UPDATE: Emmanuel Jal beat the odds of growing up as a child soldier, watching his friends die of starvation in the Sudan. But today he sings the song of a war child on the TED stage
UPDATE: TED Blog post about TEDx Kibera!
This past Saturday (yesterday) I was invited to speak at what I call the most unique TED stage ever! Suraj, an Acumen Fund Fellow put together a TEDx event in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa! And what an event it was.
Suraj has this theory that there is an ‘idea gap’. Basically, the idea gap is the fact that mostly the discussions and ideas around Kibera both from within the slum and from NGOs and other organizations that work in the slum, are primarily and almost only about poverty, HIV/AIDS. There is very little else that is associated with this places, nothing inspiring, nothing out of what the environment presents. So Suraj started showing some of the youths in Kibera TED videos, and you could tell the impact that this had had on them. Just showing them the possibility of a different world, of something outside what the slum offers them, which is mostly despair, and mental imprisonment.
Suraj then got together some volunteers from the slum and organized a small 2-hour TEDx, where anyone from the slum was invited. He got three speakers, Tonee Ngungu of Wazimba, Otieno Gomba a founder of an Ghetto Art an art studio in Kibera who is from Kibera himself and myself.
It is quite hard to put into words the experience. I attended TEDx Nairobi a week earlier which was a much much bigger event at a bigger venue. But the interesting thing is, even being in this smaller event being held in the middle of a slum, in a shanty church building, surrounding by the dirt and grime of Kibera… there was still great inspiration (if not greater) and great ideas! And I think that’s the beauty of TED, the fact that despite where you are, in whatever circumstances, people (if motivated enough) will always come up with great ‘ideas worth sharing’! And that says something very deep about the human spirit and the dignity of human beings. That whether rich or poor we all have that capacity for creativity. Otieno Gomba said it perfectly, we are all created with the innate ability to create!
The even more interesting thing is, I think I who was meant to be a speaker coming to share something with this crowd from Kibera was actually probably way more inspired, and challenged and astounded by the audience. Particularly by the young volunteers. I literally had to take the rest of the day just to recover!
You can find my photos from TEDx Kibera on Flickr.