Arno Kopecky - Nairobi
Arno Kopecky graduated from the University of Victoria in 2002 with a double major in Creative Writing and Environmental Studies. Fluent in Spanish and German, he has lived and worked as a journalist in Seville, Oaxaca (Mexico), New York, and most recently Nairobi.
His writing focuses on social and environmental issues, putting these into the global context for an increasingly interconnected world. He has been published in The Walrus, Maclean's, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and other publications.
What are you doing in Nairobi?
I am working as a journalist for the newspaper division of Nation Media Group, which is Kenya's largest media house. They operate television and radio stations as well as half a dozen newspapers and magazines, reporting on local and regional issues. Thus far I have been working on daily news and human interest features stories based in Nairobi - some examples include a story about a movie production company that has started up in east Africa's largest slum, Kibera; another one about the struggles faced by the blind in Nairobi; and at present, a feature I'm working on is the struggle to reintegrate street children into society, a huge problem in a city where half the population lives in the slum.
Why did you decide to participate in AKFC's International Development Management fellowship?
I chose to join the IDM fellowship for the opportunity it presented to work as a journalist in a foreign country. Nation Media Group is very well connected, and working for them means gaining instant access to people and institutions that would otherwise be difficult to crack.
Although my work isn't directly tied to international development, I've long been interested in social issues and international affairs and there is no lack of such material in Kenya's capital. Nairobi makes a great base of operations for African journalism, because it is so centrally located on this continent both geographically and politically. The United Nations are headquartered here, as is virtually every major NGO, corporation, and international media house in Africa.
Have you had any previous experience living and working overseas?
I've never been to Africa before, but I have lived and worked in several other countries. I taught English for almost two years in Spain, worked for a newspaper in Mexico, interned with Harper's magazine in New York, and have done freelance reporting from Iceland, Peru and several other countries. Oh, and Canada too.
Photo of downtown Nairobi with mosque in the background and the Nation Media Group highrise behind that.
A view of Kibera from the train tracks that cut through the middle.
In August, the Kenyan media organized a march through Nairobi to protest a bill that threatened to curb media freedom. The president subsequently rescinded the bill.
A child plays with plastic on the banks of Nairobi river, where it runs through the city's dumpsite in the neighborhood of Dandora. A recent study comissioned by the UN Environment Programme found that half the children living near the dump have chronic respiratory disease from the fires that continually burn off it, as well as symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.