Nothing exhilarates Isaac Biosse like capturing Nairobi’s most dramatic shots through his camera lenses. Whenever he sets out to work, he purposes to do more than just take photos.
His primary mission is to tell the story of the city’s highs and lows, and to document its struggles, especially the sides of it that are often overlooked.
Isaac, 23, is a Kenyan-born Ghanaian, a photojournalist and social entrepreneur. He has worked with some reputable companies such as Homeboyz Radio, Visa, Standard Chartered and media personalities such as Pinky Ghelani.
The jewel on his crown is that he has participated as a member of the camera crew in major local concerts featuring top artists such as Chronixx, Rick Ross and Keri Hilson.
His brand of photojournalism is unique. Isaac does not just click away when he sees interesting subjects, he also offers help when he can. He is the founder and CEO of Aboki Foundation. Aboki is a Hausa word meaning “friend”.
‘‘My friends and I started the enterprise in 2014 when we were in secondary school. The idea was to pool resources and buy text books for schools to increase literacy in slum areas. We also wanted to rehabilitate street children through education,’’ he says.
At the time, the friends were cash strapped, and managed only a few copies of text books when they made their first donation to a secondary school in Kibera.
Visits to several schools and 30 charity events later, the team has grown stronger and bigger. They now have 160 members.
In a recent books drive for St Juliet’s Secondary School in Kibera, the team had hoped to raise 500 copies but ended collecting more than 1,000 books.
‘‘The foundation has impacted the lives of more than 400 learners in schools in Kibera. Olympic primary and Baraka za Ibrahim secondary schools are our biggest beneficiaries,’’ he says and adds:
‘‘We collect books and clothes from well-wishers, and then give them out to those in need. We also take part in activities organised by other social groups.’’
Aboki Foundation neither has donors nor sponsors. They rely solely on members’ contributions. To achieve self-sustainability, the team is now selling merchandise, and the profits are ploughed back to the enterprise.
‘‘We also partner with other organisations that are running similar projects. So far we have worked with Cheza Events, Polycom and Big Hearts Foundation,’’ he explains.
So, why couldn’t Isaac just focus on his photography to earn money? What motivated him to start the enterprise?
‘‘My mother had a restaurant in Umoja estate in Nairobi when I was growing up. She would sometimes cook a meal and give it out to street families. This cultivated empathy in me. I resolved to help the needy when I grew up. I’m happy that I am now living my childhood dream,’’ he says.
Through photography and charity work, Isaac believes he has struck a perfect balance between passion and adventure.
‘‘The two complement each other. I don’t have to spend money on someone else to do photography work for the organisation. This way we save on costs,” he says.
Through charity, Isaac has met and interacted with many high profile personalities, among them former Ghanaian president John Mahama who had visited Kenya two years ago.
‘‘To see President Mahama appreciate our work gave my team and I so much motivation,’’ notes Isaac, who studied at Africa Digital Media School. But this cause has not been without challenges, the main one being limited financial resources.
‘‘Our members are young people aged between 19 and 25 years. Most of them are either still in school, or just entering the job market. Those who are working are not yet settled.’’
Raising money is tough for them, but their zeal keeps them going.
Isaac says honesty and an unwavering willingness to transform the lives of those in need are the key qualities required of anybody who is interested in doing charity work.
‘‘You must work with people who share your ambition. People with a clear understanding of the cause. It’s unfortunate that most people in philanthropy are in it just to show-off,’’ he says.
He argues that young talented people hoping to make an impression in the society must possess a lot more than just the required skills.
‘‘Few millennials, especially those in the creative industry, are willing to go out of their way to work without money. They often place fame and money ahead of purpose, which is a misguided strategy,’’ he states.
According to Isaac, one must be ‘‘stubborn with their goals, and flexible in their method’’. And they should be ready to put in the hard work needed to make progress.
‘‘I may not have earned much money, but freelancing has helped me gather experience, and to network. Being patient to master any craft eventually pays off,’’ he adds.
In future, Isaac hopes to work with the United Nations, or any other humanitarian organisation.
In his own words, he wants ‘‘to impact more lives and on a bigger scale."
For now, however, he is happy to transform lives in his community.