What is Maji Mazuri?
Maji Mazuri means “Good Water” in Swahili. Amongst poverty and despair, the Maji Mazuri Centre is an oasis. Children who barely survive are provided a chance to flourish. Youth cast aside by society are given a community to thrive in. Men and women with no financial means are given an opportunity at economic empowerment. Communities fractured by strife and mistrust are replenished and unified by development goals. Operating in Nairobi, Kenya, the mission of the Maji Mazuri Centre is to help people escape the bondage of poverty and realize their potential.
Maji Mazuri was founded in 1984. It is the brain child of Dr. Wanjiku Kironyo, a native of Kenya. As professor at the University of Nairobi in the early 1980s, she tasked her students to research the needs of the local community. She set up field placements in Mathare Valley slums, less than four miles from Nairobi’s city center. What they found were some of worst living conditions in East Africa.
While it is estimated over 400 000 people live in Mathare Valley, no one knows how many for sure. People live in inadequate housing – 6’ x 8 ‘ shacks with no indoor plumbing. These single rooms often house up to 10 people. There are few bathrooms and toilets and there’s a fee to use them which most people cannot afford, so gutters outside the houses are often turned into sewers. Mathare Valley is largely populated with women – victims of domestic violence and unwanted pregnancy who are frequently forced into an underground economy of illicit activity. Most of the residents of Mathare Valley live off less than a dollar a day and the shanty town is rife with crime, and prostitution. Maji Mazuri’s mission is to alleviate poverty by empowering people to transform their own lives.
Since 1984, Maji Mazuri has taken a comprehensive approach to these conditions with four interrelated programs.
- Education and talent development
- Economic empowerment
- Community development
- Mental and physical health
It is one of the first programs in the world that takes a comprehensive approach from pre-birth to death for the complex, interrelated challenges and opportunities of the community it serves.