I just received this email from Carolyn and Bill Kirk at the Nanyuki Children’s Charitable Trust, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could – as soon as I could – so here it is.
As many of you will know, I have already used this platform to spread awareness of young girls gaining development through rugby in India and Uganda:
And now we have a great story from Kenya too. Please read these stories and share them far and wide … and then get yourselves out there to see it for yourself. All of these places are accessible and visiting them, and the people there will have a profound and lasting effect on your life. I promise you.
Here’s the email …
We are a charity based in the UK raising funds for the orphaned and impoverished children in the slum areas of Nanyuki Kenya and we work closely with the local Nanyuki rugby coach, Gem Dennis, who uses every spare minute of his time to train the under privileged children. His motivation is to keep these children off the streets and out of trouble and give them something to focus on. He is an inspirational young man who works tirelessly with the children, coaching them and taking them to rugby tournaments around Kenya We are initiating a fund raiser to obtain a mini bus for him to transport all the rugby children to tournaments and training sessions. We wondered if you may be kind enough to help us fund raise/donate. We intend purchasing a mini bus here in the UK, which will be much cheaper than buying one over there, and shipping it to Kenya with the help of the British Army, hopefully!!
We have met Gem many times as we visit Nanyuki at least once a year, at our own expense, and have witnessed his dedication to these children. He is a very humble young man with a passion to make life better for the children he coaches.
Below is a copy of an email we received from Gem last year, detailing the problems he is up against with the children, and we support him financially as much as we can to ensure the children with a rugby talent get a chance to make something of their lives.
Congratulations to these girls – in Kisii, on the 25th March 2019, they won the KRU Nyanza Regional 7 Aside Girls Tournament. That means they have earned a ticket to the National Games for later in the year. Two of these girls were saved from early marriages and one of them was rescued from Tanzania where she was a house help and used by many men! Without our help, their lives would be very different.
Gem’s email ……….
“Good Afternoon Ma’am,
I am just a Rugby Coach. I started training kids Rugby back in 2012 in Church at the Coast (ACK Likoni). Before that I had been doing Mtaa Rugby hereby I would get Rugby Players from different parts of Mombasa (Mostly Under 18s) to form teams and play 7s for their Communities and Estates. That would help the main team in Coast scout for new players for their team.
I also used to Organise Beach Rugby and had an aim of growing Rugby at the Coast and that was when I started also doing Womens Rugby.
In 2013 I got a job with British Army and had to relocate to Nanyuki. That is a small town by Mount Kenya and definitely remote. I somehow found myself unable to stay quiet and I started training Rugby around. Started with the estate where I lived and moved to the next and before I knew it, I had myself over 600 kids playing Rugby. So far I have introduced Rugby to Estates (Thingithu Estate, Baraka Estate, Likii Estate) plus Orphanages ( Nanyuki Children’s Home, Simama Orphanage, Furaha Orphanage, Jua Kali Orphanage and CEDC Orphanage) plus Primary Schools (St Christophers, St Moses, Brickwoods, DEB and Likii) and also Girls High Schools (Moi Equator, Inoro, Daraja, Thingithu, PCEA and Loise Girls).
It started as just rugby but the more time you spend with these kids, the more you get attached to them which right now I am seeing is not a good idea. Especially not for me. This is because you get to want to know why a Child is late for Training or why she/he did not attend the previous sessions. And the more you ask, the more you get guilty. You can’t ask them why they come late for training because most of them come from quite far. They have to walk a long distances. You don’t provide transport so you have no right to ask. And those who get to the field early, when you find out why some times they don’t perform well you will discover that they have not taken a meal the whole day. So you don’t ask its wrong, you ask its wrong.
You discover that a child is in the same cloth the whole week, girls train in dresses and skirts, boys are in trousers, they are bare feet and it just becomes a problems for you. Lucky enough some members of BATUK and you ma’am Carolyn Kirk started helping me with clothes (Track Suits, Hoodies, Jackets, Tights for girls and Boots and Trainers). And I would give them to kids but on merit. I still do. I reward the most hard working in Class, Disciplined and Committed Players. That became a motivator for kids. And to add to that.
I have been taking kids for tournaments outside Nanyuki and to other Schools. For example, with help from British Army, SAAB Group and 3SDL, every July I take kids to Diani Beach at the Coast for a Beach Rugby Tournament. One very easy to ignore fact is that MOST people are born in a small village, go to kindergarten there, join Primary School there, if they are lucky to finish Primary they join High School in the same village. Then for the few who make it to college, we have about 5 small colleges within Nanyuki so they attend those and when they are done with College, they get a job in one of the 2 flower plantations in Nanyuki or do any small business or hope to get a job at BATUK as a Casual, Mary or get married there, start a family and the same cycle begins over.
That is all they can get. That is not bad but for me, it’s not what I wanted for these kids. There is a lot of Tribalism and silly thinking in towns due to lack of exposure. I saw Rugby as an opportunity to change that. Start with kids and in the next 10yrs or so we will have a generation that thinks clear. You know that we have 45 tribes in Kenya. You interact with them, learn to live with them, respect them. Learn to work hard and earn your hard work. Girls in Nanyuki mostly have only one option (Prostitution). That’s their shortcut to success. Early marriage also being a factor.
Though Girls Rugby is still not a popular sport in Kenya and still isn’t in the school curriculum, this year 5 Girls got Rugby Scholarships at one of the best High Schools in the Country. 2 Girls from Mombasa and 3 from Nanyuki. Last year one girl from Nanyuki Children’s Home had been chased from the orphanage and I managed to get her a School at the Coast.
For Boys it’s a bit easier as Boys Rugby is on High demand thus I am receiving offers from lots of schools all over the country. That guarantees boys who I train Rugby and opportunity to get an education for free and exposure as they will be away from their towns. In 2016 I got 4 boys Scholarship at Upper Hill School in Nairobi. April this year those boys became national Rugby Champs for the first time in the Schools History and in August they became East and Central African Champions in a Tournament held in Rwanda. So these boys have been to Uganda and Rwanda, and all over the Country plus they have won Championships. Among them are boys who had dropped out of school after Primary and before that they couldn’t stay in Primary School due to discipline issues but now their lives have changed. In 2017 we got 6 boys Scholarship at Kaya Tiwi School at The Coast. They helped their School win the Sub County Championship, the County Championship and the Coast Regional Championship for the first time. They also took their School to the Nationals for the first time AND again for the first time, they finished 5th Nationally which is the best performance any team from the coast has had in its history. Then this year we had 15 Boys get Scholarship in Nyanza. It’s looking good for boys. Getting them off the streets thus reducing crime rate.
Rugby has now given kids a purpose and parents are embracing it too. For kids all they need is something to keep them busy, and tournaments and outings to motivate them. Plus now they stay in school knowing that they can go to a Secondary School where they can still play Rugby.
But I currently I’m in a very hard place. The School that took in Girls for Scholarship (Nasokol) changed management and the new Principal said there is no more Scholarship. Every girl must pay School fees. Fees per girl for a year is 54k. This has come when its less than 2 months to end of the year, end of their first year at School. They have asked that for this 3rd term each girl has to pay 10k, a total of 50k. If they are chased from school at this time, they will have wasted the whole of this year and when they get a school next year, they will have to repeat form one. I am hoping to keep them at Nasokol for this year and on closing day ask them to carry all their belongings and I am talking to schools that support Rugby to admit them next year. My other headache will be doing Shopping for them in their new Schools (Mainly School Uniform).
I am also faced with a problem of a Boy from Mombasa who is in trouble and needs rescuing. He thinks rugby pays for a living and hopes to play rugby. The boy dropped out of Primary School in Class 5 and is already old for School. He is 17yrs. So the option was to get him to Polytechnic and have him do Mechanics or get a trade. Mostly keep him away from his grandmother who is a Witch and wants her grandson to inherit Witchcraft. So I am hoping to use rugby to help straighten his life.
There are only 3 groups doing Age Grade and Girls Rugby in Kenya. One is Nakuru Rfc, which is sponsored by Menengai Oilers and Top Fry. They have a programme that pays fees for kids in Primary, Secondary and College. They are the best Rugby Team in the Country for Girls and kids. The other is Impala Saracens which is sponsored by Standard Chartered and Resolution Insurance. They too support kids and Girls through Primary, Secondary and College. The thirs one is Shamas Organisation which has Sponsors from Italy, South Africa and UK. Shamas and Saracens are in Nairobi. They even have programmes where kids travel to South Africa, UK and Italy.
Apart from those, I am the only other person in the country who does Girls and Age Grade Rugby. But unlike them, I have nothing. I depend on well-wishers like you ma’am and anyone else on Facebook who might be in the mood to help with boots, trainers, shorts or jerseys. I have had Doncaster Knights in UK send me Full Kit for kids and seniors, I have also had Hunter Hill RFC in Australia send me Rugby tops for kids (U6 to U14). I have also had Leigh Miners in UK send me boots, trainers and tops for Rugby and also 42 Engineers GEO Regiment in UK send me Rugby boots and a Full Rugby Kit. A church In Scotland also send me boots for kids and well as you ma’am who sends me trainers, boots, shorts and jerseys through madam Caroline and Nanyuki Charitable Trust. That keeps us going. I share them with over 600 kids in Nanyuki and over 150 in Mombasa. Someday I will hopefully have jerseys for all these teams, all categories. But as at now I am just struggling. Things seem to be crumbling down on me.
All I wanted was give the kids a good path to hopefully a better future through Rugby but the struggle and the burden is just getting bigger. It all started as JUST RUGBY but now it’s become more than that.
Thank you for holding me up ma’am.”
Should you require any further information please let us know and if you have read this far – many, many thanks.
Carolyn and Bill Kirk
Nanyuki Children’s Charitable Trust