Maji Mazuri, which means good water in Swahili, is a social economic development program based in Kenya. Founded by Dr. Wanjiku Kironyo in 1984, the organization is composed of 4 interrelated programs: Education & Talent, Economic Empowerment, Community Development and Mental & Physical Health. The programs seek to address the root causes of poverty and focus on alleviating poverty by empowering people to transform their own lives.
The program was initially developed to help women and children in Mathare Valley, the second largest slum in East Africa. Mathare is a desolate place. People live in abject poverty with no functional utilities; no clean water, no sewage system or electricity. They live in shacks made of mud, bits and cardboard and rusty corrugated iron. Crime is rampant and the streets are permeated with drugs, prostitution and a lethal brew of illegal alcohol called Chang’aa. Over 90% of the households are headed by single women, many of whom have been in abusive relationships and now engage in these illicit activities to survive.
Wanjiku Kironyo, a family marital therapist, set up office in Mathare Valley and began counseling women. Many of the women suffered from severe depression and other psychological syndromes caused by helplessness, hopelessness, single parenthood and the struggles in this impoverished setting. In addition to counseling, Wanjiku realized the women needed economic empowerment and began to help them organize into small economic groups, a prelude to the Mavuno Micro Enterprise Networks later established by Maji Mazuri.
Thus these women who had been through immense suffering, including abusive relationships and some even imprisonment, had social and economic support groups where they were able to not only survive but thrive by deriving strength from each other.
In 1985, a Canadian woman called Rosalind committed herself to starting a small agency known as the Awareness Program. The purpose of that program was to create a cooperative inter-country partnership with Wanjikus program. In 1986, the Awareness Program secured grants from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and provided the start up funds for Maji Mazuri Center.
From these humble beginnings, Maji Mazuri Centers projects have evolved and grown significantly. Initial funding was primarily received from the Awareness Program, but funds from other sources, supporters and well-wishers have been accessed over the years. The program is currently composed of four interrelated projects. The projects range from treating and equiping handicapped, abandoned or orphaned children to training the youth on HIV/AIDS awareness, empowering them spread the word in the community and supporting constituents to become self sufficient with training, peer-to-peer support and small start-up capital.
The mission of Maji Mazuri is to help people to escape from the bondage of poverty to become thriving individuals. The vision is to provide the foundation, education and support needed for children, youth and families to become self-sustaining in terms of social, economic and spiritual well-being.
Each of Maji Mazuris projects is designed with the principle of holistic, community-based approaches to addressing socio-economic inadequacies. Simply providing a home for orphaned children or telling the youth to use a condom will not solve the problem. A holistic approach is needed and the solution involves working within the community. System wide changes must be effected if there is hope for ending the cycle of poverty. Maji Mazuri Programs seek to address the root causes of poverty and help the community realize the most optimal solutions.
Thanks to volunteers from all over the world, Maji Mazuri’s reach is now global.
Through building cross-continental awareness we are bringing a voice to the worlds poor, providing basic tools and critical assistance to help thousands of families improve their lives in a meaningful way. Furthermore, by enlisting a new generation of committed global citizens we want to create awareness and knowledge to serve as a catalyst for thousands to get involved in our quest to bring more transformational opportunities to those in the impoverished slums of Mathare Valley and beyond.