Stephen Amugune is a Kenyan football (soccer) coach with our partner, Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) and part-time student pursuing Community Health and Development in Nairobi. He has been with TackleAfrica since the first day of our PEPFAR funded DREAMS-IC programme, managed by JSI, and is now a Level 1.5 coach. Coming from Korogocho in Mathare slum, Stephen alias “Coach Steeve” is working with not less than 65 young players in his community. He is also very involved in community work as a volunteer in many other projects. He told us a very unusual story about how he came to be involved in TackleAfrica, first unofficially, and more recently enrolled on our program.
Last year, his friend who is a garbage collector, found by chance an abandoned TackleAfrica 2010 manual. Seeing the colourful drills inside, and realising its value to a football coach, he immediately thought of Stephen – and of business. He asked him to pay Ksh 100 ($1 USD) but after negotiating, they finally agreed on Ksh 40 (40 cents). Stephen started reading the football parts of the manual only and used the drills with his players without reading deeper and applying the HIV messages.
Two months later, Stephen found himself selected by MYSA to be trained as a TackleAfrica DREAMS-IC coach. After the first day of the course, he went home and reviewed his old manual. He was amazed to see the HIV messages and the football drills working together.
Before the DREAMS-IC program, Coach Steeve saw football simply as a way of entertaining himself, and HIV as simply an incurable disease. But thanks to the program and TackleAfrica’s methodology of integrating football with HIV education, Coach Steeve has engaged his players and now feels respected and appreciated not only by his team, but also by their parents and older brothers. He now understands that he can use football to pass information to his players and his community, and that HIV can be prevented and treated. The program has also motivated him, as a community health student, to keenly study the TackleAfrica manual because it deals directly with his community and what he is passionate about: football. He has now improved his HIV knowledge and coaching skills so much that his players look at him as a “surgeon”!
The DREAMS-IC program has given him not only the enthusiasm to work in his community, but also hope. Every coaching certificate gained can help him achieve his goal of being a community health worker in the near future. Before the DREAMS-IC program, football was seeing as a hiding place for criminals in Coach Steeve’s community. Now, it has changed the view of some people in his community; those people now see football in another light, where it can be used for good, and HIV education and football can be related. As Steve says,
“If you have love for your community, you have an understanding of anything that can improve the living standards of your community, start applying it even if it is towards one child. It is going slowly to grow, since patience pays.”
Now, people in his community not only look at him as a football coach, but also primarily as someone who advises on the importance to live an HIV-free life and who refers the young people to Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) services. VMMC has been shown to reduce the rate of female-to-male transmission of HIV by up to 60%.
Indeed, Coach Steeve has done an amazing job by delivering very positive and engaging training sessions. But above all, he has been instrumental in helping to reach the 42 young players who were recently tested and circumcised during our VMMC event. He trained and referred not less than 15 young players of his team to undergo the procedure. This large number is not a coincidence. Since he integrated the TackleAfrica methodology into his sessions, more players want to be part of Coach Steeve’s team. They also want to get circumcised, for the simple reason that they now know the health benefits of VMMC, thanks to the messages within the drills. As the procedure is cost-free and organised through our partner organisation MYSA, parents are also motivated to get their young boys tested and hygienically circumcised. MYSA has great standing in the community, and we are thankful to be able to work through their community coach network.
Moreover, the DREAMS-IC program is having a significant impact on the young people in Coach Steeve’s community with regards to the myths that surround HIV, VMMC and condom use. Thanks to the program, players no longer think that using condoms has negative side effects, or that they are not going to be “real men” if they get circumcised using the surgical (and not traditional) method. They can now effectively prevent themselves from HIV with correct and consistent use of condoms during sex, and avoid infections associated with the traditional methods of circumcision.
Now Coach Steeve is well respected in his community, and even senior coaches of the Kenyan Premier League think that he is now a qualified coach because he is participating in one of TackleAfrica’s programs. With his good reputation, Coach Steeve doesn’t want to stop here. He has many projects in the pipeline; in particular, he would like to create his own organisation where human rights, HIV prevention and V/MMC will be promoted. With what we’ve seen so far, we have no doubt he’ll succeed.
To learn more about our partner organisation, MYSA, who we work through to deliver the DREAMS-IC program, visit their website at http://www.mysakenya.org