Blue Diamonds from Pluto
I once heard a tale that the rarest of diamonds orbit the planet Pluto, which led me to wonder…
Throughout my life and education, the scientific consensus was that Pluto was the ninth planet in our solar system, but in August of 2006, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet, therefore hurling it out of our current planetary lineup.
With the scientific downgrade from planet to dwarf planet and the notion of the rarest diamonds orbiting the now disregarded ninth planet, a direct correlation between the story of the diamonds orbiting Pluto and the people of Kibera drifted into my thoughts. The people of Kibera, who have always been beyond consciousness and so far from the sun’s love, are so unique and genuinely beautiful like blue diamonds.
Due to an utter lack of employment opportunities, people within Kibera are forced to turn to lifestyles and make choices that keep them in this easily forgotten status. Ministry of Tomorrow is working to ensure that the people of Kibera are not forgotten, but instead, are provided opportunities to rise up and become recognized through their talents and successes. Ministry of Tomorrow empowers people to reach far beyond their struggles and build their community, while obtaining the means to provide for their families.
Kibera Classics is Ministry of Tomorrow’s flagship project. It’s a small factory in Langata just outside Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. We train and employ people from Kibera who become highly-skilled tailors and work in our factory creating luxury, designer bags.
We currently employ twenty-two people, including twelve full-time staff and ten people who work as either security guards, cooks or on the cleaning crew. We also understand that we can’t provide jobs for everybody. Because of this reality, our solution is to teach skills on the weekends so people can feel empowered to go out and find jobs in other places in order to provide for their families.Ministry of Tomorrow pays three times the Kenyan minimum wage. We also provide two healthy, nutritious meals per day and have profit sharing opportunities for all our employees. Ministry of Tomorrow is providing the people of Kibera with fair wage jobs that allow them to attain the means to provide food, medicine, and clean water for themselves and their families. We also help provide educational opportunities to the community’s youth.
Ministry of Tomorrow is a for-profit company. We utilize a self-sustaining business model that works because people work. We are in Kenya to create job opportunities and empower people. So many people living in Kibera have been given false hopes. Our idea is to stay and continue to grow!
A Brief History of Kibera
Kibera is now the largest slum in all of Africa, but it did not start this way; in fact, it has taken over a century of neglect from the Kenyan government, tribal conflict that still exists today, and a lack of jobs to support the ever-growing families to create what is modern day Kibera.
Kibera, which means forest or jungle in Nubian, started in 1904 as a Nubian settlement in the forests outside of Nairobi. The Nubian soldiers, who were a faction of the British military, were allocated plots of land for their service in the King’s African Rifles until East Africa’s independence in the 1960’s. Even in the early 1900’s upon its origin, there were no regulations on who could live where and how to best allow Kibera to grow as a settlement for the people of Kenya.
After gaining its independence in 1963, Kenya’s government made a number of forms of housing illegal which directly affected Kibera and ultimately made it an unauthorized settlement. As Kibera continued to grow and expand, so did the number people from the various tribes in Kenya. Today, Kibera is divided into thirteen different villages, mostly due to the fact that the various tribes who inhabit Kibera continue to feud with each other over land rights among other issues. The Kenyan government still owns all the land upon which Kibera stands, but continues to not officially acknowledge the settlement.
Kibera is located just 5 kilometers outside of Nairobi’s city center in Kenya with between 800,000 and 1,000,000 inhabitants, which causes a staggering population density of about one million people occupying a one square mile area. Because Kibera is not recognized as a settlement by the Kenyan government, the entire slum lacks basic services: running water, electricity, public lavatories, schools, and medical facilities. The services that do exist are privately owned, which means the owners can charge exorbitant prices for simple daily necessities, such as water or even using the toilet. It costs more for residents of Kibera to buy water from a hose owned by someone in the slum than it costs a resident in the city of Nairobi for much cleaner and safer water. Even though the Nairobi Dam is located on the southern edge of the Kibera and supplies the residents with a lake where they can get drinking water, the water in the lake is so contaminated that using it causes diseases such as cholera.
In summary the problem is that there are millions of people who do not have jobs or access to jobs which keeps this negative cycle in motion. So, to improve the current situation, Ministry of Tomorrow has created Kibera Classics. There are thousands of solutions, but the one Ministry of Tomorrow has chosen is empowering individuals by teaching skills and creating jobs.