Behind sprawling buildings and the dusty streets of Kampala lies Kisenyi, Uganda’s biggest slum of several million people; some living there while several others working there daily. Kisenyi is a sheer contrast of the rising Kampala skyline on its backdrop, but both ends fight for their own significance. Yet, one would argue that Kisenyi, the slum, could as well be an extension of what “the good” Kampala would look like if we were all poor, filthy, dingy and hopeless. In Kisenyi, the future just looks bleak.
I met with Ruth Aine, a Ugandan journalist and blogger and brainstormed on how, through our gifts and talents, we could try to give back. Our mission was simple; organize Kisenyi residents, take their portraits (dignifying), interact with them and show them that some one actually cares. For us to achieve this, we needed to find a partner in the community which Ruth did so ably and quickly, making a connection with another Ugandan blogger, Javie Ssozi, who had some unique connections in the area with the Kisenyi Community Shelter. Then we needed to find volunteers for the project, and we went to find Ugandans on Twitter that would be interested in the initiative.
Again, Ruth mobilized a handful of the twitter community and friends in lightening speed. We needed volunteers to come and interact with the people – interview them and tell their stories, take their photographs, and for us to have the slum experience first hand. Kisenyi is not a place one would ever desire to go, and much less live. Yet, here, children and women live in the most squalid conditions, in a neighborhood smelling of filth, sewerage and drugs, surrounded by heaps of rubbish, protected or terrorized by vice. If one stops for a minute and realize he or she could be the one living in such conditions, they can only shudder.
Unfortunately, having a government that does not care about social services means these forms of poverty and injustice will prevail for a while. Into perspective; if a national hospital can lack drugs or doctors, can there be hope for the slum dweller or the street kid? Yes, there is hope! Since we had our Kisenyi Photo Shoot 2 weeks ago, a good samaritan, inspired by our simple gesture to give back, is going to pay for Madina’s school tuition through medical school. This was in response to Rosebell Kagumire – an award winning journalist and blogger, who volunteered with us on that day. We have also been contacted by our friends at Ruhanga Development School in Kabale, to explore ways in which we can transplant children from these conditions to have an education and develop other skills. Nothing is conclusive yet, but that we can begin seeing such prospects with a simple project like the #KisenyiPhotoShoot means we have the ability to change and transform our communities – through simple acts, may fulfill some dreams.
We inspired ourselves, inspired people on the web, and may be we inspired the community that we served. Evelyn Namara, the Program Coordinator at Solar Sister said that her mind was opened; reflecting on the conditions of the people, she realized how most of us are so blessed and yet we complain so much. I would like to send special thanks to Four by Six Images and Patricia Kahil who offered free prints to the residents of the portraits we took on the day. They also did the make up on the subjects. Please also check out Edward Echwalu’s blog, our other volunteer photographer who captured some amazing shots with us on the day. Thank you to our special volunteers Patricia Twino, Ford Tumwesigye. Lastly, thank you to @VillageServe; our social enterprise. Tweet me here!