Nestor Djonkam began his life in America on the streets. He now hopes to start a new chapter.
Nestor Djonkam was born in Cameroon in 1960. Describing it as non–democratized, he said he wants to use his upbringing to “see how people can benefit from my experience.”
He arrived in the early ‘90s for “a better life and better education.”
The main platform he will run under is “children and teachers first,” the first words out of his mouth. Djonkam plans to raise educational standards in order to compete in the foreign market, proposing that all children must learn three languages in school. He also proposes that the homeless should be given vocational education for free.
“People complain about no manpower,” he said. “Vocational education … would fill the need.”
When he arrived in the United States and the District in 1990, Djonkam said, he spoke no English and had “no penny.” He was homeless for six months on the streets in the winter, but was soon able to take English classes from the International Language Institute, the Lincoln Technical Institute of Maryland in vocational work, and the Institute of World Politics in anti-terrorism studies, which he attributes to being able to get off the streets.
Djonkam had previously studied mechanical engineering at the College de la Salle in Egypt, but completed his engineering studies with classes from the National Association of Power Engineering.
When he came to the United States, he says he found his inspiration to go far within the homeless community, where he met many skilled and talented people who simply could not find a job or get training.
He believes that unemployment and homelessness can be solved together through vocational training.
He envisions the homeless could be housed cheaply and efficiently by claiming 250 neglected housing units in the District and making them affordable. In addition, he theorizes that “a high-rise out of the ground like a mushroom” could sufficiently provide housing.
Though he didn’t expand on the details, Djonkam described himself as completely in favor of the recently passed health care reform act.
“Anyone in the District should have full coverage. We should be able to provide,” he said. “Health care is a human right.”
Djonkam imagined that each issue cannot be taken individually, but be considered as part of a whole. Educating and housing the dispossessed, he argued, would make crime and unemployment rates go down.
He described it as a “grassroots campaign” running on the phrase “change is here.” Although he has not yet officially entered his bid for mayor, he plans to by the end of May and has been running his campaign through radio and door-to-door canvasing .
Djonkam has been involved in local politics, as well as the campaigns of former President Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and, most recently, President Obama. He ran for mayor in 2006 as a Democrat.
“I did not have the money or exposure,” he said. “It was excitement for me just to be qualified.”
He says he is not intimidated by the other runners who have more media exposure. “I’m not afraid or scared,” he said. “A $4 million campaign doesn’t scare [me]. … No one’s above me except God.”
When Djonkam first came to D.C., he expected the quality of life to be much higher and found that at first. “I thought D.C. was heaven on earth” when first arriving, he said. “But the level of poverty is the same here.”
Djonkam looks forward to the campaign as an opportunity to raise up the District’s quality of life.