Here's an interesting read from the LA Times Link to story
Reporting from Nairobi, Kenya - In a year as a "freelance" slum electrician, Francis Otieno has been shocked five times. Three of the accidents were "not so bad," just enough to throw him across the room. Two nearly killed him.
"I just cried out. I didn't know what was going on. I passed out," he says. "For two days, I didn't know where I was."
But he was luckier than his best friend, who had the job before him: He was killed when he jumped on a roof to fix a short, unaware that the roof was live because a rat had nibbled at a wire.
If people here in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi, the capital, waited for the government to connect every mud hut and corrugated iron shack to electricity, they'd never have light.
It's DIY or do without.
Here's how it works: Otieno's boss gets electricity legally from Kenya's power authority, then sells it to Otieno and two others.
From there, it gets a little less legal. He supplies Otieno with wire to connect any of the 40 households in his patch.
Otieno collects a monthly payment of about $5 per house, skimming off a small commission and delivering the rest to his boss.
Otieno, 36, is a hero to his neighbors. Electrical problems are frequent. He gets calls from dawn until after dark. If he's sitting down to dinner, he abandons his plate and goes to investigate.
"I leave my dish of food and go to serve them first," he says.
But the dangers are many.
"Sometimes children or mothers died when they have a short," says Otieno, a father of three. "Sometimes people's houses burn down." He speaks slowly, searching for words, pausing frequently.
The main problem for a freelance electrician is rats. There are millions of the rodents in Kibera, creeping into people's shacks, chewing through electrical wires.
The other danger is the rainy season, which turns Kibera into a slippery, muddy swamp -- particularly "downtown," as the bottom of the hill where Otieno lives is known.
The water trickles through shack roofs as leaky as colanders, dripping into electrical wiring and sometimes shocking the person trying to fix the damage.
Out in the rain, struggling to fix wiring with wet shoes and sopping clothes, Otieno has had a couple of shocks that way.
Sometimes the problems are caused by people hanging clothing on the electrical wires to dry.
Sometimes someone switches the power on, just when he's trying to make a repair. (That happened when he was connecting two wires, and it nearly cost him his life.)
Sometimes the money Otieno collects doesn't cover the power used in his area. There are people who can't pay.
"Not all the neighbors pay their money on time. Some can go three or four months without having money to give us," Otieno says.
He gives them three months' grace before cutting them off.
Another reason the books don't balance is the thieves who hack into the wires, connect up their houses and draw off power without paying.
"They just come at night," Otieno says. "They might not be using their lights, just the radio, so no one knows.
"I tell them, 'You're a human being just like me. Just come to me, because you've got problems. Even me, I've got problems. We can just talk and work it out.' "
Otieno's dream is to save enough capital to start his own welding workshop, so as not to rely on bosses for pay. But it's an elusive one. So, for $12 a month, he risks his life as an electrician.
"It's a risk, I know, it's a risk. That risk isn't good," he says. "But life is hard."