In 2017, a group of youth with criminal element in Korogocho put down their illegal firearms after most of their accomplices were gunned down and chose to find lawful ways of earning a living.
Thus, Komb Green Solutions was born.
The youth, numbering about 70 in total, selected a large section of the Nairobi River in Korogocho and worked tirelessly to rehabilitate it.
The ‘People’s Park’, as the youth have nicknamed it, was previously a dumping site and a hot spot for crime, filled with garbage and human waste.
Thanks to the youth’s tireless work, it’s now a serene location where even children come to play.
The park was officially opened in November 2018.
With well-manicured grass, stone-paved pathways and trees offering shade from the scorching sun, it has become a popular spot for residents of Korogocho.
But now, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who has recently embarked on a mission to cleanup Nairobi and Ngong River, is partially taking credit for the hard work of these youth.
“The new look of Nairobi river riparian land in Korogocho area, Embakasi North Sub-County after we rehabilitated the place to create a recreational park for locals and visitors,” the governor tweeted.
But according to Moses Muchina, a confessed reformed criminal, who is a member of the youth group, it was all their hard work from beginning.
Muchina says he and one of his colleagues, by the name Frederick Okinda, mobilized 24 other youth – some of them former criminals and commercial sex workers – and with donations from local residents bought the tools they needed to start their first clean-up project.
Other than cleaning the river, they also erected gabions on the edges of the river to mitigate soil erosion. They also cleared the river banks of waste and debris and planted trees, grass and flowers on the river bank.
Their efforts completely transformed the river bank into an island of captivating beauty.
Speaking to Nairobi News on Thursday, Mr Okinda said he doesn’t blame the governor for taking credit for what they have done.
“We wrote a letter to Mr Sonko and told him what we had done and he responded by offering all of us jobs as part of the team that is cleaning up the river and we are happy about that,” Okinda said.
He added that when they started the cleanup project, it was during former Governor Evans Kidero’s era and that they are happy that Sonko responded to their letter in November last year.
In March 2019, local non-profit organisation, Public Space Network, recognised the impact of the People’s Park by granting Komb Green Solutions a first prize of Sh100,000 in a competition for youth-led initiatives transforming public spaces around Nairobi.
Mr Okinda is now seeking to convince internet service providers to install Wi-Fi in the park.
“That will help youths looking for job opportunities online and help them interact with the world,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr Okinda says Komb Green Solutions is going to keep doing what it can to increase the number of green spaces around Nairobi.