Project #9027

Empower Kibera Youth Through Jump Rope

by Carolina for Kibera, Inc.
Felix, an athlete on the CFK Sprinters.
Felix, an athlete on the CFK Sprinters.

For over a decade, CFK's Sports Association has been giving Kiberan youth the opportunity to focus their time and energy on improving their talents, teaching them about life skills, and fostering collaboration and leadership. At first, the organization's sole focus was on soccer, but then a new program was introduced: competitive jump rope.

Now five years old, CFK's jump rope initiative has expanded from a bright idea into a full-fledged organization, with an elite team that has performed across Kenya, East Africa, and the world. The newly-minted Jump Rope Association of Kenya holds the same ideals with which it started: foster work ethic, creativity, and peace through collaborative sport and play. Jump rope not only unites athletes as a team, but also provides a distinctive learning environment to teach youth about topics like gender-based violence, nutrition, leadership, and the importance of staying in school.

Recently, we caught up with a couple of rope-skippers on the CFK Sprinters, to ask them about what they like most about practice, how jump rope has positively affected them, and what dreams they have. Check out what Felix, 15, had to say below!

Where do you stay? I live in Gatwekera village in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.

What’s the hardest part of your day? What’s challenging for you? The hardest part of my day is my domestic chores. It’s hard to learn new skills like my peers, but I keep trying and push through.

When you don’t get to play, how do you feel? I get sore, so I try to keep active.

How do you feel when you play? When I skip rope, I feel good and fit. It gives me energy to do other things.

What does play mean to you? “Play” helps me gain discipline and keep healthy.

How has play positively impacted your life? What does play enable you to do? Playing impacts me positively because it helps me make new friends and avoid bad situations and company. It enables me to enjoy life and maximize my time by involving myself in positive activities.

What are your dreams? What do you want to be? Some of my dreams are studying space, since I’m good in physics. I also am interested in geography. Overall, I think I’ll be happy if I’m a respected member of society. With jump rope, I’d like to become a trainer to help young people learn to skip rope.

Carolina for Kibera’s jump rope team, the CFK Sprinters, is in top gear preparing for the August In-House Competition and Camp! Each year, the in-house competition—which helps train and prepare individual jumpers for future competitions—takes place over the August holiday. Athletes compete, train together, and exchange tips and tricks to help each other improve and gain confidence going into the next big competition: One World One Rope’s annual East Africa Jump Rope Championship. This year, the East Africa tournament will take place in December right in the Sprinters’ home town of Nairobi!

This year, there is much excitement around Sophia Opiyo, a young athlete who is looking to defend her title as the fastest single rope jumper on the team. Two years ago, after only 4 weeks of training, she recorded the highest speed of anyone on the team by jumping 67 times within 30 seconds. Breaking—or even matching—her record will require focus, fortitude, and a deep desire to represent the Kenya jump rope team during the championship.

Aside from the in-house competition and camp, jump rope’s status as an official sport in Kenya has helped two athletes from the CFK Sprinters tremendously. These two players have been admitted to one of Nairobi’s elite high schools! It is almost impossible for a child from Kibera to get in, let alone pay for the school since school fees are incredibly high. However, these two athletes have benefited from jump rope’s official status as a sport—a process led by CFK staff—and have been awarded scholarships to attend. They will keep skipping rope at school and we are lucky to have them in Nairobi to compete!

Did you know that the CFK Sprinters also hold competitions amongst themselves from time to time? Held a couple of times a year, these in-house tournaments give jumpers a chance to engage in friendly competition with their peers. Most importantly, the in-house competitions test, monitor, and grade the jumpers, and help seasoned athletes as well as rookies understand the rules and regulations of the jump rope sport.

The Sprinters’ most recent in-house competition, held on 1 May, brought together over 65 jumpers from the team. We had a massive turn-out from the community, with residents crowding around to watch the live performance. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, since it was the last day before school started up again after a long vacation. This made it even sweeter for athletes who attend boarding school; the rest of the team bid them a nice farewell until the next school holiday in August.

Like all tournaments, the in-house competition seeks to give jumpers a chance to compete and challenge their peers to work hard and improve. As such, we had several awards there up for grabs by the best performers. The awards were encouraging and motivating as every participant tried their best to walk away with a medal.

However, the tournament also featured an educational component. Many members of the Kibera community do not know the rules of jump rope (and some do not believe it is a real sport), or how the power of sport can be harnessed to teach kids about confidence, healthy habits in their daily lives, and friendship and teamwork. Children who were there got a chance to dance alongside the jumpers and, if they were old enough, to practice their moves with a rope. By encouraging children from the community to try out jump rope through competitions like these, Carolina for Kibera can reach more at-risk youth in the community.

Remember our update last month when we mentioned that Carolina for Kibera's jump rope team, The CFK Sprinters, made national news not once, but twice? We wanted to share part 2 of that series with you. (If you missed the first clip, you can find it here.)

In the second of the two features, Voice of America gives a glimpse into how star jumper, Wycliffe Otieno, began jumping. "After class, I'd find people practicing jump rope and my interest was piqued," he says. "I saw an opportunity to learn and improve my skills and I decided to take it up seriously."

Another jumper, Christine Ondeko (who was among the first to join the Sprinters), mentions how jump rope inspires her to develop her skills and dedicate her time to something constructive. Coach David Okoth is also interviewed, saying that in addition to coaching the team in the actual sport, they spend time participating in workshops to learn about important life skills and health topics.

Watch the clip here for some great shots of practice, as well as each interview in full. Congratulations on your moments in the spotlight, CFK Sprinters!

It's not every day you make Kenya National News! The CFK Sprinters were recently featured not once but twice in short news clips on some of Kenya's most popular TV broadcast networks. In this first clip, Coach Innocent Philip reflects on how CFK's jump rope program began (with help from Michael Fry of One World One Rope), why he decided to become a coach, and why jump rope is an important activity for Kiberan youth.

The CFK Sprinters had a whirlwind year -- from exceling at the East Africa Jump Rope Competition and Camp to being featured by the Los Angeles Times in advance of the World Jump Rope Competition, and now being profiled on some of Kenya's most widely watched networks. It's an exciting time for jump rope in Kibera, and the CFK Sprinters will keep performing and spreading the sport of jump rope nationwide.

Click here to watch the clip! And stay tuned for Part 2.


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Organization Information

Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Carolina for Kibera, Inc.
Project Leader:
Leann Bankoski
Program Coordinator
Chapel Hill, NC United States

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