Earth Day Event: Umande Trust X Kidani Youth Venture
Written By: Sophie Stowe and Alexa Storzinger
This Earth Day, Umande Trust partnered with Kidani Youth Venture to run an all day event focused on engaging youth in informal settlements on the issues of climate change. We ran the event out of the KID YOT biocenter in Kibra, Nairobi and had over 40 kids in attendance. It was a fruitful day full of smiles and learning that we can’t wait to share with you.
A bit more about Kidani Youth Venture (KYV): Joy and Edwin are the founders. They met at a conference a few years ago at a time when Edwin had his heart set on leaving Kibra forever to find better opportunities elsewhere. However, when Joy shared her inspiring philosophy with Edwin, he was convinced to stay. Now they run KYV together, driven and directed by Joy’s vision of making Kibra a place that people want to live and are proud of. This vision for Kibra and understanding of the importance of education and youth, drives the activities run on the regular by KYV. Using the second floor Innovation Center in the Biocenter, KYV provides kids with education and cultural outlets such as traditional dance and beading lessons as well as innovation meetings, movie screenings, and the opportunity to form focus groups. There are 10 clubs organized by the kids which include the environment, journalism, advocacy, education, art and design, technology, talent, leadership, entrepreneurship, and welfare clubs.
Another amazing part of KYV is the innovation times which are essentially ideathons or hackathons; the kids are given a problem by Joy and Edwin and they have to come up with ideas or solutions. These ideas are taken seriously and pursued by both the kids and directors. The most recent idea that the kids came up with is green roof installation in Kibra, which would solve a number of issues such as flooding from stormwater runoff, air quality issues, and food shortages. Another display of the impact of the organization includes what we saw on our first visit to KYV. Joy and Edwin showed us an area nearby where the kids were digging to level a spot of land close to a dumping area. They told us how the kids are working to create an area that will be used as a trash sorting center where the kids will sort the solid waste from the community and use each material in any way that they can, which already includes using found paper to make beads to sell and using plastic bags to make baskets. The kids that we saw digging were all on summer holiday, and were simply there because they believe in what they are doing. They love KYV and the community that it creates so there they were, using their free time to do actual work with friends in order to accomplish a goal.
I was inspired by them and their willingness to take action because they both love what they get to do at KID YOT biocenter and because of their understanding that it helps the community. These are the same kids that we were lucky enough to interact with during our Earth Day event.
The day started with an icebreaker where the kids (ages 8 to 20) said their names and what they want to be when they grow up which included doctors, teachers, footballers, actors, and more. Afterwards, Alexa and I began asking the kids what they understood about climate change and what they think it looks like in their community. Some of the older kids had an understanding of climate change and offered brief explanations, but most of them did not have an understanding of either climate or emissions. Alexa and I spent some time attempting to fill in the blanks of climate, beginning with how climate change is different in the different regions of Kenya, as well as what the atmosphere does for us and its relationship to climate change. We then moved into a short video that explains climate change. Afterwards, Edwin translated a few of the ideas and we elaborated on how climate change has different effects everywhere by showing them a map of Kenya and sharing our own climate change experiences from back home. The goal of this was to give the children a bigger picture of climate change while still relating it to them and their country.
After the video on climate change and more discussion, we split up into 5 small groups, each with around 8 kids and a facilitator to listen in and direct the conversation. The questions to consider were 1) How can you make an impact? 2) What do you want to see change in Kibra? 3) What are you hopeful about? And 4) Talk about climate change and Earth Day! Each group’s discussions went a little differently, but they all resulted in drawing a large poster of what they want Kibra to look like. These discussions were also influenced by the assignment that they were given the night before the event; Joy and Edwin gave them a piece of paper to bring home where they could speak with their parents about what they would like the future of Kibra to look like in relation to the environment. Some of the drawings that they created were incorporated into these discussions.
This group began their discussion on the topic of trash in Kibra. They feel that there should be trash bins throughout the community. They recognized that even though there are already a few trash bins, they get filled too quickly and are not emptied, so they want either government or community employees to come and dispose of the waste. They also want their government to hear their suggestions about climate action. In this group, the youngest was about 14 and the oldest was 18. Because this group was older, they needed less direction from Alexa and came up with their own ideas after being prompted. When it came to their poster, they all took turns drawing the ideas that they discussed.
This group discussed the importance of trees. Nyauncho explained the importance of the shade and rain which are brought by trees and that they bring aesthetic value to an area. When discussing what they want to see change in Kibra, they discussed the drainage issues that cause road erosion, overflow of garbage and waste, and flooding. When it rains and there is too much garbage in the drainages, the road floods with water and trash, ruining the roads. They also discussed the issue of open defecation, which they would fix by asking the landlords to build more toilets and more bathrooms and for them to be accessible. They said a neighborhood should have an option of 10 toilets. As for the discussion of climate change, they realized that climate change affects the rural areas by altering the rains and rivers. In some areas, there are seasonal rivers, which may run dry for two weeks out of the year, but lately, they have been running dry for months at a time. Within this group, 4 were high schoolers, and the other ones weren’t yet teenagers. They also asked Joshua to further explain the greenhouse gasses and how they accumulate in the atmosphere.
This group mainly discussed trees and their importance. This conversation was inspired by one of the drawings that a group member brought to the meeting. Another kid offered that trees give us shade and oxygen, and also bring rain and make the environment beautiful. This group was younger and was made of 2nd-7th graders. Because of these ages, they needed more direction and lots of explaining. Their group drawing was influenced more than others by their facilitator.
This group started out by having a lot of questions about what climate change means. They needed more clarification after the videos and explanations, so Sophie used diagrams on a piece of paper to re-explain climate change to some of the girls. They were aged 12 to 19, so the levels of understanding after the first explanations in English were varied. After the deeper explanations, the kids asked questions about who is in charge of dealing with climate change and why the government isn’t doing anything about it. After a bit more explanation, the group decided that they wanted a place to discuss their issues, like a town hall. They also wanted to see more biogas used in their ideal Kibra. They felt that it should be used to provide lunch in schools. This group needed some direction with some of the younger girls. The oldest one was the head of the Environmental Club and had lots of questions and once given the pen had a lot of ideas. She and a younger boy continued to work on the poster in a corner even after everyone else had finished drawing.
This group discussed the issue of climate change education. They said that at school there’s hardly a distinction made between climate change and the weather, so they wanted to hear more insights on that. One older boy expressed that he didn’t feel like the school curriculum covers it properly. The group found it difficult to discuss what kind of impact they wanted to have. They expressed that many people don’t care about climate change because most people don’t know how it affects them. They then moved on to discuss the issues of government. They said that if people in power don’t understand the issues, then they won’t plan for change, which means they won’t budget for projects, and nothing will happen. The group also expressed the need of having more green spaces and green buildings in their neighborhood to maximize on the environment potentials in the crowded neighborhood.
After the discussions and the drawings, we moved into the kids’ pre-prepared skits and lunch. Each of the kids had a bowl of rice and beans prepared by the community while the older ones performed skits demonstrating the bad effects of climate change and community issues. The skits demonstrated issues such as pollution from buses, deforestation, drug use, and littering. These skits demonstrated an understanding of their immediate surroundings and how climate change affects them. These were mainly directed by the older boys in the group who had immediately demonstrated an understanding of climate change.
Next, there were two dance performances, five speeches, and presentations of the group drawings. The speeches were written by the leaders of the clubs, and allowed them to express their hopes for the future. They were all very well spoken and prepared. It was so exciting to see their capacity for leadership and ideation through these presentations. Finally, they presented their group drawings, explaining each aspect of the image or bullet points that they had written. This allowed everyone to see the goals that the other groups had come up with.
When I spoke with Edwin after the day, he said that the kids are still talking about climate change, and have been doing more cleanups around the biocenter. They have been making sure that all of the trash ends up in the dustbin. This demonstrates that the kids gained a healthy understanding that there is something that they can do about the issues that we discussed in this event. Edwin expressed how excited they all have been and that his highlight of the day was seeing all of us interact and talk about these ideas.
This event was constructive for the kids because they will now be able to make or influence more change and help their community to make climate-conscious decisions throughout their lives. This event was helpful for us at Umande Trust, because we gained an understanding of the level of climate change knowledge that is held by youth in Kibra. Any lack of understanding of these issues is not a testament to the attendees’ intelligence or ability to comprehend complex issues, only the systems of education that they have been provided by the government of Kenya. With this in mind, here is a list of ideas that needed to be introduced to most of the attendees:
Climate vs. Weather: What does it mean for the global climate vs. the local climate to be changing? Natural climate change vs. anthropogenic climate change?
Atmosphere: What is the atmosphere and what does it do? How does it protect us?
Green Space: What does green space do for us? How can it fix the problems in our community (erosion, heat)?
Greenhouse Gasses: What do they do? What causes their presence? What is a healthy amount of them?
Fossil Fuels: Where do they come from
Sustainability: What does it mean?
Alternative energy: We’ve learned how to turn the sun, wind, tides, and heat from the earth into energy- how?
What is being done about CC: Who can fix it? Who is in charge of climate change?
Government: What can the government do? What is being done already?
Future: What does this mean for the future? Is everyone impacted? How does it impact me?
As previously described, a few of the older kids came to this event with an understanding of climate change, and even if the others did not, most understood the issues within their community that are not good. That being said, the link between the environment and the problems in Kibra needed to be explained to many of them, and many had their first real introduction to climate change in this event.
The kids’ understanding of climate change did not seem to be based on the type of education they receive. Five of the students attend private or boarding schools, and while one of the 18 year olds demonstrated a very comprehensive understanding of environmental science, one 19 year old did not. With this, we feel that the scientific education given at all schools in Kenya must improve their emphasis on climate change and teach a solutions-based approach to their courses in order to achieve Priority 5 in the National Education Sector Plan: Relevance. “An appropriate education curriculum is expected to play a major role in empowering the citizens with the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies to realize the national development goals.” Combating climate change and mitigating its effects is one of Kenya’s development goals, thus it is imperative that childrens’ understanding of climate change is improved. This event will allow us at Umande Trust to tailor our informational services and youth materials to include the proper information and reach the target audiences.
Our Earth Day event with Kidani Youth Venture was so much fun, the kids loved it, they learned a lot, and so did we. We look forward to using this information to help spread climate change awareness and influence community action. Joy’s hope and idea to start Kidani Youth Venture shows that just one person with an idea can change lives. Because of this partnership, 40 more kids have a better understanding of climate change and are striving to make their community better at this very moment. Kibra’s youth is teeming with hope and ideas and we can’t wait to see what they will do in the future!