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UN-Habitat staffer takes part in Olympic Torch relay

5 July 2012
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UN-Habitat staff member Julius Mwelu participating in the Olympic Torch Relay in Norwich City, United Kingdom

Norwich (UN-HABITAT) UN-Habitat staff member Julius Mwelu on Thursday morning became part of history when he participated in the Olympic Torch Relay in Norwich City, United Kingdom.

"This is a dream come true for me because participating in the Olympics is almost every human being's dream. I am glad that in a way I took part in this historic event by carrying the Olympic Torch, "a beaming Julius said after the race.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) invited UN-Habitat to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay for the London Olympic Games 2012. UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, selected Julius, the UN-Habitat official photographer, as UN-Habitat representative for his personal achievement from being a Mathare slum dweller to becoming a recognized professional with an international docket.

Julius' application was accepted by the International Olympic Committee hence his participation in the Torch Relay. Julius is an example of United Nations values at the Olympic Games. A visibly elated Julius said that his participation in the relay was in line with the new UN-Habitat campaign, 'I am a City Changer', an initiative that seeks to encourage all urban dwellers to take proactive action to improve the living conditions in their cities...

By the time the Games will kick off, some 8,000 Torchbearers will have carried the Flame through more than 1,000 cities, towns and villages in the United Kingdom over a period of 70 days. Each one of them has a personal history to share with the other people who are watching.

Julius Mwelu is a photographer from the slums of Nairobi. All the awards that Julius has won, such us the Magnum Foundation grant, have been a great support to his torchbearer application.

Julius says: "I started taking photos when I was just 12 years old but my first attempts were not very good because I had missed people's hands and sometimes their heads! But no pain no gain, and after two or three months I become a better photographer, under the Shootback project [a project that trained teenagers from Mathare to use a point-and-shoot camera to capture their everyday lives]. A selection of photos from this project were made into a self-titled book which was a success and encouraged me to work harder.

Later, with a help of Jasper Groen (a photographer from Holland), I managed to hold a solo photo exhibition in Holland and even published a book with my own photos called "Julius" all about life in the slum.

In my normal routine of photography, I would meet with enthusiastic kids in the community, who would ask me how the camera works and how the photos come out.  That's how I came up with the idea for the Mwelu Foundation through which I help youth living in slums to express their lives through photography and video."


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