From slums to glam: March to greatness the slumcode way
Back in 2006, driven by the need to increase and enhance access to equal opportunities for young aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs living in low income Nairobi, a young Albert Nashon, armed with nothing but ambition, founded a youth-serving organization in Huruma, a neighborhood close to Mathare slums in Nairobi’s then Starehe Constituency.
“A better person – A better place” was his driving mantra, and the journey took off with a team of 14 other young people and within two years, they had developed ideas and concepts that had changed the way things happen in the neighborhood. “We successfully planned and launched our hugely successful Annual Grand Slumfest from 2007 – 2014 (2 of the best in 2012 and 2013 were held at the Strathmore Auditorium) bringing youth who had never known that such an institution even existed.”
Becoming a Stratizen
This aggressive social impact journey led to connections and landed Albert into the hands of Martyn Drakard, then lead at the Community Outreach Programme, and Prof. Luis G Franceschi – founding Dean at the Strathmore Law School. The two, upon seeing a star in the making, recommended Albert for a full scholarship to pursue the Leadership and Management Course in 2010. He graduated in 2012.
“Our model and quest to create an easily accessible safe space which children and young aspiring entrepreneurs could use without limitations and obstacles saw us officially set up and open The Slumcode Centre in 2008 which served well over 30 young people on a daily basis, housing the best library with books and computers in that neighborhood. Many beneficiaries of this centre are now well on their feet: Prince Krew Empire; Eko Didda – Performing Artist; Poeta Dennis – Top Spoken Word Poet; Faith Simotwo – Mandela Washington Fellow 2016; Solomon Ojalo – who joined Slumcode as a high school student, is now its Project Manager and a YALI alumnus; and Grace, who received a scholarship after scoring an A in KCSE and graduated in 2019 from Strathmore Law School.
“Inspired by our vision, ‘An informed and connected people living sustainable lives’, we managed to partner and work with major multinationals including Nokia, Huawei, Safaricom, Youth Fund, Vision 2030 and Google who gladly sponsored our annual Slumfest events – thus providing leverage to our youth over the years.” Albert’s skills, capacity and networking opportunities learnt from his years at Strathmore greatly boosted this process.
Challenges though are also a part of the journey to success and in 2014 a major project fell through, raising hopelessness and anxiety amongst the expectant young people. “This strained our resources and programmes, breaking our backs so that we couldn’t survive, therefore forcing us to temporarily take a dive to re-strategize.” The dream vision was revived again by launching our 2016 – 2020 campaign dubbed #March2Greatness to create awareness about our mission and mobilize resources and resource persons to set up, equip, sustain and provide seed capital to our Entrepreneurs.” They moved camp to TENA Estate from Huruma and pitched tent at an incomplete building occupying the 4th floor thus giving our initiative the famous name Slumcode Unfinished. They were determined to convert this incongruous space into an innovations and creatives hub.
Meters to dollars
This drive saw our youth script and record the all-time amazing campaign anthem with its messaging video shot at the Strathmore Law School building. Its core fundraising model consisted of an annual mountain climbing drive challenging daring hikers to each raise 1 dollar for each of Mt. Kilimanjaro’s 5895 boisterous meters.
In 2018 Albert Nashon was joined by Mohammad Hoteit from Michigan USA and both hit the Top Of Africa on the 8th of December 2018 raising Kshs. 560,000. A final major climb was scheduled for December 2020 which, however, will be very much affected by COVID19 lockdown measures and may not take place.
Once again the team had to engage our creative muscle and opted to scale up our World Environment Day 2020 event into a global campaign dubbed SlumcodeGreen Project as a COVID19 response initiative seeking to raise funds towards our core mission of realizing The Slumcode Innovations and Creatives Hub – THE SLIC LAB in short.
Thirty aspiring entrepreneurs under 35 years will benefit as Slumcode Green Ambassadors commissioned to plant, care for and nurture balcony gardens while connecting to mentorship and personal development opportunities from Slumcode Green Champions who sponsor the spots from as little as $20 a month over the next 12 months.
For each donor who adopts a space – 12.5% will go towards a weekly stipend to the Young Green Ambassadors. 37.5% will support hub overhead operations while 50% will go towards direct hub improvement services. Sponsors will receive quarterly progress reports.
We have today benefited from partnering with Connection Ubuntu – a US Based organization setting up labs in Kenya, and Strathmore University to support our Computer Lab CodeSpace programme. Our lab now has 12 Computers and Internet set up equipment. United Through Sport – Netherlands also sends volunteers to teach, mentor and support needy institutions. We are also the official facilitators and trainers of the I am Heuristic – World’s first card-based entrepreneurship development game in partnership with Wiwitan Solutions – India.
“To date we have directly impacted lives of young people seeing them become leaders and entrepreneurs in their own right and we continue to work together with them by ensuring they both give back to Slumcode; we contract their expertise where needed and they get paid if funds allow.” Poeta Dennis is now CEO of the AreastHUB, mobilizing and supporting artists, he supports Slumcafe Program as head of Creatives. Ann Mbugua undertook a course at St. Kizito and is now an Automotive Technician at Auto Express, together with Renalda Mwanyuma – they take care of WiFED program on vulnerable youth support. Kevin Ochieng started SoftTouch Technology – an ICT firm – he is now training and supporting Slumcode website management while managing the Codespace Program, Elizabeth Akumu runs Quinbytes Catering and supports our Kituo Hospitality Program, Bob Kalowo – managed to save and effectively purchase a boda boda now taking care of his family, Emmanuel Arvin has learned Photography and Video Editing skills now building on brand, and handing their Social Media Platforms through the Slumidia Program.
In the future
In the next five years our Social Enterprise hopes to have fully completed the model Innovation Hub equipped with resources and tools of youth business and enterprise development, employing 30 smart young people and serving on average 100 users per day with partnerships ready to replicate our idea to other regions. We welcome partners are who can offer skills development, internships and support in cash or kind.
This article have been written by Albert Nashon.
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