Working in Mathare Valley

Young Girls at Seminar in Mathare

While all slums have similar characters and challenges others will always require a deeper understanding of the area, its people and culture. I have met very many development workers who have worked in Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru area but when they come to Mathare Valley they are forced to change their strategy.

I am proud and I like my community (Mathare Valley) very much. People are very friendly and receptive to all kind of projects. Part of the reason could be that people are always willing to volunteer in empowering their own community.

Right from youth groups to women groups, you will find people willing to learn something new to benefit the community. At Jonsaga Hotel, a week hardly passes without a seminar or workshop being held for the residents of Mathare Valley. This illustrates how committed people are to address their challenges.

The success and community participation in any project initiated in Mathare Valley will always depend on how it is introduced, respecting community structures both formal and non-formal, understanding people’s cultural background. The best case study in Mathare Valley is that of the stalled Mathare 4A Upgrading Project. The intention was good but it was more driven by the well designed as opposed to keeping the community engaged and informed about each and every process.

Ensuring that the community is engaged is critical and focusing all their attention and energies towards their challenge. Sometimes giving people allowances and lunches distract people’s level of participation and the process no longer becomes sustainable.- Sim


2 Responses to “Working in Mathare Valley”

  1. You have done well to highlight why the international aid system should invest in grassroots groups in Kenya and elsewhere in the developing world.

    Rather than being the lowest common denominator of international development assistance, it’s time to recognize local indigenous organizations as vital to supporting genuine, demand-driven development that can genuinely challenge power asymmetries and unleash social change. I argue that:

    1) Local indigenous organizations are key to the elusive “scale-up.”
    2) Local indigenous organizations have capacities that larger aid agencies just don’t have–most importantly, rootedness in the community.
    3) Local indigenous organizations have vital expertise about how poor people cope day-to-day.
    4) Local indigenous organizations are better positioned to make communities more resilient and adaptive.
    5) Local indigenous organizations fill existing gaps in the government and international aid sectors.

    You can read more at:

    It’s the local activists and volunteers that are the true heroes and the true experts about what’s needed at the community level to fight poverty, or AIDS, or climate change. You at Mathare Valley are sharing the vision, structure, and impact that local initiatives have with the world. Carry on my friends!


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