community building

An interview with Chris Makau of TEDxKibera, Kenya

Chris Makau is famous for his short inspiring appearance in Chris Anderson’s TED talk “How web video powers global innovation” from TED Global in 2010  Chris Makau appears around Minute 16:40 describing how he was involved in TEDxKibera
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31st August 2013 I did a video interview which is here
I was inspired by the video when I saw it a few years  ago and tracked Chris Makau down via Google and sent an e-mail. I heard back  from Bastiaan Tolhuijs who was working in an NGO how he was raising money so that Chris could go back to high school. He had dropped out for financial reasonsA few days ago I was back in touch with Baastiaan who has a new venture making elegant furniture out of steel waste and we were wondering what happened with Chris so I tracked him down on Facebook, chatted on Skype and asked if he was OK answering a few questions.These are copy pasted from Facebook and E-mail,
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(Kibera is one of the biggest slums in Africa (near Nairobi in Kenya). though I recommend watching the whole video.

RL  Tell us a bit about yourself, how you go involved in TEDxKibera, what motivated you and what were the biggest differences it made to your life and those of other people invovled in the project:

CM  My name is Christopher Makau first born, we are four boys second born dead four years ago, born and raised in Kibera. I have attended school in Kibera informal primary school near the Nairobi dam fews years ago it was carried away by rain water..

I was introduced to Suraj, by Bastiaan my friend from Holland while they were doing their Peepoo project which I was part of the team. Suraj pass the idea and I felt that it was good and we started talking more and eventually we organized TEDxKibera and we received a lot of positive respond from the community and the entire ted global audience. My life has changed in term of being focus and ready to push myself to achieve my ideas and putting them into action becoming a doer.  It will take a while to really to say how many people are changing life because of the event but we are seeing positive results starting with me as an example.

RL Did the fact that you appeared on Chris Anderson’s TED talk make a difference to you personally, do people in Kibera and Nairobi realise that your face is known all over the world thanks to TED?

CM Appearing in Chris Anderson’s TED talk made me famous (especially in TED audience) and it was wonderful to received such respond from the audience who were watching, Only few people in Kibera and handful of nairobian know that i’m so famous. It meant that I met CHRIS ANDERSON WHEN HE WAS IN KENYA.

RL Are TED and TEDx as well known as they should be among people you know. Are the ideas relevant to the lives of people in your circle of family and friends

CM TED is well received but it need a lot to make it accepted in the community that my thought we need themes and talks relating to the people for example talks done by Obama, Raila and other prominent people in Africa Safaricom CEO Equity such people.

RL I believe that you had to drop out of school for financial reasons. That’s what I understood from Bastiaan who helped make and sell the book that was connected with fund raising. What was the story there, was your experience typical?

CM It is a long story. I was raised by my mum with the help of my aunt with whom I still mother had to go to live in rural area because she could not afford to pay rent of about eight hundred per month, with the help of family member I was able to complete my secondary school education and college for certificate and diploma in business management. I was to continue with diploma part two but the family member who supported me could not afford to pay so I had to be content with that until Bastiaan come along and wrote the book (about Kibera for fund-raising purposes), and as a consequence I am currently doing my graduate diploma.

RLWhat do you think of low cost private schools in Kibera and Kenya compared to free ones provided by the government? In the rich countries of Europe and North America it is often not clear why people on such low incomes choose private schools rather than go to free government schools.

CM: Everyone needs a good education  – the main reason why people go for private school, a lot of students are enrolled in government schools: one teacher to 80 student. The quality of education is low compared to private schools.

RL You decided to go into business. Was that because you prefer it compared to having a regular job or are regular job just hard to get or too badly paid?

CM I’m not in business yet but currently employed as logistic guy running errands and managing logistic and providing solution to business with logistic problems. I plan to invest in these business financially later on but for now I have invest in the idea.
RL What is your longer term ambitions in your life, your personal goals your business and education. What would make you say ” I’ve done what I came into the world to do”
CM: To run my own business and educate needy children in the community
RL The book might help people understand what life in Kibera is like, but for people reading this in rich European or American countries who haven’t seen it, what are the biggest and most important issues about life in Kibera for people in your situation that they should understand?
CM :Life is not that bad in Kibera. It is like any society where good and evil exist,

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Apart from toilet issue, drainage problems and poor housing nothing much. Lot has been written about Kibera but on 10% is true but 90% all lies, you need to see smiling faces around passing along the street of Kibera full of hope of a better tomorrow an indication of a society which we need to believe in.