The Oasis ‘Community Centre’ Mathare
The Oasis ‘Community Centre’ Mathare is a legally registered community-based organization. Established in July 2013, with mission of providing practical solutions to the disadvantaged and marginalized youth and children of the Mathare slum in Nairobi. A safe-space for youth and children, Oasis Mathare offers ICT training, a community library, mentorship opportunities, and early childhood development activities. Oasis Mathare provides a relief in ‘the desert of the absence of affordable ICT training service and general youth development opportunities in the slum’.
The specific objectives of Oasis Mathare are
- To empower the youth and children of Mathare to take control of their own development through ICT and education
- To give youth the tools they need to champion environmental sustainability, health and wellbeing, and productive livelihoods.
- To reduce extreme poverty, crime rates and disease among the youth
- To improve the literacy level and reading culture among disadvantaged youth for their personal empowerment.
Local Context: The Mathare slum, with a population of around 500,000 families, is one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi. Just like any other informal settlement in the world, the Mathare slum is characterized by poor housing structures made of old iron-sheets, inadequate or absent sanitation facilities, large mountains of garbage or solid waste materials, poor infrastructure, lack of proper health facilities, unemployment, high illiteracy levels, and high population density – of which youth constitute 65%. In Mathare, HIV/AIDS has led to high dependence rate and increased number of orphans. Due to a lack of job opportunities, many youth find themselves engaging in major societal vices such as handling and abusing drugs, violence, mugging, commercial sex work, and youth gangs.
To address the pressing challenges facing youth and children in the Mathare slums, Oasis Mathare provides the following four main community services
Information, Communication and Technology Information and communications technologies (ICT) have the power to change the way people learn, find employment, start businesses and earn productive livelihoods throughout the world. The digital divide, defined by a lack of access to information for a specific population, symbolizes the largest difference between developed and developing countries. The digital divide runs much deeper than hardware and software. The real heart of the digital divide is that those without access to information resources often suffer needlessly while the solutions to their problems are exist beyond their reach. Given the opportunity and access, youth in marginalized communities have the ability to utilize ICT to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. The ICT Center at Oasis Mathare is up and running, and is currently equipped with 15 donated computers. Paying a basic registration fee, community participants can access this center and learn how to use computers to improve their skills, market their talents and promote their businesses. These courses are offered by trained youth facilitators, who also act as coaches and mentors. To date, 500 youth have accessed the ICT Centre and available courses, creating a significant ripple effect in the community as this knowledge is transferred to family members, friends and neighbours.
Library Oasis Mathare provides students with a safe, quiet environment where they can study and access a library stocked with relevant resources. Children in the Mathare slum possess the same talents, creativity and capacities of other children, but are prevented from excelling academically due to challenges at home or high school fees. Most family’s lives in a 5 by 7 meters house which makes student difficult to study at and by providing students with this study space, they can improve their academic performance and keep-up with their classmates while they are out of school. Our small library serves a minimum of 45 children per day.
Mentorship The youth and children in the Mathare slum are greatly talents in performing arts, creative art and sports, but they do not have access to people who can challenge, encourage, mentor and help them develop these talents. At the Oasis Mathare, we use a peer-to-peer mentorship process that helps youth and children to use their talents to earn sustainable livelihoods. The Oasis Mathare also provides a space for youth and children to showcase their talents to the community.
Early Childhood Development A key feature of slum dwellings is the absence of open play spaces for small children. As a solution, the Oasis Mathare provides space where children are able to come and play with toys for free. An additional benefit is that as they play, they are encouraged by the older children and youth that surround them to read, develop their talents and use technology. We have witnessed great improvement in the performance of students who come to Oasis Mathare. Using time with the computers as a reward, students must complete all their school assignments first. This approach has been very effective as students who frequent Oasis Mathare are ranked within the top 5 positions of their classes – a great improvement from the previous school term. In addition to the four main services provided, the Centre also provides young people with learning on sexual and reproductive health rights, rescue services to abused children and girls, and training in youth leadership and entrepreneurship.