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The Ruben Centre

History of Ruben

The establishment of the primary school in 1986 saw the beginning of what is now known as the Ruben Centre. Sister Mary Killeen, a Mercy Sister was the founder of this school. In 1992, the management of the school was handed over to the Japanese NGO African Education Fund (AEF). In 1995, the first class of KCPE students completed their primary education. However the AEF withdrew after six years, leaving the school and fledgling clinic they had established in a precarious state. Sr. Mary Killeen continued again as the Administrator.

In 1998 the first Teachers Service Commission teachers were employed, and the school was registered as a Kenyan government school. Vocational Classes for Carpentry and Dress Making and Tailoring were also started. In 2000 the Christian Brothers responded to Sr. Mary’s invitation to administer Ruben Centre, as it became known. In 2001, Br. Bob Aron the first Christian Brother Manager initiated some developments, including drainage, playing field and toilets. However the most significant new development was the building of a police post by the Christian Brothers, bringing with it improved security and a new confidence within the local community, concerning the Centre’s permanence.

In 2003 the very primitive clinic was replaced by a new modern Clinic, which offered more services. Also that year, the Kenyan government initiated free primary education and this ushered in a huge expansion in the student population. Since then the Ruben Centre has extensively grown and to date we have eight operational programs.

Mukuru Slum

Mukuru is one of the largest and most densely populated slums in Nairobi, Kenya. It is home to an estimated 600,000 people, many of whom live in extreme poverty and face a range of social and economic challenges.

The residents of Mukuru face a lack of access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation, and healthcare, and many live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The slum also faces high levels of crime, unemployment, and other social issues. Despite these challenges, the residents of Mukuru are known for their resilience and resourcefulness. Many have formed community organizations and self-help groups to address their needs and improve their living conditions. They have also received support from local and international organizations, including non-profits and government agencies, that work to provide essential services such as healthcare, education, and food assistance.

Many organizations have also focused on promoting sustainable development in Mukuru, including efforts to improve access to clean water, promote environmental sustainability, and create economic opportunities for residents. Overall, Mukuru remains a complex and challenging environment, but the resilience and resourcefulness of its residents, combined with the support of local and international organizations, offers hope for a better future.

About Ruben

The Ruben Centre is a community-based organization located in the Mukuru slums in Nairobi, Kenya. The center was founded in 1986 by the Christian Brothers as a way to provide education, healthcare, and other social services to the local community.

The Ruben Centre offers a range of programs and services to the community, including a primary school, a health clinic, a child protection program, and a vocational training program. The center also provides support to vulnerable groups such as children living on the streets and people living with HIV/AIDS.

One of the center's main goals is to empower the local community and promote sustainable development. They work closely with community members to identify their needs and develop programs that address those needs in a holistic and sustainable way.

The Ruben Centre is widely recognised for its work and has received several awards, including the Kenyan presidential award for community service. They rely heavily on volunteers and donations to support their programs and welcome volunteers from all over the world to come and work with them.

Overall, the Ruben Centre is an important community organization in Nairobi, and their work has had a positive impact on the lives of many people in the Mukuru slums.


An empowered and just Mukuru community.


To offer quality education, health, financial and socio – economic services to children and families in Mukuru community.

Core Values:

In working towards the attainment of its vision through its mission, Ruben Centre is guided by the following core values:

  • Presence

  • Compassion

  • Liberation

How Ruben Works

Ruben Centre works in collaboration with donors and partners to achieve her vision of ensuring a just and empowered Mukuru community. All programs are either donor funded or administered by a partner through memorandum of understanding. The community plays a vital role in establishment of programs and in the very essence of existence of the Centre. The Centre works hand in hand and in collaboration with the community to deliver tailor made solutions to the very needs of the people. This is made possible through continuous needs assessments surveys and constant evaluation of existing programs to see to it that they are relevant and beneficial to the beneficiaries. There are Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who are the eyes and ears of the Centre who act as link with the community. They provide first hand fundamental information pertaining to developments, needs and challenges facing the residents of Mukuru slum. The Centre has proper structures and policies to ensure that all donor funds are utilized appropriately and to ensure that the envisioned purposes are achieved. A seven member advisory board puts the operations of the Centre on check and works in cooperation with department heads to warrant smooth running of the different programs. The operations of the board are governed by the board’s constitution. The Centre also has well outlined operations manuals for all departments that spell out duties and responsibilities of all individuals working at the Centre. The Centre largely works with children and families and to safeguard the interests of the children. Ruben Centre has put in place policies such as child protection policy and code of professional conduct to protect minors against any professional misconduct concerning staff.

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 organization 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 organization 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).

Ruben's Response

The Ruben Centre, with its five core areas of Education, Health, Social & Economic empowerment, Organizational Capacity 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.

At Indy Escapes we are affiliated with a number of NGO's around the world. In Kenya, we spend time at and support the Ruben Centre Nairobi and ERCN. Both are incredible initiatives that create opportunity and support for those who are living in these slums, and are without access to basic necessities. For more information on what we do, how you can help or to connect directly with the organisations, please see our Donating and Volunteering in Kenya Page.

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