In Nairobi, host Arit Okpo meets James Kamau, the founder of Beyond Hoops Africa. Kamau explains how his organisation is using the beautiful game of basketball to inspire, educate and empower the youth.
In his youth, Kamau played for Kenya’s Java Warriors. Returning to the courts the team used to play on, Kamau found them overgrown with weeds, “People from this area have no access which means people that want to start playing basketball, they’ll have to find for another space.”
Seeing this encouraged Kamau to make a change, “That’s why I’m very passionate and inspired to start creating more safe spaces by building more basketball courts in Dagoretti here and hopefully anywhere else in Kenya.”
As well as building more courts, Beyond Hoops Africa runs a basketball camp to train young people. Kamau tells the programme what this entails,
“We have a Dare to Dream camp, which is a basketball camp and health and well-being. We will be doing basketball drills, will be doing games, it is going to be exciting. Kids will have the opportunity to make friends and have a good time.”
The Dare to Dream camps were inspired by a similar programme that Kamau set up whilst living in Canada. This organisation helped less fortunate families who could not afford to send their children to organised programmes. Kamau’s work was widely praised, and even received recognition from Queen Elizabeth II, “I was honoured to be one of the guys to receive the Diamond Jubilee medal of community service.”
Never forgetting his home, Kamau returned to Kenya and replicated the programmes he had started in Canada. Kamau felt a strong desire to help those in the communities he used to live in, “I grew up in a community where there was a lot of different social issues happening. And I can say one of my escape routes, why I did not get into that direction, is because I was able to play basketball.”
One of the children at a Beyond Hoops Africa event echoes this message. Michael Pumba speaks about how basketball has helped him, “I joined basketball because it helped me a lot. Whenever I was idle, I would use drugs and other things. So, I joined basketball to protect myself because an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”
This week’s programme also travels to Gabon to meet basketball player Blévie Meyia Lucchesi. She talks about her position as a role model, “I think a lot of children, women are looking up to me because I was one of the first Gabonese to go play in the United States and come back. That’s the most important thing, because sometimes people go, but don’t come back.”
Lucchesi has just started the process of registering her own non-profit to educate more young children through basketball. She hopes to inspire the next generation with her positive message, “Be aware that you have a lot of work to do but never, never lose hope because with hope I believe that we can do amazing things.”
Both of these changemakers show how a love of sport can be used to change communities and the lives of young people across Africa.
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