By Katy Nagy, Team Leader at SWB Uganda
Last week, Sara and I traveled to western Kenya to visit two of SWB Uganda’s fellow Streetfootballworld East Africa network members. After meeting them at the Streetfootballworld conference in Rwanda last September, and we were fortunate enough to have volunteers from SEP and TYSA join us during our Youth Festival in January. After hearing so much about the incredible work that SEP and TYSA are involved in, we decided that it was our turn to visit them.
Our first stop was Oyugis, Kenya to visit Society Empowerment Project (SEP). We were welcomed with open arms by the Young Leader (and our good friend), George, who was excited to introduce us to the rest of the SEP staff and to show us what SEP does. During our visit, we helped run a training at the Nyahera Girls’ school, we spoke to the girls about the way lessons that are learned on the pitch can be tranferred into their lives off the pitch, and we helped to plant about 200 trees on SEP’s farm during Earth Hour (now called “The Soccer Without Borders Forest!”). The best part of the visit to SEP, though, was the opportunity to talk to the staff and participants about the organization, to learn more about all that SEP does, and to feel welcomed as if we were already part of the community. We spoke to participants who have benefitted greatly from SEP’s programs. We spoke to participants who would not be able to go to school without SEP’s support. We spoke to participants who have gained coaching skills and are now able to coach younger participants. It was impressive to hear about the impact that SEP has had on the community, and to know that its influence in the community is only growing as the organization grows.
After 3½ days at SEP, it was time to say goodbye to our friends in Oyugis and to head to Kitale to visit the Trans-Nzoia Youth Sports Association (TYSA). Again, we were reunited with our friends who we met in Rwanda and at our festival in January. The TYSA staff was immediately welcoming, and we were eager to learn all we could from them. The two days we spent in Kitale were filled with visiting schools, playing games, talking to staff and participants, learning about the amazing work that TYSA does, and enjoying our time with our friends. TYSA is currently in the process of expanding its reach by partnering with many schools in the area. We had the opportunity to visit some of those schools and to play games with the students. Those visits made it very clear how important TYSA’s work is. One school that we visited was a government-supported primary school with over 100 students in each class. We also visited a secondary school and joined a meeting of parents, students and teachers. We listened to the students speak about the difficulties they were having with their studies, and we were able to speak to them to give some advice. At the end of the second day, we visited a children’s home to play some games with the kids. After the owner gave us a tour and explained the way poverty, illness, drug abuse, and other factors in that area create a need for the children’s home, we organized some games and activities for the kids. The home is simple, but it is so important. It was further proof of TYSA’s impressive reach and commitment to the communities in the area.
Throughout our visit to TYSA, it was clear that the organization’s inspiring work is made possible by its leadership and staff. Gichuki, the program director, places much emphasis on empowering the staff to take ownership and become leaders. It is clear that that has become part of the organization’s culture, as their goal is to train teachers in the schools to lead the soccer/physical programming on a daily basis. It is this emphasis on sustainability and empowerment that most impressed and inspired us while we were in Kitale.
We left Kitale and headed back to Kampala after a week of learning and a lot of fun in Oyugis and Kitale. We were sad to say goodbye to our friends at SEP and TYSA, but we are also excited to take what we have learned back to Soccer Without Borders. Each of the organizations taught us so much, and we have gained an appreciation for the value of partnerships and networks of organizations that exist across borders and cultures.