Castlegar Minor Soccer Association representatives Dave Grantham (right) and Leanne Osokin (left) present Kelvin Opiyo (center) with a pile of soccer equipment that is headed for Mombasa

Local family to run Kenyan youth mentorship program

Kelvin Opiyo will be running a soccer mentorship program in Kenya in January.

Castlegar Minor Soccer Association has made a donation of soccer equipment to Kelvin Opiyo who will be running U13, U15 and U17 soccer tournaments in Mombasa, Kenya in January. The donation included 66 pairs of new youth soccer shorts, 20 pairs of soccer cleats, 34 soccer balls, 33 jerseys and 20 pairs of new soccer socks.

In a letter to Opiyo accompanying the donation the organization stated, “CMSA is grateful that these items will help further the game and its young players in a country where such equipment is more challenging to access. We appreciate your efforts in bringing these otherwise underutilized items to those that could use them.”

Opiyo and his wife are currently living in Castlegar. Prior to moving here from KenyaOpiyo had been using soccer as part of youth empowerment and engagement programs in his homeland. “To keep up with the work we were doing, every time we go back home, we are doing soccer tournaments,” said Opiyo.

Their goal is to move back to Kenya and run a non-profit mentorship program using soccer as a connection point with youth. “The area we are going to… al Shabaab is recruiting the youth… kids are being marginalized and getting lost, disappearing,” said Opiyo. “I grew up in the same community so I know the actual challenges that could lead kids that way. So for us to use soccer to help and to mentor them to make the right decisions, I think is much better than just coming in and saying we are going to put you in school or help in some other way.”

Opiyo explained that al Shabaab recruits kids with money and promises that are hard to compete with. This is why he feels it is better to mentor the kids than to try to persuade them through gifts. “Somebody did that for me, so I have seen (it work),” said Opiyo.

Opiyo is trying to raise $2500 for his January trip. The money will be used not just for the usual soccer balls and trophies but for gift vouchers to a supermarket so the kids can get groceries or school supplies. Prizes for best players will be school fees. “The teams we have right now, we want to mentor. These teams are going to be charitable teams that give to other teams,” said Opiyo. Organizers will challenge the first place team to set an example and give back towards school fees for someone else.

In order to establish a non-profit in Kenya, Opiyo must show a history of ongoing projects. Establishing ongoing sponsor type relationships will also help with the non-profit status. Castlegar Minor Soccer hopes to help with this by continuing their donations on an annual basis.

The Opiyos will be spending the next year raising permanent funding and support for their organization. They have aligned themselves with Multi-Nation Missions Foundation which is based in Abbottsford, BC.

Anyone interested in helping with this project can contact Kelvin Opiyo at 608-3179.

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