June and what has happened to 2019? OH MY!
For the first time in my time at Ruben Centre, lack of funds delayed the distribution of salaries for the month of April. This dire situation was the back drop to a visit to Australia by Ms. Liz Mwangi (Program Manager) and me. The document I wrote after our mid-term review in late 2018, “A Way into The Future” outlined the need for a financial plan for the Centre. For too long the centre has survived on a wing and a prayer approach, something not really talked up in business manuals.
Ruben Centre has grown out of the Christian Brother Australia network and it is its Edmund Rice Foundation that continues to be its greatest donor.
The task was simple enough and focused on discussions with ERF-Australia and other Australian donors, that would inform them of the financial reality of the Centre and invite them to look at a pathway forward which would largely focus on longer term commitments by all donors in order to take away some of the un certainties associated with an ad hoc approach which largely relied on good will.
Liz and I spent three weeks in Melbourne and Sydney discussing these issues with various donors. We also attended fund raising events in both cities.
“It is amazing to me to see such passion and commitment for Ruben Centre from so many people,” summed up this aspect of Liz Mwangi’s visit.
For twenty years now the 500 Supporters Group in Melbourne have been organizing sport’s luncheons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for Ruben Centre. We attended the AFL football luncheon where a new bench mark for fund raising was set, while having a great time doing it.
Edmund Rice Education Australia sponsored Liz to visit Australia and they ensured that we visited several of their larger colleges in Melbourne to listen, learn and appreciate the role the colleges have in raising funds for East Africa projects.
Discussions are continuing with ERFA Board and there is every hope that the objective of a finance plan will eventuate and Ruben Centre will indeed continue to flourish.
Friday June 14th saw Ruben Centre celebrate The Day of the African Child, with the actual date being on Sunday the 16th.
I arrived into the Mukuru slum in July 2010. I was asked to facilitate a five year Strategic plan for Ruben Centre. Key to this work was to engage widely with the wider slum community, and of course with staff and beneficiaries of the Ruben Centre projects.
After about three months we had our plan which spelt out actions needed if Ruben Centre was to achieve its vision.
A Community Based Organization (CBO) striving for a just and empowered Mukuru Community.
Part of the plan, centered on defining clearly who the Centre, is and how it will keep and indeed strengthen its core values and how it will ensure the human resources at all levels of the Centre are continually empowered to reflect on themselves and in turn agree on ways that the staff could celebrate theirs and the Centre’s identity.
One day emerged as the thing that could unite all staff from the many diverse project teams. It would be the Centre’s day of celebration.
The Day of the African Child, June 14th would be it as staff came to understand that all projects and indeed the Centre exists because of the African Child.
Celebrations on this Day would help
Celebrate the Centre’s identity
Celebrate its mission and work
3. Celebrate the champions within the staff who excel and model the way.
4. Challenge the Administration and staff to touch its own heart and soul shaped by the Edmund Rice tradition and spirit and grow and evolve as a CBO.
Background to The Day of The African Child
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the OAU Organisation of African Unity. It honours those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, about ten thousand black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous of which being Hector Pieterson (see image). More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured.
UNICEF stress the importance of the child and each year a theme is adopted to help focus hearts and minds and 2019 it was , ‘Humanitarian Action in Africa; Children’s rights first.
About Ruben Centre
In 2010 when I was leading the charge for the first five-year Strategic Plan, Ruben Centre Administration adopted this day as the day when the whole staff would come together and re connect with the Centre’s vision and mission, celebrate achievements and honour champions within the staff.
This year’s theme of Children’s rights first, invited us to reflect on how well the Centre achieves this theme.
A recently made DVD on Mukuru Slums, “A Valley of Waste’ was shown to all staff and staff discussion identified eight ways that the slum environment impacts on the rights of children living in the slum:
1. Housing is inadequate for the different members of the household.
2. Safety is at stake because lighting is inadequate and over dependence on public facilities such as water points, toilets, food Outlets.
3. Slums are often hideouts for dangerous people. ( drug dealers, trafficking, child molesters’ robbers
4. No space to play outside except in public over crowded places.
5. Absent parents- working and travelling just to live. Poorly educated about parenting.
6. Easy accessibility to drugs, and harmful substances, glue, local brew. No regulations for selling these things.
7. Pollution is bad -------- air/ water/soil Corrupt leaders control the slums. No one is controlling them. Bribes determine the Services. Police are corrupt. Justice and fairness not on their agenda
8. Poor local by-law implementation. Food vendors/ bars/ movie sites/ rubbish dumping??
Attempts were then made to link these threats to children’s rights to the Strategic Development goals (SDGs) and clearly it was felt the children of Mukuru have a right to something better. Clearly seven of the seventeen goals are focused around these eight issues impacting on Ruben Centre’s children.
One of the seventeen SDG is Peace Justice and Strong Institutions and staff felt Ruben Centre is living this goal and all felt challenged to even do what we do better and in the doing they are living truly the spirit of Edmund Rice who walked this journey over 200 years ago in Ireland.
In the morning the school celebrated in great fashion their very own African Children (2,951 of them) with an assembly, prayer, concert items, gift giving and the inevitable speeches which highlighted the day’s theme. (https://www.facebook.com/402920343072649/posts/2502798879751441/)
The funding for the Day of the African Child heralded Ruben working with a new Kenyan Funding Partner - The Lotto Foundation, and we are proud to announce that they will also work with the Toto Care Box African Trust to provide 150 baby boxes for new and expectant mums this Friday the 21st June, at the 1st year birthday celebration of our maternity Unit. We welcome their great efforts, and enthusiasm for the work of the Centre, and hope that this will be the start of many opportunities in which we can bring benefit and support to the Mukuru Community.
And things keep getting bigger with a much anticipated formal visit by the Governor of Nairobi City County Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko on Friday June 21st. The Governor, who has a special interest in health care especially the birthing Unit, now wants to celebrate one year of achievements. It comes at an opportune time given the recently acquired new status of the Ruben health facility. Ruben Medical Clinic had applied for a licence as a LEVEL 3 health facility and last month this licence was issued. Ruben Health Centre can now legally conduct inpatient care.