*Eric (not his real name) is your normal next door kid. He is in his final year now in High school. He works hard in school. He is ambitious. He hopes to ace his final exams to secure a position in one of the universities in Kenya (or abroad) to further his education. He, however, does not have a decent background. He lives in Korogocho. His mother does odd jobs to fend for him. In a day, she earns a measly 300 bob that is not enough to cater for his daily needs as well as pay for his school fees. In a nutshell, Eric was born into a dysfunctional family handled by a single mother. His environment constantly mocks his vision. Growing up in Korogocho slums, he does not have many advantages available to him. His future may look bleak but he remains adamant. He hopes to defy the odds and become a music director someday. He effortlessly tells his story, his face beaming with optimism.
I met Eric today. He sat at the far end of Michael Joseph Centre breathing life into his tuber producing beautiful sounds. He was part of an Orchestra that dexterously played the National Anthem and a beautiful rendition of Oliver Mtukudzi’s ‘Todi’. The kind of music that gives you goose bumps and draws tears to your eyes.
Eric is one of the over 600 children who have benefited from Ghetto Classics which is sponsored by Safaricom. The Ghetto Classics program equips underprivileged youth with music skills and it has been supported by proceeds from the Safaricom International Jazz Festival since 2014. The beneficiaries of this programme are currently pre-teens and teens from Korogocho slums. Here, they have been equipped with skills in classical and jazz performance.
Safaricom Jazz Proceeds
Every year, Safaricom commits to donate proceeds from the Jazz festival to Ghetto Classics. These proceeds go into facilitating the programme. Instruments are purchased, mentorship is offered as well as books are provided for these talented kids to hone their music skills. Safaricom has so far handed over Kshs. 19 million, including a Kshs. 7.1 million that was presented this morning.
Positive Impact in kids’ lives
Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore, has said that the company will continue supporting arts programmes which help create brighter futures for talented youth. Through music, members of the Ghetto Classics are learning new skills, discipline and most importantly, realizing that their future is greater than what they are born into. Bob Collymore talks about why they support Ghetto Classics in this post Safaricom Jazz: Interview with Bob Collymore.
Even in their wildest dreams, these kids from the lowly Korogocho slums would never have imagined hanging out, leave alone performing with the world’s finest jazz stars. Ghetto Classics has taken them to heights they would never have imagined to have ascended. The members have performed with local and international jazz stars at their base in Korogocho as well as performing in major events such as the Pope’s visit to Kenya in November 2015 as well as during last year’s Jamhuri Day Celebrations held at State House. This is only the beginning.
By the Numbers
This programme started in 2009 with about 10 children. It has since grown to over 600 kids and now targeting 650. Half of the children are currently taking music lessons. Excelling in this field means that kids will escape poverty and hardship as well as validate the programme as worthwhile. The co-founder of Ghetto Classics, Ms. Elizabeth Njoroge, hopes that the programme will grow and go beyond Korogocho to other low income settlements so as to offer kids from similar backgrounds the same opportunity.
The best and probably the most beautiful part is that you play a key part in tremendously transforming lives every time you pay for that ticket and attend Safaricom International Jazz Festival. You rock!