Born and raised in Kibera, one of the biggest slum settlements in Kenya, Stephen is now a lawyer, life coach, and mentor to Kibera youth. He has worked with and co-founded several community service charity organizations, including Drop the Gun Initiative, St. Mary’s Education Centre, and HP Dawda Foundation, which campaigns for sustainability through urban farming. His status in Kibera makes him the perfect Community Engagement Officer for Photo Start.
Stephen’s community service does not end there! He is also a reformist, human rights activist, and peace champion. In Kibera, Stephen is well known for his courageous intervention during the three previous elections in Kenya. He was at the forefront, advocating for peace and a departure from post-election violence. He has been deeply involved in youth reforms, working with gangs to help them turn from a life of crime to productive and respectable members of society.
As his nickname Baba Yao (“their father”) suggests, Stephen is beloved by everyone in the community he serves, especially the children. Last month, when the home of Inua Mimi Rescue Centre (IMRC), a Photo Start Partner, burned to the ground, Stephen was one of the first to take action, making sure the residents were safe, protecting the still-smoldering site from landgrabbers, and organizing in-kind donations. Last week, Stephen and our Lead Instructor, Jeri Muchura, delivered Photo Start’s donation of cement and materials for the rebuilding of IMRC. Elizabeth Mwathi, our Marketing Officer in Nairobi, was instrumental in assessing IMRC’s needs and securing the appropriate resources.
L-R: IMRC’s Benson “Manyunu” Barthel and Pascalia Nduku with Photo Start’s Lead Instructor Jeri Muchura and Stephen Nzusa.
“When I was growing up, …I was a sponsored kid for school, so something in me grew that I needed to give back to my community just the same way someone else felt the need to give into my life. I actually carry that as a responsibility. That I will do good. I will always be a good example. That no matter what I do, no matter the hard times, I would always show people it’s possible to make it.”
“It’s a calling for me to serve. Service is what gives me satisfaction. If I don’t serve people, then I don’t think I’ve reason enough to exist. Baba Yao is my profession. I serve people as a Baba Yao. That’s just me. And I think it humbles me to know I’m accepted.”
“I really wanted to show children of Kibera it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. Our society does not define you. Actually, our society gives you a better push to become a better person.”
“People say, in Swahili it’s said, ‘Ni kusema na kutenda.’ Translated into English, ‘It’s saying and doing.’ So a lot of people now will actually tell you, ‘When Steve says it, he does it.’ When I promised them that one day their kids will have an advantage of learning something that will benefit and change their lives forever, I delivered it. How? Through Photo Start.”
“Part of what I was doing in Soweto was reforming young people from crime… So I felt if we could introduce something so different, something that I’m passionate about as a person, which is photography, some of these children might just buy into the idea. And this would also be a way to change how they see life, how they see their daily life.”
“When Photo Start came, I will say it became the best option for what young people wanted to do. And that option, for me, channeled their passion and gave us an insight to what they would want to be in the future… I would say before Photo Start, if this new idea had not come into my community, I would still be dealing with a lot of young kids being used or in crime.”
“There’s no better way (to help) than just linking up with an organization like Photo Start that is actually helping people directly. They do not have a broker in the middle… You want to meet the people, the people are there… You want to meet the community leaders, we are available. Why? Because it’s an honest and transparent organization that keeps helping people.”