In 2005, Victoria Sheppard travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for an internship at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters there. During her year at UNEP, she began volunteering weekly at MCEDO primary school in Mathare, the second largest slum in Nairobi. She met many community members who were working tirelessly to address the many issues faced by their community, and was inspired by their ingenuity, commitment and dedication.
When the time came for Victoria to return to Canada, she asked her friends in Mathare what she could do from home to continue supporting Mathare’s youth. Titus, Benedict, and Charles, who would go on to co-found the organization with Victoria, responded that they had always wanted to start a foundation to provide secondary school scholarships to students from Mathare. Secondary school is not free in Kenya, and most families in Mathare cannot afford to pay the tuition. However, education is a key step in breaking the cycle of poverty. It empowers young people to change their lives and their communities. You can learn more about Mathare here and the importance of education here.
Canada-Mathare Education Trust (CMETrust) was born from these discussions, and became an officially registered Canadian charity in December 2006. Since the very beginning, we have been a partnership between Kenyan and Canadian friends motivated by a shared vision of a stronger Mathare built through increased access to education. We have expanded our programs based on feedback from parents, scholars, and community members to include professional development activities for the scholars during their school breaks, an alumni association, and support for post-secondary studies. We emphasize the importance of giving back, and we are proud that our alumni are active in community associations and primary schools throughout Mathare. Our approach has always centred on a commitment to decolonization, dismantling white supremacy in north-south partnerships, and implementing an inclusive and equitable approach that responds to the needs and aspirations of the community we serve. Lean more about our Commitment to a Just, Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive Education Program in Kenya.
Our strategy is working. Over the years, we have witnessed young people with slim hopes of pursuing secondary education not only completing secondary school but also moving on to university and graduating with big dreams. We hope you’ll join us as we continue to support change for young people and for the community of Mathare.