Chalk dust falls to the floor like snowflakes Nairobi has never known. The members shuffle into their seats as their chairman George scratches the weekly quote across the blackboard.
They will never see your struggle.
All they'll see is your trouble.
The minute hand on my watch saunteres past 2:15 as he turns to open the proceedings. Every Sunday at this time for the past eight years, local youths have gethered at Kiboro Primary School in Nairobi's Mathare Valley slums to conduct the weekly Maji Mazuri Youth Group meeting.
Access to peer couseling, leadership opportunities, a social network, and academic scholarships are among the incentives that encourage slum youths to join the group. In turn, members give back to their community through periodic clean-up projects and programs put on for the people of Mathare Valley, such as concerts and dramas.
As I sit on a worn bench in the back of the classroom, I am reminded by George's quote of what defines this group - an unrelenting desire to confront their situation and improve their lives. Advised by a Kenyan therapist named Wanjiku Kironyo and supported by modest fundraising abroad, the group persists on a sense of community, youthful optimism, and the steely resilience unique to people raised in such challenging circumstances.