Board Member & Director Rhine Valley Hospital

Ruth Schäfer is a member of the board of directors of Rhein-Valley-Hospital, based in Altstätten, in the St.Gallen Rhine Valley. She is the woman who has dedicated her life with skin and hair to the hospital project and thus to the people in Kasambara-Gilgil, in Kenya.
This means that Ruth Schäfer now only comes to the Rhine Valley as a visitor.

She has long since made the Rhine Valley Hospital near Nakuru her center of life. At first, she thought it would be enough to help the hospital get on its feet and then hand it over to the local people. But it quickly became clear that it took Ruth Schäfer herself at the hospital to keep the idea of her life partner, Stephan Holderegger, alive. She took on all problems with the goal of solving them as well.

Mama Matata

Her persistent approach and her gift of being able to take and treat Kenyans right earned her the nickname

“Mama Matata”


The Kenyan people affectionately call her “Mama Matata” because – like a mother – she sees problems and always finds a way to solve them. Be it in AIDS prevention or treatment, serial vaccinations, or even organizing and running a camp of displaced people in their own country. This characteristic, in turn, causes problems for the corrupt rulers. For it is precisely with them that she leaves no room for doubt; the people and the Rhine Valley Hospital are close to her heart.

Solving small and big problems

Ruth Schäfer’s commitment is not to profit or her own popularity, but to solving problems large and small. Like all board members, Ruth Schäfer works without pay. As the on-site hospital manager, she only receives compensation in the form of room and board. Even though this is probably the most efficient form of development aid, the association does not receive any support from official agencies. Thus, “Mama Matata” is solely dependent on the activities of the association to ensure the hospital’s operation through donations. Even after several years of “Mama Matata” solving problems, she still faces limits of feasibility. The political situation is calm and peaceful only at first glance. Thus, it is still necessary to reckon with emergencies such as famine and displacement. “Mama Matata.