This needs to be consolidated! A lot of repetition in this.


The Ruben Centre is situated in the Mukuru kwa Ruben area of Nairobi. The Ruben Slum (also known as the Mukuru community) was born in Nairobi’s Industrial district approximately 35 years ago when people began to build make-shift homes near the factories they worked in. The area now has a population of over 600,000 and many families live in corrugated iron shacks measuring 10 x 10 feet.

Many of the slum dwellers in Mukuru work as casual labourers in the manufacturing industries situated close to the slum. Others
Mukuru Slumoperate small-scale businesses selling vegetables and fruit or hawking various items. Earnings are low and often inadequate to feed their families. consequently, their children look to other means of survival such as prostitution, drug peddling, begging and criminal activities.

There are many health related issues within the slum, and the most common diseases include malaria, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis and AIDS. Malnutrition is visible among the children. This is primarily related to the high cost of food in relation to the low family income. Any medical facilities are beyond the reach of most of the residents.

As well, the high level of poverty puts basic education beyond the reach of many families. This has impacted negatively on education. It has contributed to high illiteracy and drop out levels among those fortunate enough to be going to school. Dropouts amount to 44% of the school-going children in the slums. Many parents are unable to pay the few hundred shillings per term towards school fees. This makes it particularly difficult for school management to run the schools because they have little or no financial resources. The lack of teaching materials, desks, adequate sanitation facilities and playing areas fatally undermines the children’s psychological, emotional and physical growth.

Another problem facing the children of Ruben slum is the need to work at a young age. May children are engaged in petty productive work to supplement basic family needs. Child labour in Mukuru includes hawking, petty trade, transportation using carts and household work. They also carry items for traders and other commuters.

The Ruben Centre, with its three core areas of Education, Health and Community Development, is attempting to reconcile some of the hardships that the residents of Mukuru face. The Ruben Centre has strategies for strengthening the relationship that exist between the Centre and  the local community, which include:

  • Quarterly Meetings with parents of the school children, either together or in class groups.
  • Regularly conducting information session with outpatients at the clinic as they gather for services.
  • Inviting the local Chief and other community leaders to functions and meeting to address specific concerns.
  • Regular  sharing of information with police and inviting them to conduct  visits and  sessions with children  as situations materialize.
  • Inviting the community to use facilities at the centre as is appropriate.
  • Inviting parents and families to  be present for some special celebrations for the school.

The Situation

Mukuru Kwa Ruben is part of the larger Mukuru slums located in the vicinity of industrial area of Nairobi City. It is prone to several challenges and risks, which include rampant insecurity both to its residents, children and workers of the Ruben Center. According to Ruben Centre Needs Survey, March 2015, others are fire, floods, sanitation, hygiene, diseases and children’s rights. Extreme poverty and human rights violation are prevalent. Losses due to shocks are frequent and can be massive and catastrophic. These shocks include severe water shortage, chronic severe illness, death of household head or working family member, death of other family members, break-up of household, jail term, assault, burglary, damaged dwelling, HIV/AIDS etc. all these result in loss of income and assets. Households spend cash to mitigate effects; a great majority seeks help from family, friends and well-wishers (Source: Well-being in Kenya, National Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

Due to its proximity to the industrial area, a few of its residents secure seasonal jobs at the factories, but even this is affected by frequent shut down of the factories and the large number of job seekers. Others do manual jobs such as separating garbage; a few are handcart pushers while others are petty traders. The majority is jobless. Dependency ratio - defined here as proportion of population that is dependent on the working age - as in other Nairobi slums- is therefore high at around 69.2% for children (0-14 years) and 2.1% for the aged (65+ years). Poverty levels are at over 50.3% for the male and 49.7% for the women. 

The overall mean household size is 5 members among the poor compared to 3.6 members for not so poor. There are a few members of the community who live in Mukuru out of choice either because they were born there, are business people, landlords or have political and other interests. For the poor and very poor, 73.7% of households are headed by males while 26.3% are headed by women (Source Reuben Center: Questionnaire analysis, Review, November 2014).

Our Response

The Ruben Centre, with its four core areas of Education, Health, Community Development and Advocacy, works directly with the surrounding community to alleviate these hardships that the residents of Mukuru face. The Ruben Centre Administration is committed to building strong relationships, practices and policies across all departments, which reflects the desire to listen to, engage with, and empower all sections of the community. In order to do this, strategies for a better Ruben Centre include:

  • Create structures and systems that promote a sense of Centre Identity leading to strong integrated policies and behaviors by all departments to live their mission.
  • Have the agreed on values always underpinning and shaping behaviors and policies.
  • Get greater security on the Centre property and from there seek more donors and partners with their programs, in order to help Ruben Centre realize its mission of being ‘The Church Of The Poor.’
  • Invest in professional development of staff.
  • Encourage all programs to implement an annual Performance Plan designed to ensure the steady implementation of the Strategic Plan.