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Poverty Times #1

Through their own eyes

Shootback: Photos by children from the Nairobi slums

Lana Wong, a photographer trained at both Harvard and London's Royal College of Art, got Ford Foundation and UNEP support to give 30 one-dollar plastic cameras to 31 Mathare teenagers aged 12 to 17. The boys and girls, all players in Africa’s largest youth football league, the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), had never held a camera. Each got one roll of film a week, and on Saturday mornings the group critiqued their photographs with Wong. Their arresting, often heart-wrenching pictures are now on view in a travelling exhibition as well as in the book.

"Street boys searching in water for nails and waste metal. Hassan Tom Kaseki, 16. " A youth with a glue bottle. "They sniff glue so that they cannot feel ashamed when they are begging for money". Serah Waithera, 15."
"When you wake up in the morning the important thing to do first is to find out where are your shoes so that you can do the rest of your work. Why shoes are useful: when you walk without them your legs can get injured by anything dangerous like bones, thorns, and many others. So I will suggest that shoes are the most useful objects in our home". Serah Waithera, 15. "A man intoxicated on chang'aa sleeps on trash. Chang'aa is a cheap, sweet, illegal brew made in Mathare, dangerous because its ingredients
include contaminated water, mortuary preservatives and washing detergents. "They know it is harmful to their body, but they ignore this and drink it anyway. And that's why others sleep anywhere because they can't move anymore". James Njuguna, 15 and Maureen Atieno, 15."