We usher in 2018 by catching up with a rising star, Lawrence Kimuhu, 21, who is part of the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), an award-winning organisation in Nairobi, Kenya that uses football as a tool for social change. At TackleAfrica, we are privileged to have worked with MYSA for many years, training many of their coaches and staff in the TackleAfrica methodology and watching MYSA’s superb community engagement in action, taking sexual health and HIV prevention messages out to the young people of Mathare.
Lawrence is now part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge (DREAMS-IC) project at MYSA, a PEPFAR funded initiative, managed by JSI, working to limit the devastating impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Lawrence started off with TackleAfrica as a player, playing for Kawaha Sportive, under his coach Alex Kariuki (Alex has also taken on a new role as a Local Project Officer in this project). As a young player, Lawrence recalls playing one of the most popular TackleAfrica drills called ‘Spread the Play, not HIV’ which he liked. Years down the line, Lawrence made the transition to coaching, taking a coaching role at his club Kahawa Sportive. This made him eligible for the TackleAfrica DREAMS-IC programme and he was pleased to be selected as a coach, learning how to integrate HIV and sexual health messages into his football sessions.
Lawrence tells us the DREAMS-IC project has impacted his life by giving him a platform to be able to coach football and also teach young people life skills as he was taught. It has also given him the opportunity to be able to take fifty players to get tested for HIV and undergo Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC). Through the project, he’s also increased his knowledge on HIV prevention and VMMC, giving him greater confidence to train his young players on these issues. Finally, the project has helped him gain more trust from his players, as well as their parents and the community. For his players who decided to undergo VMMC, Lawrence feels he became like a father figure to them.
Lawrence stayed with his players in a school called Makwa Boys for 10 days after their circumcision surgery, looking after the boys and ensuring they never got infections. Eventually, the players healed properly and on the 11th day, the parents came back for them and a graduation ceremony was conducted, as this process is considered the transition from childhood to manhood.
In Lawrence’s own words, “Through the project I gained a lot of trust from my parents. They learnt about what I do in the community and my parents together with my big brother became very proud of me. DREAMS is not just a project, looking at the initials the word DREAMS gives me hope. I also have my own that I would like to achieve in line with the DREAMS goals. Despite our different ethnic backgrounds, we are one.”
To find out more about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, please visit www.dreamspartnership.org/innovation-challenge/
There are lots of ways to get involved with TackleAfrica’s work; visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved for more details.