Emmeldah’s Journey: Moving On to Higher Ground

Emeldah at the Mathare Valley in Nairobi.
An estimated 600,000 people live in an
area of three square miles. Most live on
incomes of less than a dollar per day.


A short distance from Nairobi’s bustling urban center lies the Mathare Valley, one of the oldest and worst slum areas in the Kenyan capital. A family of 8 typically lives in a 6-by-8 foot space with no electricity, running water or sanitation system. Yet despite circumstances, many living in the Mathare Valley strive to create change in their lives and among them is Emmeldah Millicent Amolloh. As a young woman of 23, Emmeldah recognizes the dangers of living in one of the worst slums in Africa. “The place is full of illegal activities like the selling of illegal drugs and the brewing of changaa (local moonshine notorious for being mixed with toxic substances like jet fuel and embalming fluid). Stabbing passers-by, burning houses, and robbery with violence is common here,” she relates. With few opportunities for employment and limited family income, a better life seemed far from Emmeldah’s reach. That changed two years ago when a village elder told Emmeldah about DDD. Hearing about the opportunity just a day before the dealine, she spared no time filing her application. She soon received word that she was selected for a one-month course to develop her computer and English language skills and then on April 1, 2011, Emmeldah began work at DDD as a data management operator.

“Working at DDD has really changed my life.
It has taught me to think independently and become a strong person.” -

The first few weeks at work were a challenge for Emmeldah who lives in the Bondeni area in Mathare, about 10km (6 miles) from the DDD Nairobi office. She recalls, “I felt so happy since I finally had a job. But it was hard because I had to walk to and from work because I had no money for bus fare. I told myself things will work out; I knew at the end of the month I would have something in my pocket.” Sure enough, Emmeldah did earn enough money to pay for her daily commute. More importantly, she was able to provide for her family’s needs and support her two younger brothers’ schooling. Emmeldah, too, is furthering her education. Supported in part by a DDD scholarship, she is in her second year of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Kenyatta University, one of the top 3 universities in the country. Emmeldah credits her work at DDD for helping her build confidence. “Here I feel safe and I have learned not to be afraid to express and share my ideas with others.” Looking ahead, Emmeldah envisions a career in the development sector, and she aspires to become a senior accountant in one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in Kenya. Emmeldah shares, “Working at DDD has really changed my life socially, economically, and even spiritually. It has raised me from being dependent to becoming a provider. It has taught me to think independently and become a strong person.”