You might wonder how trash and hope relate to each other. Last Saturday I watched the thriller “Trash: Thieves of Hope.” It was filmed in one of Rio’s favelas. It’s a harsh movie that confronts you with the reality of children who survive by picking up items with some residual value from humongous mounds of trash. I couldn’t help but think of the slums in Kenya.
By chance, on Sunday I came across an article about the Eastlands College of Technology, an educational project launched recently in the Eastlands slum area outside Nairobi. Both the movie and the article gave me some hope.
The movie shows the capacity of human beings to maintain a dignified existence even under survival conditions. A kid finds a wallet in the trash, and two friends join him to unravel a case of political corruption. I won’t reveal any more details: go watch it! The plot will keep you on your toes!
I first learned about the Eastlands College of Technology during my stay at Strathmore Business School. A model was on show at the entrance to encourage donations for it (the project is promoted by Strathmore Educational Trust). I was happy to hear about its launch last Spring. Its facilities have a capacity for 800 students, and a second building will open in two years. Its mission is “To serve Kenya’s Formal and Informal Industry by providing Vocational, Industrial and Entrepreneurial training.” A great contribution to Kenya, a country that has 20 million people (50 % of the population) under 25 with an unemployment rate around 80% .
And here’s where the movie and the College connect, and so do trash and hope: A commentator describes the movie as “a trip to the heart of the misery and the essence of human dignity.” And that’s what I felt the Eastlands College of Technology aims to do: enhance human dignity in the heart of misery and trash. Let me illustrate with an anecdote I read in an article about the College.
Moses – one of the promoters – asked some young fellows in the area to help put a fence around the land just purchased for the College, and offered to pay a small amount for each fence post they put up. Moses closed the contract by shaking the hand of each boy. This came as a surprise: “Don’t you know that people avoid us and are afraid of us, and think we are animals?” Stories came out about their life on the street, and their daily struggle to get enough to eat. Moses was treating them as human beings, and that was the beginning of a deep friendship.