U-M researcher deals with hope, not charity, in far corners
Thursday, August 2, 2012
On the east side of Nairobi, in a slum called Mukuru, Ted London went looking for outhouses and found a Steve Yzerman hockey jersey.
It’s a white jersey, the one the Detroit Red Wings wear on the road, and it’s not an important part of the story. But maybe it helps show how we’re all connected — the Westerners and the Kenyans, the wealthy and the poor, those with toilets and those without.
The man wearing the No. 19 jersey stands in the background of a photo London shot on a dirt road in a tin-roofed shantytown. London doesn’t know much about him, except that he’s peering into a vegetable stand that has almost nothing to sell.
London’s focus was a poster on a wall in the foreground, next to a man cooking food in an outdoor pot. “Fresh Life Choo,” the poster says — choo being the Swahili word for outhouse, and the reason London and colleague Heather Esper traveled to one of Africa’s most gaping wounds.
At the University of Michigan, London focuses on what he calls “the base of the pyramid,” people who live outside the economy. Mukuru — the name means “dumping ground” — holds as many as 700,000 of them, depending on where you draw the boundaries.