Youths spearheading sanitation in Mukuru: The Story of St. Jude Reuben Youth Group
Youth groups play an important role in Nairobi’s informal settlements, providing services to residents and keeping young people gainfully employed. At Sanergy, we work with several youth groups to provide hygienic sanitation to community members. For the last year, St. Jude Reuben Youth Group has been an important part of the Fresh Life Movement in Mukuru Kwa Reuben.
Started five years ago to encourage and support members’ entrepreneurial endeavors, the St. Jude Reuben Youth Group is made up of young congregants of St. Jude Catholic Church in Mukuru Kwa Reuben. They currently have 60 registered members, and for the last three years, Stanley Kamau has been chairman of the group.
The team of savvy entrepreneurs spearheads projects that benefit the church and generate income for the group. Some of the group’s projects include church cleanups, flower gardening, and their latest project — two Fresh Life Toilets.
While cleaning up the church compound, the youth group members had one challenge: flying toilets and used baby diapers littering the ground around the church fence. While the church provides toilets for its congregation, the neighboring community did not have toilets close by. The majority of residents had to travel about fifteen meters to access a makeshift toilet located along narrow paths, which was unsafe to do at night.
When Fresh Life Toilets began gaining popularity in Mukuru, the group considered this as a great opportunity to serve their community with a hygienic, safe, and accessible sanitation option. This would guarantee a clean and odorless environment while generating some income for the group’s future projects.
However, the group members were worried about the startup capital required to launch their Fresh Life Toilet business. As the group did not have the amount necessary to purchase the toilets, they were thrilled to learn about Sanergy’s partnership with Kiva, through which they could access an interest-free loan. Through contributions from group members, the youth group was able to make the down payments on two Fresh Life Toilets, which were installed outside St. Jude Church for the greater community to use.
To date, St. Jude Reuben Youth Group has been operating the Fresh Life Toilets for a year, and business has been lucrative for the group. Stanley, the chairman of the group, says, “On a good day, we earn up to three hundred shillings in profit per toilet per day.” It took the group six months to break even and have paid off their Kiva loan.
Through the Fresh Life Toilets, the group has a lot to smile about; their church cleanup project has become easier to manage with fewer flying toilets around the church compound, and the area residents have access to clean, hygienic toilets throughout the day.
In addition, one of the church members, Mercy Njeri now has a source of income as the toilets’ attendant and caretaker.
With the funds collected from the toilets, the group has been saving up to publish a magazine. Their goal is to use the magazine as an information platform for youths in Mukuru Kwa Reuben. Some of the content they hope to focus on includes job opportunities advertised nationally and inspirational stories of community members excelling through their talents or skills.
Stanley is proud of St. Jude Reuben Youth Group’s achievements this far. “Restoring cleanliness in our area and providing a clean and easily accessible toilet space to the community members has made our community happy and supportive of our projects,” he beams.
We wish them the very best as they help keep Mukuru fresh!