The Story of Enouce and the Birth of GRS Partnerships From: Kirk Friedrich,Executive Director and Co-founder GRS
In 2004, after a very successful pilot year of programs in Zimbabwe, we decided that it would be a good idea to work with partners that were interested in adopting and replicating the GRS curriculum. We had worked with a few organizations outside of Zimbabwe that wanted to do what we do, and we figured it was worth a try to share. One day I received an email from a woman in North Carolina who ran a soccer league, and on a recent trip to Kenya had met a person named Enouce Ndeche who ran a soccer league in Nairobi. Enouce loved soccer and felt that he could use the game to help his community. The woman was impressed with Enouce and decided to send some uniforms and other soccer equipment from her league in the US to support them. They created a sort of ‘sister league’ with both programs being called Capitol Area Soccer League (CASL). When the woman heard about Grassroot Soccer she immediately thought it might be something that Enouce would be interested in and connected us. Enouce was extremely friendly and professional over email. For some reason, I assumed Enouce was a doctor and was in his mid 50s or so. He asked if I would send him a copy of our curriculum so that he could review it. A few weeks later he contacted me again, said he loved the curriculum, and asked if we would consider coming to Nairobi and training his Coaches. He happened to catch me at the right time, because I was planning a trip to Zimbabwe where I was stopping in Uganda to meet with another potential partner and donor. I was going to have to fly through Nairobi anyway, so I decided to extend my trip by a few days and come meet ‘Dr. Ndeche’ and train his Coaches. Ethan was coming to Uganda as well, and back then he was always up for a new adventure, so he decided to meet me for the last day of my trip in Nairobi. I arrived in Nairobi at night and made my way to a friend’s apartment. He sent his friend and taxi driver to pick me up and made sure I was taken care of. That friend, Holo Hachondo, is now the Chairman of the GRS Zambia Board of Directors. The next day Enouce came into the city to meet me and escort me to his neighborhood of Eastleigh, where we would meet his Coaches and hopefully do a Training of Coaches (TOC) course. I didn’t have any formal training planned, and I had no idea how I was going to train these Coaches in Kenya in 3 days, but I figured I would just demonstrate some of the activities and then ask them to try them out. When I saw Enouce I was totally shocked. He was just a kid. I was expecting to meet a middle-aged doctor in a suit, and instead this young guy in a pair of jeans walks up smiling from ear-to-ear and introduces himself. In some ways I was relieved that he wasn’t some big shot NGO guy who would wonder why we don’t have a formal training system, but I was also a bit worried about what I had gotten myself into. The worry didn’t last long though. Anyone who meets Enouce knows that within seconds of meeting him you are already close friends. His genuine spirit and enthusiasm are infectious, and he makes you feel like everything is going to be great. Enouce said we should leave right away so that we could make it to Eastleigh before the traffic got too bad. He escorted me down the street to where you catch the Matatus (minibuses). We crammed ourselves into one and began the journey through the city streets to Eastleigh. I’d spent a lot of time on minibus taxis in southern Africa and had quite a few adventures along the way, but the Matatu in Nairobi traffic was a different kind of adventure. They were a bit bigger than the typical minibus in southern Africa (more like Sprinters). I assume this is because you need something bigger in order to deal with the massive potholes and sections of washed out roads in Nairobi. The Matatus are all painted and intricately decorated, usually with something representing the favorite soccer team of the driver. We were on a Liverpool bus with Michael Owen’s picture painted on the side and You’ll Never Walk Alone written in big letters. They all pump music very loudly and people crowd onto them until they are squashed in like sardines (this was just like southern Africa). Roads in Nairobi are only a suggestion of where to drive. They are in such a state of bad repair that drivers regularly leave the roads to find a clearer path along the sidewalks, through fields, and wherever they can find some space. They weave in and out of the stalls on the side of the road that sell everything from cellphone airtime to coffins. Trying to take in all of the sites of Nairobi, while the beats of Kenyan hip hop seemed to dictate the bouncing of the vehicle, made the entire Matatu ride felt like a dream; and then we ended up in Eastleigh. I had spent a lot of time in southern Africa at this point of my life. I was comfortable moving around in the townships and I thought I had seen some pretty rough and impoverished places, including refugee camps in Zambia. Eastleigh was a whole different level. It is an area that has attracted a lot of immigrants and refugees from around Africa. Kenyans, Somalis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and many others come here and try to make a living, or at least survive. Many of these people left warzones, but found a newer version of a warzone in Eastleigh. This is where Enouce is from. Although I felt a bit out of place, I felt very comfortable with Enouce as we weaved in and out of the crowds and little shops, occasionally hopping over the sewage and trash that littered the roads. Enouce is 2 meters tall, and although he is the most kind and gentle person on earth, he’s not someone who you would want to mess with, so I certainly felt safe. The first place we visited was a carved out 20-foot container that had been converted into a barbershop. Enouce was not a doctor, he was a barber! He had a pair of hair clippers that he and several other people shared in order to make a little bit of money to survive. In front of the chair were some old magazines along with a very beat up printed copy of the GRS curriculum. As people got their hair cut Enouce would have them read the GRS curriculum. Based on how tattered and torn this copy was it was clear that this copy of our curriculum had been read by a lot of people. At the barbershop I was introduced to the CASL Coaches, who it turned out were also just a few of his young friends and fellow hair stylists. They seemed like a nice group of very enthusiastic young people who loved soccer, but I was starting to wonder how the heck they were able to find the resources to keep their league going, let alone start a GRS program. Before starting our ‘training’ we visited Enouce’s house and had some lunch that was prepared by his family. Again, I was amazed to see how humbly Enouce lived and what he was able to achieve with virtually no money. And yet, this was the story for so many people living in Nairobi. They do a lot with very little and they do it well. Our first day of our 3-day training was really just a chance to get to know each other and for me to find out more about their program and how they planned to implement Grassroot Soccer. Enouce explained that they wanted to first deliver the program with their team, and then start to enter the schools. He felt confident that the schools would love the program and there would be strong demand. Kenyans have a passion for education more than any place I’ve ever seen. Even though schools are overcrowded and highly under-resourced, there is a strong desire to learn. In spite of the fact that there were a lot of NGOs, quality HIV prevention education was not something that young people were getting enough of at the time. I demonstrated a few activities and we did a few ice-breakers that first day before it was time to head back to the city. On the second day we went through the full curriculum. I facilitated the activities and then we had discussions about how to make the curriculum more relevant to the Kenyan context. The Coaches were good, and had all the right tools in place to adopt the GRS culture and facilitate. They asked a lot of good questions and we spent some time talking about how best to reach out to schools and structure the program. Overall, it felt like they may have a chance to really deliver the program, but I kept coming back to the fact that they had almost no resources, and I wasn’t sure how they would be able to pull it off without even money for transport. They were also just a group of young kids in a very competitive landscape. I couldn’t imagine anyone taking them seriously and welcoming them into the schools. On the third day Ethan arrived and we all went to see Enouce’s teams and observe the Coaches as they practiced delivering GRS activities. The team trained several days a week on a big open lot in the middle of Eastleigh. You couldn’t exactly call it a field, because there were more plastic trash bags floating around than there were pieces of grass. The space was also a common thoroughfare and, even if there was a match going on, people did not hesitate to walk straight across one of the makeshift soccer pitches in order to get where they were going faster. Crime around their training ground was also a big problem. The boys said they don’t use cones to mark the pitch because they would just be stolen. Apparently the gangs in Eastleigh take what they want and rob people with machetes. It was a testament to their love of soccer that they were able to endure these challenging conditions and create any kind of organized team. Needless to say the kids loved the GRS activities, and we walked away feeling enthusiastic about the new group of friends that we had in Kenya. It was impossible to imagine that the project would continue to grow, but we were happy that we tried. Surprisingly, for the next several years CASL continued to grow. Enouce would occasionally send me an email with a list of the graduates of the program and a photo of them at graduation. It was the most basic form of M&E, but it was a strong effort considering what resources he had. His efforts have led us to continue to try to help as much as we can. We have helped them to find other donors, have provided ongoing training and technical support, and now consider VAP to be one of our key partners. Using Grassroot Soccer as his flagship initiative, Enouce built his organization up from almost nothing to what it is today. The organization is now called Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP) – in Swahili meaning ‘Peace Together Youth’. They have an annual budget of $95,000 with 25 Coaches and 6 full time staff. In 2013 they graduated 2,754 kids. Interestingly, they chose to use their own funding to hire GRS in 2013 to conduct a training of Coaches and curriculum revision. VAP is an important member of the streetfootballworld Network and regularly takes part in their events and conferences. Enouce himself has become a very well respected member of the sport for development community. Like me, he also grew up over the past 10 years and now has a wonderful wife, Nancy and two children. As we embark on a new strategy for GRS where our partnership programs are designed to be our ‘engine for growth’, I think it is important to reflect on partnerships and relationships like the one we have with Enouce and VAP. Part of what we are trying to do with GRS Partnerships is to get better at selecting the most strategic partners, and to ensure that we got the best return on our investment. It was never ‘strategic’ to go meet with Enouce in 2004, but it felt right. Adding on a few days extra to my trip to Uganda and spending a little bit of extra money so we could visit with Enouce turned out to be something that affected the lives of thousands of Kenyans, and empowered Enouce to launch an amazing NGO. I have no doubt that Enouce would have been successful in anything he chose to do in life, but I’m very happy that we were able to give him the tool of Grassroot Soccer and I am excited to see what our future partnerships will look like.