreigners say to try to 'fit in'.  

2. I'm fine - Mzuri sana.

Just one of many responses to a greeting.  Mzuri. Mzuri sana.  Either one is fine.  Or you can say "iko sawa" - I'm fine. 

3. Come - Kuja.

Normally we use this word as more of an explanation.  KUJA!  Come here, your dinner is ready!

4. Jump / Run / Dance - Ruka / Kimbia / Cheza!

These are fun words to use when trying to entertain the younger kids.  Cheza for life!

5. Toilet - Choo.

Always an important word to know when traveling anywhere!

6. Food - Chakula.

Also an important word to know when traveling.  Some popular foods in Kenya are Ugali (thick, stiff porridge made from white cornmeal), Chapati (flatbread) and Sukuma Wiki (kale).

7. Water - Maji

Water is life!

8. Van / Motorcycle / Bike - Matatu / Piki Piki / Boda Boda

There are so many ways to get around in Kenya that are easily accessible and super cheap!  These are just some of the main ways.  There are also cars (Gari) and auto rickshaws (Tuk Tuks). Our favorite mode of transportation are Piki Pikis.  They are not only fun but also fun to say!

9. School - Shule

When asking the kids on the streets what they wanted the most, the resounding answer was SHULE!

10. Home - Nyumba

Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, this was the second most popular answer.

11. Left/Right - Kushoto / Kulia

Very important when traveling, especially when on the back of a Piki Piki!  You can explain where you're going with just these simple words.  Trust me, I've done it.  I've also had to use Simama! (Stop!) if we have gone too far.

12. Bye - Kwaheri.

See ya later!  Asante Sana (Thanks) for supporting Children of Bungoma!



1 Minute Read: The Rock at the Food Stand

The first time I walked through a slum was jarring.  The sights, the smells, the expanse – it was all so much to absorb for someone who had been raised in middle class America.  My tour of the Kibera slum, in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, started with the warning to look out for things flying.  I was cautioned that the lack of a place to urinate and defecate forced people to expel in unlikely places, most commonly into a paper bag that was then thrown through the air.  As if my attentiveness to my surroundings wasn’t already shockingly high, this warning made it even more so.

We walked through sewage where people were getting their daily water because it was their only water source.  We saw children selling items just to make enough money to buy food for the day.  We saw people running around with no shoes because they could not afford them.  But what was the most shocking thing I saw?  It was the rock at the food stand.

The first couple days roaming through Kibera was sensory overload.  There were so many new things I was learning through simple observation but I kept coming back to the same image.  This image of rocks being sold at food stands.  These were just little food stands all over the slum, people just trying to sell produce to get by.  But I couldn’t get over these rocks and why were they being sold along with food?  So, I finally asked.

The answer I received changed my perception of world poverty immediately and forever.  It was explained to me that the rocks being sold for only one shilling a piece, that’s less than a penny, were bought by those who did not have adequate money to buy food.  Instead, the rocks were bought by people who would then lick them to absorb the rock’s nutrients, since they were unable to afford food.  Most often, these rocks were consumed by pregnant women lacking financial support.

Talk about culture shock!  Something inside me changed.  My soul instantly became older and wiser.  My eyes began to swell.  A lump formed in my throat.  Everything went blank.  Where was I again?  What were we doing here?  But none of that really mattered in that moment.  That moment was meant to be reflective, just as I hope this moment is for you.



5 Facts to Know About the Current Kenyan Government and Economy

In a country where corruption is already heard, elections cause that chatter to become a scream.  Kenya has a history of violent elections.  This violence largely goes back to the days of colonialism when tribes were forced to live together, under one country - one government.  The violence spurs between tribes with citizens tending to vote for those candidates whom are members of their given tribe.  The 2007 election brought about the worst violence with more than 1,000 people killed and about 600,000 displaced from their homes.

Children of Bungoma is seeing the effects of the impending elections first hand.  There is no milk or sugar.  We are buying products, especially food, at a higher price than normal.   And we are having to spend more money on transportation to get these food items, as they are scarce in the rural area where our house is located.  

This year is an election year, which means the living climate in Kenya is tense and tough.  Here are 5 things to know about the current Government and Economy:

1. Inflation is up 12 percent.

Kenyan's economic growth has been consistently steady for the past five years, with an average of about 5% each year.  However, basic goods like milk, sugar, bread and maize flour have raised in price.  Inflation is now up 12% and many families are now reporting that they are struggling to get by.

Companies, such as sugar manufacturers, are holding out on their product. Instead using the money they would normally spend on production of their product, they are instead spending that money on contributions to the political candidate they support.  This is a major contributor to why items are either scarce or absent.

2. Four out of 10 people are unemployed.

According to the UN's development agency (UNDP), Kenya has the highest unemployment rate in the region.  Election years tend to cause a shrinkage in the economy, often leading some companies to cut down employment as investors wait out on the election period.  

3. Kenya is ranked as 31st most corrupt out of 176 countries.

Transparency International ranked Kenya at a position of 145 out of 176 countries in it's 2016 report.  The organization blamed the low rating on the incompetence and ineffectiveness of anti-corruption agencies that fail to punish those participating in graft (unscrupulous use of a politician's authority for personal gain).

4. President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration has been called "the most corrupt in Kenya's history".

John Githongo, founder of the Kenyan branch of Transparency International, has called President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration the "most corrupt in Kenya's history".  Several reported scandals have been cited involving alleged inflation of costs of projects and payments to phantom companies.

5. Kenyans have been using the hashtag #CostOfLivingKe

The cost of living in Kenya has become such a burden on the livlihood of those living there that citizens are starting to use the hashtag CostofLivingKe to show the differences in the cost of items now versus before the election campaigns started.


Without YOU our children will not be able to eat, forcing them back to streets.  Our work is important.  Our success is astonishing.  Your donations will help us through this rough patch.  It is the only way we will endure.

Asante Sana!



6 Topics in the NEW Children of Bungoma Blog!


6 Topics in the NEW Children of Bungoma Blog!

Welcome to the brand new Children of Bungoma Blog!  Our goal is to post on a new topic every Monday.  We hope that this blog will keep you informed on what is going on at Children of Bungoma.  But we also hope it will do so much more to educate you on such topics as:  Kenya's Culture, Politics and Economics, International Nonprofit Giving, How You Can Help, and Much More!

Founder, Nikki Reising, visits one of the kids, Simon, at his High School.  Simon was our first kid to graduate from High School!

Founder, Nikki Reising, visits one of the kids, Simon, at his High School.  Simon was our first kid to graduate from High School!

1. What's Going on at Children of Bungoma

Keep up to date on the kids' lives and what we are doing to make their lives better!  See what we are doing on our compound; from what fresh new foods we are growing on our farm to adorable pictures of our caregivers' new baby.  He's super cute, trust me!  Our lives are interesting and complex and we love being able to share all of our peaks and valleys with YOU!

2. Kenya's Culture

Whether it's learning Swahili, traditional celebrations or local cuisine, there's so much to learn about what makes Kenya, Kenya.  How did the boys come to live on the street?  Why do you not hear of girls living on the street?  What type of schooling does Kenya provide and how much does it cost?  What are some cool things to do in Kenya?  What is the typical dress?  What is the difference between rural and urban living?  Stay tuned! We will answer all these questions, and more!

3. Kenya's Politics and Economics

Kenya's government is one of the most corrupt governments in the world.  This often times gets in the way of our operations.  The local government has threatened to shut us down more times than we can count, often times leading us to give them exactly what they wanted in the first place, a bribe.  In a country where people are living with no electricity, insufficient amounts of clean water and limited access to nutrition, a corrupt government does little to help alleviate such harsh living.  Learn about how local politics and economics shape the way we operate.

4. International Nonprofit Giving

Domestic and international giving provide two very different lenses of effectiveness.  While domestic giving can come in the form of not only giving money but also in giving time to help directly through volunteer hours, international giving does not provide the later.  It is difficult to those giving to international nonprofits to know exactly what they are giving to without actually seeing the work, first hand.  That's where we come in to help.  We have to bring Children of Bungoma to you by sharing what our programs provide, while also promoting the best ways to give.  We will share with you the most effective ways to give that will benefit the children and all those involved with Children of Bungoma the most.   Learn more about common misconceptions on giving and how best to give.

5. How You Can Help

What do we need to survive every year, month and day?  How can you ensure that when you give to Children of Bungoma that it is going straight to programming?  What type of giving is best for you?  Is it donating directly to Children of Bungoma, a 501(c)(3) organization?  Or maybe it's purchasing our merchandise, where all of the sales go directly back to Kenya?  Or maybe it's simply spreading the word?  We are so excited in your willingness to help and are here to assist with all of your giving needs!

6. And Much More!

Read about our stories (we have so many!) - stories that are meant to inform you, to provoke emotion, to make you think, to entertain and to excite you that you are on this journey with us.  Become a part of our story because it is a fun one.  Sure there are tough times, lots of tough times, but they only make us better, more resilient and educated.  We have great times too, showing how successful our programs are and happy everyone involved in Children of Bungoma is.   Be there for every moment, you won't want to miss it!