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This is a project by youths for youths: together we want to create an art- and media hub in Kakuma refugee camp. We as USANII LAB are young Kenyans who want to share our skills with youth from different communities and learn from their stories and experiences. Our project consists of two main parts: Building a cyber cafe, a place where people can meet, share their stories and be connected to the rest of the world, as well as a training program in media, art and design to empower youth to produce creative output with new media and use digital platforms to make it visible worldwide. We want to encourage youth to be entrepreneurs. The skills they learn during our workshops can be used in the camp but also in any place they will settle in the future, whether this is returning to their home country or settling in a new environment. The living situation in the refugee camp introduces dependency and in the long term suppresses self-determination by eliminating choice. Our aim is to counter this development by enabling creativity. Different workshops will be held in the field of basic ICT skills, photography, film, design, arts and music. The creatives conducting workshops in the Kakuma refugee camp will be from Usanii Lab, artists from Nairobi and international artists. The workshops output will be exhibited in a festival in Kakuma refugee camp, in Nairobi and online. Our creative hub will remain as a creative space for youth to come up with entrepreneurial ideas.


The main beneficiaries are youth from Kakuma refugee camp. The camp is situated in a remote, hot and dry place in the north of Kenya with very harsh living conditions and limited opportunities. We aim to not only inspire them but also show that design is a viable career path and that design thinking may be used in any daily task. The broad Kakuma community will benefit by having an internet cafe, which will allow a broad access to information and learning resources.


I'm James, a young photographer from Mathare slum, Nairobi. We do this project together as USANII LAB, a creative collective for youth and a community based organization existing since 2013. We are based in the Eastlands of Nairobi, known for its informal settlements. Collaborations are welcome!


  • Kenya


  • Yes, for more than one year.


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year


There are about 179,000 people living in the Kakuma refugee camp. This may look like just a number, but individual and personal stories are behind every refugee. With our project we focus on personal empowerment through creativity. Everybody has a talent and in our different workshops and courses you get a chance to explore it. 

Kakuma refugee camp, June 2016

Our goal is to create a space in the refugee camp where youth can meet and talk about ideas, art and own projects. We already conducted two pilot projects with media training in the Kakuma refugee camp (2 weeks training in June 2014 and in June 2016) and we saw one of the biggest challenges is lack of electricity and internet. Therefor we want to construct a cyber cafe with 10 work places which can be run with solar power to be sustainable. The participants of the workshops in Kakuma developed the idea of the cyber cafe together with us when we were recently there in June 2016. 

The cyber cafe will not only be a place where refugees can learn ICT and media skills, but also a way to be connected with their friends and families back home. Internet became a basic need in recent years. Refugees should be able to make use of its power even though they live in a remote area to not lose the connection to the rest of the world. 

With our media training program we want to encourage youth to be entrepreneurs. The skills they learn can be used in the camp but also wherever they will settle in the future, whether this is returning to their home country or settling in a new environment. During the media workshops participants will have responsibilities and have the chance to implement their own ideas. 

Kakuma refugee camp has occasionally had conflicts with the host community and within themselves as result of difference in nationality and ethnicity. Learning Design, Photography and Film skills will bring the youths together with a common goal, hence build a peaceful relationship within the camp having understood and appreciated each others culture. Through organizing a festival together as a group we will support team building. 

We will have a mixed group of individuals between 16 and 35 years of age. We welcome people who have dropped out of school or who might not know how to write and read. They still have talents and might explore their talent in art. As you learn a lot from your team members we would like to have a diverse group of people with different backgrounds in culture, education and different age. 

THE cyber cafe/MEDIA HUB

We want to construct a solar-run cyber cafe with 10 work places where we need the following equipment: 

  • 10 laptops
  •  Internet rooter 
  • A4/A3 printer (digital)
  • scanner 
  • hard drives
  • furniture: tables, chairs, shelf
  • solar panels and battery/generator

photography/film equipment equipment:

  • 10 DSLR cameras, different lenses
  • 5 tripods
  • SD-Cards

silk screen printing equipment: 

  • screens
  • textile paint
  • chemicals

In addition to the cyber cafe we want to establish a silk screen workshop where people can print their own t-shirts. After our last pilot project in Kakuma we saw the need for silk screen printing, people do produce their own shirts but have to use stencils. 

Ideas for businesses we already came up together with the Kakuma refugees:

  • Taking photographs for refugees (e.g weddings, portraits,...)
  • Taking photos at events for NGOs (e.g. world refugee day (once a year), Kakuma football premier league (weekends), world woman day (once a year),...)
  • printing t-shirts  
  • designing posters 
  • - ...

More business ideas will be developed during our workshops.

Curriculum for the media Training

Our project consists of 3 phases: 

  1. Design and Media course (3 months)
  2. Workshops (2 weeks)
  3. Festival (1 day)

PHASE 1: A three months courses with 3-4 teachers/workshop conductors and around 30 students

Main objective: Team building, establishing a safe zone to be creative, impart knowledge of basic design, photography and film skills. 

Target group: Young people who are interested in learning design and media skills. 

Design, photography and film skills are shared through different workshops. The workshops are based on our experiences with USANII LAB. The main motto is “learning by doing”. 

Most workshops have the same basic structure:

  • developing an idea
  • handcrafting it
  • continue designing it on the computer

Take the logotype workshop as an example: First the logo is designed with spray paint and stencils. It can be spray-painted on the cover of a sketchbook  (+learning some crafts: how to bind an exercise book in a few hours) and finally converted to a vector graphic on a computer.

results from the logo workshop, participants holding their sketchbooks with stencil logo. Next step: using the computer. June, 2016 (pilot project 2)

ICT training: participants design their logo on the computer, June 2016

Photography workshop (pilot project 1) June 2014

Photography workshop (pilot project 2) June 2016
 Nicholas, one of the workshop conductors from Mathare slum Nairobi, shows his class in Kakuma some Graphic Design tricks, (pilot project 2) June 2016

The workshops remain short in the beginning to achieve a rewarding outcome for everyone at the end of the day. Each creative output is presented to others and discussed within the group. During later stages the workshops may include group work and have a duration of several days.

An important goal of the workshops - beside team building - is removing the preconceptions of what it means to be creative that are inhibiting the creativity. It’s all about ideas - they don’t have to be perfect but can be the start of something. 

This goes hand in hand with learning computer skills. First we will teach digital literacy, what cloud computing is (using dropbox, google docs, ...) and then teach some Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign skills in different workshops. 

A variety of workshops is planned: 

Designing a logo, designing your own book, making a stop motion movie/animation, doing a short film, learning how to make photo portraits, designing a movie poster.

Photography workshop will entail: Skills on handling a camera, camera settings, learn how to edit pictures and how to write captions for them. In addition they are going to learn how to present their pictures and to organize exhibitions. 

James Ekwam Chemose, who came up with the Kakuma project idea, teaching basics in photography/film (pilot project 2) June 2016
Results of the photo workshop: portraits of women in the camp, June 2016
Results of the photo workshop: portraits of women in the camp, June 2016

Filming workshop will include: Skills on handling a camera, camera settings, learn editing, learning how to make documentaries and movies. The trainees will be asked to come up with ideas of  documentaries and movies they want to make. Afterwards, in groups they are going to form members of the crew and the cast. The production team will strictly be from among the trainees under the supervision of a trainer. The film and the documentary will therefore be screened at the end of the festival in Phase 3. The films and documentaries produced therefore participate in international and national Film festivals e.g Slum film festival, Lola film festival and Kenya International Film Festival. This is a result of one of the workshops from pilot project 2, June 2016

PHASE 2: two weeks workshop festival 

The participants of PHASE 1 will help organize the festival for 8 workshop conductors and around 120 students.

Main objective: learning to know different artists that are conducting the workshops and different styles and ideas, reaching a wider audience. The participants from Phase 1 may now take more responsibility in helping with the organization, but they just as well take part in the workshops 

Target group: young people who want to try out something creative and have fun.

The workshops are open for more participants. There are workshops planned in the fields of music, film, photography, fashion, design and art. Each workshop lasts one week and has 15 participants. The workshops can be repeated (one in the first week, the same one in the second week for a different group). Depending on the workshop conductors the workshops can also build on each other such as recording a song during the first week, then shooting a music video with the song in the second week. 

During this time the participants of phase 1 regularly meet to organize the festival/exhibition (PHASE 3)

PHASE 3: 1 days Festival/Exhibition

Main objective: presenting the output of Phase 1 and 2. The participants of the 3 months training will help document everything, presenting the created art works, photos and films to the other residents of the refugee camp.

The participants of phase one will set up an exhibition place, document the workshops and festival in a small magazine and will edit a documentary which will be screened. 

All output will be not only shown in the camp but also in Nairobi and documented on a website.


Through our experience with USANII LAB we know that youth develop their own ideas and projects, so it highly depends on the participants how it will go on after phase 3. As we work with them to train them as multipliers, they will be able to conduct workshops themselves and train others.

More so the partakers will be in a position to have a livelihood out of the skills acquired. The cyber cafe will be a place where youth can start their businesses, whether that’s photography or design jobs they can do. 

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Team (17)

Cyrus's profile
Cyrus Simiyu

Role added on team:

"Photographer and manager of Usanii Labs's Zoom magazine. I was part of the oragnizing team and workshop conductor of "pilot project 1" . I am looking forward to return to Kakuma and teach film."

Yvonne's profile

Role added on team:

"Photographer, Editor"

Emmanuel's profile
Emmanuel shaffi

Role added on team:

"Photographer and Film maker"

Impeesa's profile
Michael's profile
Michael Maina

Role added on team:

"Photographer, film maker and Chairperson of Usanii Lab"

James's profile
Michail's profile
Michail Rybakov

Role added on team:

"Media artist working in video, photography and computer based media. A problem solver with everything technical."

Carlos's profile
Carlos Okumu

Role added on team:

"Carlos Thomas Okumu. Designer, freelance photographer and film maker.. passionate in creating and designing new stuffs. I will teach illustration, design and Adobe Illustrator in Kakuma."

Usanii's profile
Usanii Lab

Role added on team:

"Our team"

Ndegwa's profile
Ndegwa Wanjiku

Role added on team:

"Photographer, Film maker and Designer. I am the head of design of our "Zoom magazine" and will teach editorial Design in Kakuma."

Viola's profile
Viola Kup

Role added on team:

"Communication Designer, coordinator at Usanii Lab. I was part of "pilot project 2" in June, 2016. It was a great experience to conduct workshops for two weeks in Kakuma. I'm looking forward to go back to share innovative design skills and support the team with project management."

Brian's profile
Brian Otieno

Role added on team:


Vincent's profile
Vincent Mbiti

Role added on team:

"Filmmaker and photographer and project manager"

Nicholas's profile
Nicholas Kimeu

Role added on team:

"I'm a poet, designer, photographer and film maker. I was recently part of the Kakuma pilot project 2 and conducted poetry classes."

Francis's profile
Julius's profile
Julius Bokande

Role added on team:

"I am Julius, one of the learners of kakuma refugee usanii group, I was in the film class."

Daniel Jamus's profile

This inspired (1)

Youth-Led Innovations


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michelle Bellino

This a really exciting project idea with local involvement and multiple opportunities for education, developing transferrable skills, collaboration, empowerment, and creative expression! I know so many young people who would thrive in a space like this where they have voice and choice.

Photo of Yvonne

Giving back to the society#great future investment

Photo of Nicholas Kimeu

Looking forward to make it happen all together.

Photo of Daniel

This is a good project.

Photo of Julius Bokande

Really this proposal is very nice because particular people of kakuma are in needs of cyber to be connect for the rest of the world.

Photo of Francis kathae

Hey this is a great platform to showcase our skills and share with the world the love of art

Photo of Dawn Lee

Wow this could make a huge difference to the prospects of the refugees at Kakuma. Connectivity and communication skills are everything in this age, and access to them can change lives. 

Photo of Michael Maina

This project will go along way in opening the refugee camp to the digital world and also keep the youths active while engaging with other people all over the world.

Photo of Emmanuel A

I'm proud to says with this Project Kenya will be going wild in serching for creative minds and brilliant creative's all over its regions,  This project can prove facts and can show its wings out for potential, and with the help to the creative's in the outskirts of the vast wild Camp, Kakuma refugees will have again hope to do something usefull in the making of a new life... I go for this project 100% I Love it too much.....

Photo of Ndegwa Wanjiku

This would bring a great impact to the youths of Kakuma it would be like a network which every youth will carry the knowledge he acquires to where he comes from.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Great to have you onboard! We notice your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it included on the challenge. If you decide you'd like it included, you can publish it by hitting the Publish Entry up there at the top of your post. Or update it first by hitting the Edit Contribution button. Looking forward to seeing more of you on conversations across this challenge…

Photo of James Chemose Ekwam

thank you ideo team, I had  a difficulty with the log in, it showed a server error. I'm happy it worked now :)