Educating street children in the Mathare slums

Feb 28, 2011

Update from Mathare

Our new children
Our new children's centre

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year 2011…

Once again, we here in MCF would like to thank you all for your generous contribution towards our program. We would like to update you about the development and differences your donation has brought into the lives of underprivileged children and their families here in Mathare since our last posting in November. A lot has happened since.

We wish to start with some sad news and bring to your attention the events in regard to our new children center that we moved into, in November of last year- 2010.

 Life is precarious for the approximately two million people who live in Nairobi’s informal settlements and slums. They make up half of Kenyan capital's population. Yet they are crammed into only 5 per cent of the city’s residential area and live on just 1 per cent of all the land in the city. There is little access to clean water, toilets, health care, schools and other essential public services in these settlements and slums. People also live under the constant threat of water-borne diseases, violence and forced eviction from their homes and small businesses. A large area of the Mathare slum - including our new children center - is being claimed by the NYS - the National Youth Service; basically an agent of the state, even though we (and many other owners) have valid title, and Nairobi City Council (also an arm of government) issued permission for us to build. The obligations and respect for human rights as stipulated in our new constitution apply to all government establishments and organs including, including the NYS, and we will be going to court to ensure that these rights are respected.

 We have more than 120 kids who depend on this project for education, food, medicine, uniforms, books among other needs....the children’s centre was finished 3 months ago at a cost of about $200,000 in donor funds, almost all from international donors.   400 children have benefited from the programme in the twelve years for which it has been working with people in the Mathare slums. We have started a campaign and ask for financial support while we pursue legally available means within our justice system – we believe we shall succeed.  Please take a look at the photo attached to this update – this is the centre that they want to take away.

Other activities that have been going on through out the last 3 months;

In December we had a board member from Ireland visit us and joined us in several activities with the children. Clothes and other things collected over the year 2010 were presented to the children as Christmas gifts.  During this period we also reviewed our policies and code of conduct on child protection and through the assistance of our board member. We are greatly indebted to her for her assistance to ensure that our policies meet both the international standards.

In November, 8 children sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, a national exam, and all performed well and are able to join good secondary schools where they have enrolled and are settling down.  3 children sat for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and wait for the exam results in two weeks. We have a lot of hope for them and expect that they will probably join our local universities. In the meantime they are undertaking basic computer courses to keep them abreast of what is going on technologically in the world.

In December, we recruited 20 children, both boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 14 years from different projects within Mathare slums. They have all now been registered with us. We have met their parents and former teachers of those who had gone to schools at one point. We have enrolled them to different public schools. They have settled well and we are paid up in regard to fees requirements, all thanks to you.

All kids except some few cases have reported to school on time this term. The few cases mentioned are kids who had discipline issues at school and needed to be accompanied by staff or their guardians and one who is still recuperating from sickness. He will need to transfer to a day school to be able to access the clinic.

While we pursue our court with the government over our center, we have embarked on a fundraising campaign to pay legal costs. We would really appreciate if you came to our assistance on this.

We are looking forward to a visit from Britt who works with Globalgiving during this month. We are always grateful to get a visit from Globalgiving which gives us a sense of we are not alone.

Many, many thanks once again to all of you, we do indeed find it very fortunate to have you with us on this important journey and this year, 2011.

Dec 6, 2010

Matching Funds through December 15th

Dear Friends,

I wanted to bring you some good news regarding our children's fund.  These are tough times, for charities and donors alike, and so we set ourselves the task of adding more value to each contribution that you decide to give.  We have 130 kids whose future depends on us making it through to better times, and as the project founder, I feel a particular responsibility to help make that happen.  So I and a very generous supporter who would rather not be named have decided that we will each match 100% of any donation you make before December 15th.  

What is the matching funds campaign all about?

 We will each match 100% of your donation if it comes in before December 15th.  So a donation that would keep a child in school for a year will keep three children in school for a year instead.  If you commit to a monthly amount, we will each match, up front, a full year's worth of your monthly commitment.  The only limits are that your donation must be made before December 15th, and that each of us will match up to $20,000, so $40,000 between the two of us. 

 What do we do?  We help children from the age of four up, who live in Mathari or the surrounding slums.  Many of them are orphans, and all of them live in squalour.  They don't have enough to eat and they can't afford to go to school, so they spend their time scavenging for food.  They face violence, hunger and disease and, without an education, they really have no way out.  We pay for school fees, medicine and food.  We have three social workers who find schools and technical training opportunities, and then work with the children to help them stay with the programme.   We’ve been doing this successfully for the past eleven years.

 What are the results? 

  • 110 kids in school right now, drug-free, healthy and learning every day.  Many of these would be dead by now if it weren’t for the programme. 20 more joining next month.
  • Over 300 children helped over the eleven-year life of the programme to date.
  • 15 have made it to university, colleges or technical training schools.  I don’t need to tell you that they weren’t going anywhere near university when we first saw them on the streets.
  • 64 have made it through to secondary schools, and are on their way to graduating.

What does it cost to change a life?   12 US Dollars per child per week on average.

Why should you support this programme?

  • Because we keep costs to a minimum so that your money goes further.  There are no landcruisers, no frills of any kind.  Keep a child alive, well and learning for a year – for about the cost of three cappuccinos per week!
  • Because I and my friends who run the project pay all the administrative expenses, so 100% of your donation goes to run the programme.  What other charity deducts zero percent of your money for administration?
  • Because we will match any donation you make between now and December 15th, up to a total of €$40,000.  You'll achieve three times as much with your donation as you could otherwise.
  • Because they're children facing unbelievable odds, and they deserve our active support.

 The best way to give

Any way is good, but if you pledge a monthly amount – say $30 per month – that enables us to be sure of what we can offer each child in terms of school fees, medicine, food and school books for a year.  Global Giving enables you to do that.

Where can you find out more?

  • Watch a ten-minute film about the project on YouTube: ctrl+click here
  • Watch a 2-minute film highlighting the matching funds campaign: ctrl+click here
  • Take a look at our new website:    
  • Let's keep in touch: 
    • Follow us on Twitter    
    • Add us on Facebook   
    • Subscribe on YouTube


Thank you for all of your help for these children.


Nov 8, 2010

Update from Mathare

The new children
The new children's center

Dear Friends,

 Its that time again when you get an update of what we have been up to the last 2/3 months as we continue to serve our children who are the future of this beautiful world.

 We still continue to recruit the 20 children we talked about in the last update. We hope to finish this process by end of November so the children recruited join us during the Christmas holiday program to get to know each other individually.

 In the last update we reported that the building of the Children Center had stalled but as we report now, we do not know where to start due to excitement, but we finally did get the Center finished and just yesterday we moved in. A Malayan Proverb says “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind” and indeed we the Board, Staff and more so our clients (Children and parents) are indebted to you forever, in fact the country where our kids are part of the future is indebted forever. All this is due to your continued regular support and deep faith you and our other friends have put in us for all these years. Please see photos attached. In the Center, we have a counseling room, a library, a multi-purpose hall and meeting space for our more than 120 kids and their families, a washing bay for the children to wash their clothes,a kitchen where the kids can receive a nourishing meal each day and a computer room where all our kids will train in basic computer skills. We also have two apartments which will be rented out to help us meet additional bills like electricity, water and internet.  You will remember that during the election violence some time back, there was a great deal of danger and violence in the slum.  We are delighted that the kids now have a secure place they know they can always come to, and where they can eat, talk and learn in safety.

 The last months also saw 4 children get admitted to various hospitals across the country depending on where they go to school. Two of them had Cerebral Malaria but have recovered and gone back to school.  One one got Typhoid and is still recuperating at home while one is still hospitalized after it was found that he had a hole in his heart which needs surgery. This boy might not be attending school this term but we hope he will recover soon to be able to attend school next year. Except for the normal colds and flu and malaria here and there all our kids are doing fine health wise.

 In Kenya every end of year, children in their last year of Primary education sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Exams while those in Secondary Schools sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations. We currently have 8 of our children sit for the different exams and wish them good luck in their endeavors.

In the next couple of weeks we will be launching a new website and will be sending short videos and other materials to our donors, as part of our annual fundraising campaign.  Please send us an email to if you would like to be included in this.

Many, many thanks once again to all of you, we do indeed find it very fortunate to have you with us on this important journey.

With warm regards,

(Asanteni Sana.)

Titus Mwangi
Team Leader

The new children
The new children's center 2
Aug 11, 2010

Update from Mathare

Celebration photo 1
Celebration photo 1

Dear Friends,

(Hamjambo)…Greetings from Mathare, Nairobi

With this letter, we are very happy to share with you some news and updates about the program you have been supporting. This project first appeared on Global Giving in November 2007 and since then we have received a lot of support for it from people like you. Every one of us here is truly grateful to all your support over the past two years and we hope to receive your continued help for this project in the years to come. So many, many thanks for your generous support.

In April we held our tenth anniversary celebrations in which both the founders, Cathal and Susi joined us with the children and their parents/guardians to celebrate this auspicious occasion. With the founders were a group of donors from England who are helping us to build a children center in the slum. Children and parents were the main participants in the celebration and all of them had the opportunity to express their dreams, hope and gratitude. Some children expressed their messages through performing a play. About 7 girls performed a play, explaining street children sufferings.

The play also illustrated the need of the street children for basic child rights. The play aimed to raise children's awareness about their rights, as well as the process they go through when joining the project to when they go to school. They also approached this through songs, and 5 girls preformed songs calling for a better life and gratitude for the project’s involvement in uplifting their life. Antonina, 12 years old, recited a poem on her school life after being on the streets and the message was strong enough to touch the feelings of all the audience. Youth participation was a big part of the celebration event in which youth discussed issues affecting their wellbeing; they called for nondiscrimination against youth (regardless of gender, ethnicity, color or nationality). The call was for better skills development opportunities for youth to improve their lives. This focused on such things as how youth can play a main role in their community, especially when they find support from NGOs like Mathare Children’s Fund Panairobi and other sources. Parents /guardians also performed for the crowd and invited the guests to join them and gave a thrilling show to the children. Attached you can see some photos of the celebration.

Following the entertainment, the founders, one of the donors, staff, a parent and a child gave speeches. Cathal had this to say why he felt compelled to start the organization, "These kids blew me away the first time I saw them. They had nothing and yet managed to smile all through. In my own personal experiences I have seen what can happen when children are given the love and support they need to reach their potential. I was excited to be a part of a mission of helping excluded and impoverished children around the slums in Mathare,” he said. After the talks, a meal for all was served.

As many of you know, we have been working on building a children centre in the slum, where our daily feeding, educational and counseling activities can take place. I have to report that, following the dissolution of the contractor responsible for the project, it has come to a temporary halt. We have embarked on getting a new contractor to finish the building, which should be hopefully by the end of September. What this means is that we will continue hiring Bethany college grounds and rooms for the month of August when the children leave school for holidays.

From September, we will be recruiting some 20 more children from rehabilitation programs within Mathare. They will be between 7 and 13 years and include both girls and boys. Children who finished high school and started training in basic computers are through and some will be joining different colleges between now and January.

It is also very encouraging to observe that our project staff/parents/children quarterly meetings have improved and helped in further strengthening the relationship between us. This has provided a platform for mutual learning for the parents, staff and the kids about how to make the most of the opportunities offered by the programme. With the regular support and deep faith you and our other friends have put in us for all these years, the project has ensured education for the children - together we have been able to invest in transforming hundreds of lives. We hope to keep building on this foundation and continue to transform lives and expand the dialogue around the issue of education. It would be an absolute pleasure for us to answer any questions you might have.

Many, many thanks once again to all of you. We are very fortunate to have you with us on this important journey. With warm regards, (Asanteni Sana.) Titus

Celebration photo 2
Celebration photo 2
May 17, 2010

Update from Mathare

Dear Friends,

May I take sometime today to give you some highlights of what has been going on with the Mathari Children’s Fund since the beginning of the year.

We held a workshop with Amani People’s Theaters on Participatory Theatre in Child Rehabilitation (from playing, to learning to change) for 5 days which I must say was very successful. A total of 68 children were led through a creative journey of self discovery and self awareness through interactive techniques of theatre and other participatory games and exercises. This process will help them to develop coping mechanisms for the myriad issues facing them as young people in the slums. One of the initiatives resulting from the workshop was to organize outreach programs during school holidays themselves, to enlighten and raise awareness on the dangers of risk behavior, such as promiscuity and drug abuse. This activity has the potential to raise the self esteem of the young people as they become part of the change they want to see in others and themselves.

Selected children were visited in school during the January – March school term, for a one-on-one between the children and the facilitators after which a follow-up workshop for the children during the next school holidays would be conducted. This particularly targets aggressive behavior which remains following the election violence two years ago. We completed our annual medical checkup. This saw 62 children go through a complete program of medical tests. We usually do this for the early detection of common health risks. Following this check-up, 19 children were found to be ailing from different diseases and had to seek medical attention in a hospital with the necessary facilities. All the 19 children are now doing fine.

We also held our annual end of year party with our children on the 22nd of December. During the party, various awards were handed out to those deserving especially those that performed very well in academics and areas of interest to different children. We had a great time, with dance competitions, drama and poetry among other competitions like soccer and volleyball.

In January this year, 11 children joined different secondary schools all over the country after they performed well in the Kenya national examinations for primary education. 4 joined prestigious national schools. All the children in the program reported to school on time from the 4th of January.

February saw us hold a 2 days parents’ workshop facilitated by Amani People’s Theatre. The workshop was attended by 23 participants – 19 parents, 2 members of staff and 2 visiting interns from Austria. Of the 19 parents, 2 were male and 17 female. The workshop was designed to build upon the children’s workshop. The parents were informed of the issues raised by the children, and it was quite an eye-opener for them. A majority of the parents present expressed a lack of appropriate skills, time and space to interact well with their children. Rather than depending on individual parents to come up with solutions, one key way forward was for the parents to elect representatives to meet either all the children or representatives of the children, in a facilitated session to design joint strategies to deal with the existing and emerging challenges. Since family issues often destabilize the lives of children in the slum, we regard this as a key initiative that we hope will lead to concrete improvements over time. Seven of our students sat for their final high school exams, and performed pretty well. All of them have joined computer colleges, which will be a great help to them in taking up future employment opportunites. Living with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis can be a difficult and stressful reality for many people. If you need someone to talk to, or are looking to meet other positive people from a similar cultural background, it becomes very hard especially in the slums. With this in mind we met some few parents who have been diagnosed and found to be positive with HIV/AIDS and have expressed the need to start a support group. Since our project works on the principle of working in partnership with agencies such as hospitals, community workers, benefit agencies, counselors among others who all share a responsibility for providing key services to people living with HIV, we believe we could indeed work on creating a support group. We will be taking this forward in the coming months. It would be appropriate to mention that with your continued support, were able to raise $39,000 in the Global Giving Challenge late last year, and we sincerely appreciate your continued support and assistance as we endeavor to facilitate the uplifting of children's lives. These monies will go a long way in meeting the needs of our children under our care.

Like always please feel free to ask any questions or information regarding our project.

With many thanks for your support,

Titus Mwangi, Team Leader

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Project Leader

Cathal Conaty

Berlin, Germany

Where is this project located?

Map of Educating street children in the Mathare slums