The aim of the Commonwealth Housing Trust (CHT) is to provide financial and material assistance for housing projects for people in any of the Commonwealth independent states whose membership is confirmed by the Commonwealth Secretariat. We seek to assist marginalised communities which strive to provide themselves with stable, healthy, living environments. More specifically, we aim to support community-led initiatives, particularly projects in areas with acute housing need, which have the potential to provide valuable models for delivery in other projects also. We have minimal overheads and administration costs and depend on donations, grants and sponsorship.
How the Korogocho Project Began
A group of families living in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi came together in 2006, determined to work as a community to provide decent homes for their families, with clean water, electricity and in a safe environment, away from the squalor and crime in Korogocho. They also hoped to create opportunities to improve their livelihoods.Their group, MWAMKO, is officially recognised as as community mutual help group by the Kenyan authorities.
MWAMKO's aims and values meshed with those of CHT who had already had a successful project in Gilgil, Kenya. Rehousing the MWAMKO families in Korogocho is now our main project. Over the years CHT has raised funds and provided practical assistance and expertise, collaborating with its local group, the Commonwealth Housing Group Kenya (CHGK), whose committee includes MWAMKO representation and, like MWAMKO, is also registered in Kenya.
Some Thank You Letters from the Residents
About the MWAMKO Families
There are twenty six families with 131 children between them, with several single parents, one a single father. An additional extended family member per household is included in the figure of about one hundred and eighty people to be directly helped by this voluntary resettlement.
They are a tribally and religiously diverse group – mostly Christian, with six Muslim families, and with households headed by people from twelve different Kenyan tribes. Despite this diversity they have held firmly together throughout, even during the inter-tribal post-election violence of 2008 which badly affected Nairobi's slums. Their shared values and hopes transcend their differences.
MWAMKO's Contributions to the Rehousing Project
Members of Mwamko have monthly meetings and make monthly contributions of 500 Kenya shillings – about £3.74.They have a committee, with elections every three years.
Records are kept for each household's contributions, especially necessary as in some months members are unable to afford to pay, so the totals may vary, especially because of fluctuating incomes.
Five members are street sellers, there are casual labourers, a goat seller, some have small shops or stalls, there is a community worker, a social worker, a truck driver, a barber, a plumber, an untrained part-time teacher, a mason, a cleaner.
From these collective savings they recently bought barbed wire and other materials to fence off the land, necessary to discourage land grabbing, and erected the fencing themselves.
They have a rota to go to the site twice-weekly to show a presence and check that all is well.
Education and training
Part of the project is to enhance opportunities for improving their livelihoods. Unemployment is very high in Kenya; education and training are crucial.
Thanks to a grant from UN Habitat and practical support from others, including from the Housing Finance Foundation (Kenya), 10 young people from the families have received training: five in masonry, one in basic electrical work, two in form work and two in painting/decorating.
They are now working and gaining experience so that they can take part in the building of the new homes. Existing MWAMKO members include a plumber and a mason.
While there will be experienced building contractors working on phases of the project, there will be as much safe, supervised self-build as possible, with contractors also using our trainees.