- As is in many settlements, there is a ground where a lot of children and youth would meet for different activities.
- It also a place where the numerous unemployed youth would idle and pass time.
Evelyne Grace is the co-founder of Vintage Talents Anchor, an initiative she started to help out the young people in her community through football training, peer and health education, garbage collection among others.
She was recently nominated for the Sports category in the Zuri Awards, a platform that recognises and celebrates outstanding women in line with the International Women's Day theme. She talked to Nation.co.ke about her work.
“It all started as a community project three years ago. I come from Clay City in Kasarani, an area of informal settlements.
Like many settlements, there is a ground where a lot of children and youth would meet for different activities. It also a place where the numerous unemployed youth would idle and pass time.
Next to the grounds is a river that divides Kasarani and Clay City. For a long time, the area was avoided as it was a crime hub.
And because it was away from the main streets, this was an easier ground for the jobless youth to take drugs.
My partner Samora and I had heard about all the illegalities around the grounds and we decided we would give peer education to these children and youth.
But seeing the area in real light within those first days, we decided to give them more. Some of them played football on the field and we knew that this would be the ideal thing to start with. Samora and I started giving them balls to play with every other day.
Eventually, the players increased in number because the people who would idle around became interested in our organisation in playing- with cones, balls and even goal nets. This meant that we had to divide them into senior and junior teams. I was particularly interested in girls and so we had a team for them too.
The name Vintage Talents Anchor just came to me after practice one evening.
We slowly started inviting people to talk to them about drug abuse, and because we have worked with people from the county government, the church and volunteers, we started offering mentorship to these youth.
I was not financially stable as I had been out of work as a volunteer for about two years. We were unable to provide all the equipment for the team.
Sooner than later, we started seeing the bigger picture and realised that we could tap into other skills, other than football.
The area around the football ground was unkempt at the time, so we bought two slashers and decided to clear it. We had to collect the litter afterwards, so we started collecting garbage altogether.
Before the football tournaments, we would look for sponsors, some of whom would do more than just financing the games.
Our first one was in Kawangware, and we literally had no bus fare to come back home, let alone matching playing kits. But God works wondrously because we were safely back home in the evening, and with new playing kits for the entire team!
One time, a sponsor decided to donate shaving kits, bathing soap and petroleum jelly. We took an initiative of not only teaching them environmental cleanliness, but also personal hygiene. We started teaching them how to be presentable so that they could be confident enough to go out there and not be contained to their home area only.
Most of the young girls in my team strive to be peer counsellors. Being a counsellor by profession, I am able to team up with other professionals in order to bring their dreams to life. It has been working wonderfully because now, the girls’ team barely needs supervision from us. They are able to handle all their business by themselves and this encourages us a lot.
Recently, one of our young players was diagnosed with cancer. As much as this has been a blow to us, we sat down as a team and decided to plan a tournament to raise funds for him and to create cancer awareness within the community. The tournament will take place in a month, and we plan on having it regularly.
We have had our share of challenges, the main being with finances because we are self-sponsored. We are looking for funds to pay the county government for a garbage collection license. We had also hoped to have distributed litter bins around our Clay City community but that has been challenging.
Many of our children also lack school fees and have to be sent home on a regular basis. We have taken it upon ourselves to work closely with the area MCA for bursaries and sponsorships.
Despite all the challenges, seeing how far our team has come from has been my main source of motivation every passing day. Today, we are about 200 members in total: the players, coaches, mentors and volunteers.
Being nominated for the Zuri award came as a shock to me. It felt good to know that someone out there recognises our efforts.
Since then, other people with initiatives similar to Vintage Talents Anchors have been approaching me for advice on different things. This has been greatly motivating.
Since registering as a CBO in June of 2018, we have sent our proposal and budget in order to get funding. We are hopeful that all our plans will come to life.
We hope to move to a different and much bigger field through the help of the sub-county administration. Here, we will be assured of a washroom, changing rooms and water.
We also hope to be able to give our members a smooth transition to the other stages in life, mostly by ensuring that they have enough skills to sustain themselves.”