My first trip to Nairobi, Kenya. I started my first day with a visit to the Oasis Kindergarten in the Kibera slum. Seven years ago, I heard Sarah Shucksmith speak at a Fitzwilliam College alumni event. I was deeply impressed that she had founded a school (the Sarah Junior School) in Kibera whilst still an undergraduate at Cambridge and decided to support her endeavours. After various challenges, the trustees located a suitable plot of land and re-opened as the Oasis Kindergarten. The kindergarten is a thriving community of happy 3-5 year olds in the middle of Kibera, a slum that houses anything from one to three million Kenyans; the real number’s anyone’s guess. Parents spend around £1 per week to send their kids here — a significant sum, given the monthly rent on a one-room dwelling in Kibera is around the same figure. According to government figures, indeed, Kenyans on average spend 45% of their disposable income on education.
It was not easy for Sarah & her husband Tom Voyha to bring this project to fruition: locating a plot of land large enough, in an area where each shack is tiny, was one challenge (the school occupies the same plot as 25 dwellings); various regulations as well as issues with title were also serious challenges. But they now have a successful school of 60 children, with a waiting list of parents eager to send their kids there, too. A short video of their journey can be viewed here. They’d love to expand, and have space to do so at the current site, with the aim eventually of replicating the same model elsewhere in Kibera and beyond. Only the school staff are paid salaries — not the trustees, so every dollar goes straight to the bottom line, unlike many other African charities where a paid bureaucracy takes its toll. I encourage you all to support this worthy cause. Their Facebook page offers additional information, including how to support Maisha Trust.