May 12, 2011
Growing and working in Mathare is one sort of experience that one appreciate as a privilege being a community development worker. Kenya is made up of 42 tribes and very few individuals have managed to mingle with people from these tribes. I believe I am one of the few who has this unique experience meeting all these people.
Mathare has people from different ethnic background who are united by poverty and the urge to survive the hardship experienced on a daily basis. The driving concern amongst the people is how to overcome daily challenges. In Mathare, people are less concerned with who or where they come. It is only after five years that people are reminded about their ethnicity by politician. The result has been political chaos related to elections.
Being together is the main over driving concern. Unity is key to facing poverty challenge. When it comes to sourcing for services and commodities, tribe is not an issue but access is the important thing. Looking at the ethnic diversity found in the slum, one is amazed by the beauty found in Mathare. It is this unity combined with strong desire to overcome poverty that unites people. Unity among the people is key to facing challenges. Why people unite peacefully for five years is what politicians forget in marginalized places like Mathare. – Simon
January 28, 2011
From left: Peter-preacher, Maina-farmer, Simon-Community Development and Emmanuel-working in USA
As a young boy growing up in Mathare I always wondered why parents came to Mathare in late 60s and decided to settle there. As small boys we would go to river Gitathuru for swimming, near Utalii Hotel. This is where we acquired our aquatic skills. I also learnt one or two tricks about golf at Muthaiga but through watching golfers. I used to visit the dam near the golf course for ‘illegal’ fishing sessions and I would have the rare opportunity of watching our current president playing golf but then he was a minister for health. These are wonderful memories I still carry along. Reflecting back my childhood experience and now that I am a grown up man, I am made to understand and appreciate the warmth and the ready to help attitude that existed within Mathare Valley. While the affluent neighbourhoods will respond quickly to a member of his country club, in Mathare we help our immediate neighbours. Today I will take you through 8 reasons why it was ‘comfortable’ then to live in Mathare based on available social amenities and leadership;
- Housing: The houses then ranged from between 150/- to 200/-. It was very much affordable. The houses were constructed with soil and small stones
- Employment: Most of our parents worked in Pangani and Parklands as artisan or house helps
- Security: People knew each other by name. A new person in the area was closely monitored by the village elders. At some point one was asked to state their reason of moving into the new location. The valley was also surrounded by Muthaiga and Pangani police stations and not forgetting the Mathare Chief’s Camp
- Education: School was highly valued. There were community nursery schools and every parent made sure that their children were enrolled. Those very needy were assisted by the World Vision through Redeemed Gospel Church led Bishop. Arthur Kitonga.
- Youth Development activities: The late Father Grol and Father John Slinger (still alive) were instrumental in helping youth nurture their sporting skills such boxing, soccer and arts.
- Accessibility: From Mathare people could easily reach town, industrial area and the majority who were from Central province could alight from Muthaiga to Mathare Valley easily
- Leadership: The local leaders then were very strict, gender insensitive and also ‘dictatorial’ when it came to development. Nobody would question their decision. Women never participate in the decision making organs of the community.
- Fire outbreaks: It was very easy to putout fires. The houses were well arranged and roads wide enough for Lorries and big trucks to pass.
When chief would summon community for the barazas, all shops and bars were required to close or one will be arrested. Failure to attend the meetings also attracted the wrath of local leaders and the chiefs. I remember there was a woman who butted a man and she was expelled from village 2 to village 1. Not taking into account the man had battered the woman for several years. We have come from far in Mathare.- Simon