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Caring for people in Kangemi Slum

-on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya.

An estimated one billion people now live in slums on the outskirts of cities in many parts of the world. That’s about one out of every six people on the planet. According to the United Nations, next year, for the first time in history, half the earth's population will live in cities.

What is a slum?

A slum is an urban settlement of makeshift houses with few or no basic services and crowded, unhealthy living conditions. Usually slums are inhabited by people who can’t afford to live anywhere else. They are often found on the edges of cities or in dangerous areas where no one else wants to live.

With little affordable housing, the poorest people often have no choice but to set up their homes on vacant land or to rent a house in an existing slum area.

Many people live their entire lives in slums, they are generally neglected by governments and residents often have few of the rights of other citizens.

What’s life like in a slum?
Because they are unplanned, slums usually have no basic services like running water, sanitation and electricity. There are no toilets, garbage bins, street lights, postal deliveries, roads, parks, playgrounds, schools or healthcare centres.

Houses are often made out of cardboard, tin, plastic, wood or other materials. In a typical house, five or six people live in one room.

Without sewers or clean water and with people squashed together, disease spreads easily. There is no rubbish collection so rubbish piles up around the slums, or is burnt, causing smog and air pollution.

Kangemi Slum

Kangemi is one of two hundred slums in Nairobi, Kenya. The slum has over 150,000 people congested in a small valley with steep slopes rolling down to the Nairobi River. 

Two Irish Jesuits have been parish priests there – the current pastor is Fr. Michael Kyalo, a Kenyan Jesuit. This well known parish is called the Parish of St. Joseph the Worker. One year after the parish was established in 1985 the ‘Development Office Programs’ was set up.

What does the Development Office do?

The Development Office Programs was started solely to cater for the needs of the poor and to give them equal opportunities in life and a dignified living.  The Development Office under the Parish caters for many poor and disadvantaged people in the slum, specifically children, the youth, young women, single mothers, abused children and women, the unemployed, the unskilled, the sick and victims of HIV/AIDS and victims of female genital mutilation, also the homeless.

The Development Office coordinates all human development programmes such as education (basic education and technical college); health services, women empowerment projects and youth activities.


Fr. John Guiney SJ visiting children in the Upendo Unit of St. Joseph the Worker Primary school in Kangemi

The Vehicle Project

The Development Office had no vehicle or means of transportation to effectively and efficiently coordinate all the human development projects.  A strong four wheel drive vehicle was badly needed to cope with the rough terrain and high gradient of the valley where the slum is located.  Projects are spread over a radius of 15 kilometers.

Through the Irish Jesuit Missions Office in Dublin an application for funding for such a vehicle was made to Misean Cara, the company through which the Irish Government disburses aid to missionaries. The total cost of the vehicle was €38,647. Misean Cara provided €28,947 of this amount and the parish and Jesuit Fathers donated the remainder.

The vehicle will ensure easy and faster access to the various projects initiated by the Development Office Programs. For instance it will enable the staff to:

  • carry the children and students to and from the Upendo unit and technical college respectively;
  • transport food, medicine and other nutritional supplement for HIV/AIDS victims;
  • coordinate staff meetings, leadership training, and home based care for first responders;
  • bring staff together for seminars and workshops
  • carry the sick to hospital and transport the dead for funerals.
  • and finally coordinate an  environment program and follow up on income generating activities for empowerment of women and youth.

Without its own transportation it is impossible for the DOP staff to coordinate and supervise all these projects; some programmes have had to be abandoned in the past due to lack of transport for support and coordination.

Fr. Michael Kyalo SJ parish priest of St. Joseph the Worker Parish welcomes Fr. John K. Guiney (former PP of Kangemi)

Local contribution to the project

The running cost, servicing cost, the payment for the driver and the Director of the Development Office (Priest in charge) will be borne by the Parish and the Jesuit Fathers.  The total local contribution per year will be €9700.

There are no fears for the security and safety of this new acquisition for the slum! Any vehicle with the Development Office logo under St. Joseph the Worker Parish is well known in Kangemi as it serves the people.  St. Joseph the Worker Parish is famous both within the slums and even beyond as it is renowned for its services to the poor.

If you would like to help us to continue to fund services to the people in the Kangemi Slum or in other places where the Irish Jesuit Mission Office serves, please send your contribution to:

Irish Jesuit Mission Office,  28 Upper Sherrard St. Dublin 1, Ireland.

Thank you!

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