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Kenyan hut dwellers write digi-cards in the sand on the beach

Your own name handwritten in the sand of Bamburi Beach in Kenya. Your name is written by Moses and Joan Onoo and their team. Kenyan hut dwellers write digi-cards in the sand on the beach 

Moses Onoo leaves the photo shop in Mombassa with a smile. The Kenyan proudly shows his new digital camera to family and friends. It cost him just under US$ 350. Pim Bottenberg, a Dutchman, smiles and comments: “That’s equal to a year’s wages he gets as a night watchman. So he shows it off as if he had a gold bar in his hands”. Bottenberg is the man behind the website and has given the camera as a gift in the framework of this ‘micro-development project’. 

For the past month Moses and his team have been writing names to order in the sand on Bamburi Beach. The names are recorded with the digital camera and go to the Netherlands by email. There each photo is printed and placed in a handsome passe-partout. The gift (card) reaches its destination by email and post.  

”You can have a Kenyan beach name card made as a pleasant alternative to a birth announcement card, but it can also be used as an original greeting or Christmas card”, says Bottenberg. The Internet entrepreneur has been going to Kenya on holiday with his family for years and became a friend of night watchman Moses. “He earns €25 / US$35 per month and lives in a village of huts where he has to maintain a large family. We were moved by the story of his life and his daily struggle to survive.  I have a few web shops myself and went looking for a web shop that would enable him and his family to earn a living. That has turned out to be He’d never held a camera before. There’s no electricity in his village so he had no idea what email or the Internet were. I gave him lessons in an Internet café, then took him to the beach to practise with the digital camera.” 

On his own two feet 

“It’s no simple matter to write the name properly in the sand. There’s a lot of rubbish lying around and that has to be cleared away first. You have to make sure that some shadow falls around the letters to make them legible. Each relief letter is ‘built up’ by hand. Because the sun is very bright it’s impossible to see on the LCD screen whether the photo has worked out or not. Moses first has to find a shady spot and hold the camera under a piece of cloth…”

Bottenberg compares his project with the micro-credits that are increasingly being handed out to people with little chance – without the credit – of setting up their own business in developing countries. “The great thing is that Moses feels completely at home in the new digital world of emails and uploading photos. He gets other people from his village to help make the names in the sand. Currently is feeding eight families. Great, isn’t it?” 

Thanks to the Internet and digital photography it doesn’t matter where the recipient of the beach name card lives. The website is being translated into six languages and extended. People can order a card via the Internet with just a few mouse clicks. A card costs 12,50 euro / US$ 17.50 and is sent world-wide, both digitally and by post, without further costs. “A fantastically original present”, says Bottenberg, “that’s put Moses’ village on the map in more than one sense.”

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Note for editors:

For further information and non-copyright photos, please contact


Mr. Pim Bottenberg

Ramsbeekweg 6

7152 JT Eibergen


 +31 545 477142

+31 545 477153 (fax)

[email protected]    

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