From Moonshine to Moonshot: The Most Inspiring Slum Story in 360 Video

Three years ago, I met Ken Kihara in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya. His story sounded like the plot of the post-apocalyptic movie Elysium, in which the distance between haves and have-nots is so great that the entire world looks like a giant slum, while rich people live on a floating space island.

Mathare is that post-apocalyptic slum. It is wretched, oozing sewage and despair at a level I’d never observed after over a decade working in very poor countries. People lived with nothing there, eking out a living on a dollar a day by collecting bits of trash to recycle or brewing a potent kind of alcohol using dirty river water.

I met Ken just after he got a job with Samasource doing basic data entry work for big companies. With minimal training, he started earning many times the average salary for someone with his background, and left the slum after six months to live in an apartment with his wife and daughter.

With Ken Kihara in Mathare, August 2014

A month ago, I met up with Ken in Beirut, Lebanon, just after he’d taken his first flight and trip outside Kenya. He was ecstatic — Ken was there for a new project we’re launching with migrants fleeing conflict. It struck me, sitting next to him in a chic cafe on the waterfront, that his journey from Mathare to the Middle East is so extreme that it almost seems fictional, as if he’s the hero in a film plot.

Over the last few months, we partnered with JauntVR to create a mini-documentary about Ken’s epic story in 360 video. The immersive images of Mathare are both haunting and rousing — we need calls to action like these to remind us that poverty is preventable, if only we decide to make it so.