Never in my life had I imagined that I would meet an actress who has blockbusters under her belt, especially not in Nairobi, Kenya. I am highly aspirational and I see my career taking me to Hollywood sometime, because I have already gotten the privilege to work with the top film directors from Los Angeles.
But alas! Earlier this month, I got an invitation to attend an African Leadership Dialogue filming session at Capital Club East Africa. The host of the reputable show is the illustrious Julie Gichuru. If you are a big fan of the series of powerful talks, you’ll realize that she has brought on board some of the world’s most popular leaders, from Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to former UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.
For this episode, Julie interviewed Connie on her Human Needs Project, a community transformation project that has been making lives better in Kibera. Through the center, she has launched training programmes that are giving young people employability skills and subsequently linking them with job placements.
“As we mark Women’s Day this week, I am delighted to start the week In Conversation with Connie Nielsen, philanthropist & actress (Wonder Woman, Gladiator, Justice League, Deep Blue Sea & more). Connie has a deep love for Kenya and has been working on development in Kibra for several years now,” Julie said on her Instagram feed.
The episode aired on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) on Saturday, March 15th, 2018 at 8PM. To be honest, I did not expect to appear. I didn’t know I did until my mum called me, sounding all elated and told me that she had just seen me on TV! She was so proud!
Connie has been running the project for awhile now, and I was wowed by the kind of support she has been getting from local public figures like Juliani and Gilad. It is addressing a serious issue that many have been shying away from addressing.
“People struggle to obtain their basic needs of clean water, food and sanitation, but it is the lack of tools of empowerment—skills training, credit, access to the internet, health education, and networks of opportunity—that inhibit them from escaping their living conditions,” the organization notes on its website.
Our evening with @cn_connienielsen was amazing! Thank you to all who turned out! Airing on @africa_ld on Sat 17th March, 8pm on KBC Channel 1. Our solutions to our greatest challenges must start from a place of compassion and understanding. Practical solutions that empower the people to become the driver of their own solutions are critical. Sustainability remains a challenge but must be the objective of any successful engagement. #KiberaTownCentre #GiveWorkKTC #Passion #Purpose #Transformation
However, it has a significant solution that is not only working in Kenya but can be scaled worldwide.
“This Town Center provides basic services (water, toilets, showers, laundry) and empowerment services (business skills training, micro-credit, WiFi cafe, health kiosk, green marketplace.) These integrated services provide a holistic solution to the challenges of living in a slum. Together, they can help people with a road map to creating a better life. At the heart of the Town Center is: innovation, community, and sustainability,” the statement adds.
Speaking at the event, Connie said that we need to embrace compassion in making the world a better place. I got a chance to ask her about how youth can be involved, and this is what she had to say:
I: My name is Harun Momanyi and I am a journalist and a Global Schools Ambassador with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. So, I wanted to find out, is there a way young people can engage with your programme, maybe by volunteering?
Connie: Absolutely; if you are for example a journalist, we are starting a VR – Virtual Reality – journalism course…as soon as I get funding for it, but we’ve already got the commitment of Wycliffe Muga from The Star and from a wonderful VR organization here; we are going to start a journalism school there. Certainly, as many of your young people want to come again and mentor these young people, that’s hugely important.”
Watch on Youtube: 20:20-21:26