More On Mathare...

Mathare is one of the poorest slums in Nairobi, but there's a ray of light shining through: MYSA.

Published December 06, 2010 12:00

More On Mathare...
Michael Teuber

NAIROBI, Kenya - Mathare is one of the poorest slums in Nairobi, spanning a 16km radius in the Kenyan capital. But there's a ray of light shining through: it's the Mathare Youth Sports Association, and WTA legend Martina Navratilova stopped in over the weekend ahead of her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro this week, which will raise money for such Laureus-supported youth programs.

Help Martina reach her new goal of $50,000 - donate right now!

The Mathare Youth Sports Association, or MYSA, encourages youth in Mathare to take part in and organize masses of soccer matches. Roughly 20,000 young people - making up 1750 teams - make up over 1000 leagues in the program, and they do it all themselves. A key component of the program is for youth to learn leadership skills; David Thiru is an example of someone raised through the program, starting in 1990 and now working in marketing and fundraising.

"To work for MYSA, you have to have been a member yourself. I was in the program since 1990," Thiru said. "It's a program for the youth, organized by the youth. We hope to make them into leaders by giving them the chance to organize themselves and develop life and leadership skills. They set up the games, decide positions... it's a key principle that it all belongs to them."

It may be difficult for the youth of Mathare to follow the climb that will ultimately benefit them, however. "Kenya has extremes - it is a beautiful country with so many nice areas. But life in Mathare is hard," Thiru said. "There are hundreds of thousands of people living in shacks. Now we are getting some electricity and some computers for internet, but it's all a luxury. We will try to give updates to the kids about how Martina is doing in her climb up Kilimanjaro this week."

Navratilova's quest to raise money for Laureus Sport For Good Foundation supported programs brought her to this groundbreaking one on the day of a very big announcement - the MYSA Curriculum will be used in other areas - including other African nations - meaning it will be an example around the world.

The attention from the recent announcement, Navratilova's visit and Laureus' loyal support has been helping MYSA improve more and more, making the ray of light in Mathare brighter. "This has all been really huge for us," Thiru said. "For the kids it was not only special because Martina came, but it was also the day of our league finals, so it was even more exciting. The pressure was higher than usual, the competition was tougher, and it was big for the media here.

"Martina played with the kids - she even had a penalty session with one of the teams. She was at the presentation of the new curriculum, did interviews... she even did interviews with some of the kids. Martina is very excited about the program. We all wish her the best as she climbs Kilimanjaro and are so thankful she is raising money for Laureus Sport For Good Foundation programs."

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