The Maji Mazuri Children’s Center is a residential centre which provides care and education for children who are either mentally or physically challenged, or who are orphaned.
The centre was set up in 1984 when Dr Wanjiku realised that some of the children of the women who attended her self-help groups had special needs which weren't being treated with the best mental and physical care. When the women were leaving the house during working hours, they were forced to leave children unattended in unsafe environments.
Today, the center operates out of a two-story building with an attached playground outside of Nairobi and provides a home for 16 children and supports 19 teenagers in either High School, Colleges or Universities. Although the Children’s Center theoretically caters to children ages six to seventeen, the serious nature of some residents’ disabilities means that reintegration into society is difficult. As a result there are some adults who remain at the center longer term.
Individuals are brought to the centre through two routes: those who are identified as being in need by the Maji Mazuri staff in Mathare and those who arrive through Government channels. Some residents leave the centre during the school holidays and others stay there permanently. In some cases, it is not possible to track down a living guardian for those who have been abandoned or orphaned (often as a result of HIV/AIDs).
The centre aims to provide its residents with the life skills they need to reintegrate into society. The programmes cover a range of topics according to the residents’ differing abilities. This includes standard literacy skills, personal hygiene, and income-generating skills such as beadwork and sewing as well as more simple skills like the ability to hold a spoon.
Today, the centre is staffed by a matron who is responsible for overseeing the staff, a social worker who oversees the reintegration plans for residents, two male caregivers, two female caregivers, a physiotherapist, and a cook.
The outcomes of the programme vary according to the abilities of each of the children. In many cases, the children have been successfully reintegrated into society and some have gone on to attend local universities. In other cases, the centre is simply a safe place to call home.