There isn’t much that we as a people can do without community. Whether at home, at work, at church or out in the larger society, communication is what drives life, and a sense of community enables people to propel projects forward through communication. Safaricom is right up there in enabling communities through different initiatives around the country.
The greatest thing that Safaricom does for community to start with is providing communication. People are able to do things so much easier now even when they’re not necessarily together physically. Chamas are able to operate with members sending each other money via Mpesa. For example, I’m speaking from a position where my mother lives abroad, and yet she has been able to maintain all her community participation from there by simply sending money via Mpesa, and communicating with other members via phone. Whenever I’m home, I video call her on whatsapp and she’s able to talk face to face with her old friends, thanks to affordable data.
My mother is also able to contribute to medical appeals back home, funerals and school fees for bright deserving kids. As such, she’s very much part of the village community.
Communication aside, Safaricom and by extension Safaricom and Mpesa Foundations are heavily invested in harnessing the power of togetherness to grow communities. This they do through creating or supporting different initiatives that have people coming together. The company has gone beyond enabling communication, and spread its tentacles to healthcare, agriculture, environmental conservation, maternal healthcare and sports to name a few.
Case in point for example is Ghetto Classics, a community project in Korogocho slums that nurtures children through music. Ghetto Classics brings together kids from different parts of Korogocho slums and beyond and they get to while away time learning how to play different musical instruments. Through music, they’re able to see life outside the slums, and to dream bigger dreams.
I’ve been to Ghetto Classics severally and interacted with the children there as well as the founder Elizabeth Njoroge and one of the biggest benefits that shines through is that when the kids play music together, they feel a sense of togetherness. They look out for each other and many of them want to grow up, be enabled and come back to help the larger Koch community. All proceeds of the hugely popular Safaricom Jazz Festival go to Ghetto Classics to support in the good work that they’re doing. This continued support has greatly lifted the project and as the founder Elizabeth Njoroge says, Safaricom is the single largest supporter to date. If you have ever purchased a Safaricom Jazz ticket, kudos! You are part of supporting this unique community.
Away from Korogocho, away from music and in yet another example of empowering communities, Safaricom is also invested in providing clean water to over 100,000 Kibera residents through a partnership with SHOFCO (Shining Light For Communities). It is easy for one to take water for granted but for the residents of Kibera and many other rough neighbourhoods, going a distance through the slums to fetch water could mean being mugged, raped or even getting killed in extreme cases. Safaricom has come in to help provide 1.5km of aerial piping to increase access to clean water to residents. Before that, many of the residents had to survive on mucky water for domestic use, and walk long distances in insecure areas to get it.
Safaricom is also invested in lighting up rural communities through M-Kopa Solar. M-Kopa Solar is a company that sells home solar systems mostly in rural areas through very affordable installments which they pay via Mpesa. The impact of powering homes cannot be underestimated. Think of the difference good lighting and phone charging makes in the life of someone in an off-grid rural area. The child who can now do their homework without having to battle with the smoke from a kerosene lamp. The lady who sells fish at the road side and does not have to carry a kerosene lamp alongside the fish. The artisan who is running late on a piece and is now enabled to continue working into the early evening and maybe into the night.
In what I’ve personally come to witness as a great transformation through community coming together, last year I visited the Nyalani dam project in Kwale where farmers have been empowered to do successful farming and fishing in an otherwise very arid area. Have a look at my story here.
Another area where Safaricom shines for community is the Safaricom Lewa Marathon. This annual marathon where participants get to run in the wild is in high demand world over and the proceeds go to conserving wildlife as well as improving the lives of communities around the conservancy. The proceeds from the Marathon through the support of Tusk Trust have over the years benefited hundreds of thousands of Kenyans by establishing hospitals, clinics, schools, and far-reaching community projects. The Safaricom Lewa Marathon is known to go to protecting the 61,000 acre conservancy that is home to over 100 rhinos, herds of elephants and a vast assortment of other game including zebras, giraffes, buffalos and many more.
There are many more areas where Safaricom’s hand is felt. Like being the title sponsors of award ceremonies like SOYA (Sports Of The Year) that builds the sporting community, and BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) Awards that goes to improve the blogging community in the country.
I cannot end this article without a mention of Prisca Ariri, an elderly lady from Nyamira who lived with Fistula for 50 years before Safaricom Foundation came to the rescue. I visited Prisca earlier this year and here is her story.