The Mathare Foundation is a community based organization that provides educational programs and mentorship for disadvantaged youth in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Through hands-on training and technical workshops in photography, performing arts, sports, and stay in school programs, young boys and girls from Mathare can build confidence through learning new skills, discover opportunities for income generation, and envision and plot a course for future career opportunities in media and the arts.
Mathare is a settlement of roughly 400,000 people where the vast majority of the population lives under the poverty index, in houses of mud and corrugated iron sheet. Mathare is the oldest slum in Nairobi and lacks basic services like sanitation, clean water, electricity, and passable roads. As in many impoverished areas, children and teens from Mathare are at incredible risk for unplanned pregnancies, involvement in drugs and alcohol, crime, prostitution, and gangs. In addition to these problems that can exist in large urban slums everywhere, children growing up in Mathare have an added challenge which is their proximity to neighboring Eastleigh, a well-known recruitment ground for the militant group Al-Shabaab. Our youth programs are critical in offering a safe respite for children ages 10-16 where they can uncover their talents and realize their potential to become young leaders in their communities and beyond. We strive to connect our students with opportunities to generate additional income and provide guidance towards higher education and certification programs where they can ultimately pursue exciting and viable employment and career opportunities.
Since our inception in 2013, the Mathare Foundation has trained 100 children from Mathare through a series of 18 workshops in photography, poetry and dance, and football. We have put on 12 events throughout Nairobi to showcase the children’s work and artistic expression through photo exhibitions with partners such as Canon Middle East and Photostart.org, poetry and dance performances, sports competitions, and creative arts festivals. We held our second annual Slum Kids Festival in November 2016, in partnership with Slum Sanaa Art Centre, to provide a multi-day creative arts celebration, inviting musicians, poets, dancers, and actors who blend entertainment with education on public health and social issues that Mathare youth face everyday.
And while powerful factors such as drugs, alcohol, and crime can keep children from completing their education, this is compounded by the reality that many families in Mathare struggle to afford basic school fees. In 2016 after three successful years of youth programs, we developed the Mathare Education Fund in partnership with the British High Commission to financially support the education of 40 students. This fund has been critical in keeping many of our trainees in the classroom, and we aspire to expand this arm of the Mathare Foundation to ensure all of our trainees have access to the funds necessary for completing their secondary education.
The Mathare Foundation is led by co-directors Eric Omwanda Nehemiah and James Ndung’u, both of whom benefitted from youth programs during their adolescence in Mathare and directly understand the immense impact programs such as Mathare Foundation have on a child’s positive trajectory for the future. In 2016, the Eric Omwanda won the prestigious Commonwealth Youth Worker Award for Africa in recognition for his outstanding dedication to improving the lives and futures of young children. The Mathare Foundation is looking for thoughtful, compassionate partners to help us achieve our highest ambitions, where Mathare’s youth have ample opportunities to unlock their limitless potential; where they not only have a chance to dream but also see their dreams realized.
To train and create opportunities for children and youths in media, performing arts, sports, and leadership skills so that they become better citizens in their respective communities.
To be a reputable organization in assisting children in the slum in media trainings, performing arts and sports so that we promote world peace and enhance improved livelihood for children and youths in Mathare slums.