Guest writer, Zoë Chafe, is a researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, where she writes for State of the World, Vital Signs, and World Watch Magazine, and coordinates Worldwatch University, the Institutes youth outreach initiative.
Like most of the mainstream media stories we hear about Africa, the news coming from the sprawling Kenyan slum of Kibera is rarely good. Home to about a million people, with a density of 3000 inhabitants per hectare, it is often dismissed as a hopeless place.
But look just under the surface and youll discover the Kibera Community Youth Programme (KCYP), a volunteer-run youth empowerment organization mobilized in 2002 by young citizens determined to help their peers realize their aspirations. Through arts and performance, sports, skills training, and sheer perseverance, director Fredrick Ouko and his team are charting a new future for Kibera.
KCYP is remarkable for its innovative approach to youth-to-youth education and entrepreneurship. In one of its flagship projects, KCYP members sell hand-constructed solar chargers to other members of their community, enabling the buyers to access a mobile source of electricity (and thus receive news via radio and communicate by cell phone) at an affordable price. The profits from this project sustain other KCYP programs, like theatre-based HIV/AIDS training, environmental clean-ups, and peace-building soccer teams.
Meanwhile, KCYP members are raising funds to buy sound equipment to share the social issues songs that they have written and recordedpart of a broader arts-based outreach strategy. And, if they can secure a one-time donation of six months rent (about $1000), theyll be able to afford a safer building for KCYPs offices, creating the time and space for more collaboration.
Working in the face of adverse conditions, KCYP stands out as a refreshing model for grassroots change: a group of committed individuals gathering their strengths to build community, fundraise creatively and visualize a better environment. They are a remarkable resource for the youth of Kibera, and an inspiring example for many others.