WHAT is TUNZA?
Tunza Sports Academy is a Not-for-Profit sports-based youth development organization that harnesses the power of sports to reduce poverty, promote health and inspire academic success for kids in under-served rural areas. Tunza is Movement that is dedicated to improving lives through sport. Through this movement, we nurture girls and boys to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and exploitation have placed on their path.
What Inspired Tunza?
The founder of Tunza was inspired by 3 things:
Unfulfilled dreams: “There were numerous opportunities to excel at a young age, but zero support system. Instead of encouraging my dreams, they were ridiculed. Instead of exploring avenues for growth, they were suppressed. I wiggled myself out of impossibilities through painful experiences. I never fulfilled my full potential as a young athlete growing up, neither did I realize any of my childhood dreams. But I got to a point where I stopped being angry at the world and instead turned the hunger inside me into providing opportunities for others.”
Coaching youth in the USA: “It was an inspiring experience to coach field hockey at various stages in the USA. First at middle school, then high school, also with the USA Field Hockey Kids program, and finally at club level. I realized then that I was not only a coach but a sister and a mother. It was a gratifying experience to see the positive life changing impact I had on some of my players. I was coaching in a society where I had previously believed kids had everything figured out. But hearing their parents’ testimonies and seeing the impact of sports in their lives, shaping them into responsible women of substance, has been a major source of inspiration. I wanted to extend this influence and power back to my home in Kenya.”
Unmeasurable Impact of Giving: “I have always found myself giving, even what I did not have. There is no greater joy than the feeling I get when I give. However, the gratification soon wanes when there is no clear impact from that giving. I wanted a situation where I could follow through and see to fruition the assistance provided. Giving out resources without a long-term connection and ability to follow through to see the change it brings, was no longer the path I wished to take.”
Where is Tunza Based?
Tunza is currently based in 4 locations. The Field Headquarters is in rural Ratta – Kisumu County. Other bases are -the Changamwe, Mombasa County and rural Oyani, Migori County. Our boxing facility is in the Nyalenda, Kisumu County. A New location is being set up in Samburu County.
Why opt for rural areas other than cities or slums within cities that are suffering the same plight?
Unfortunately, we can’t help everyone! To give aid to every need is far beyond the reach and power of a single organization or person. Therefore, we decided to prioritize on the rural villages because they are at the outskirts of mainstream sports associations and centers of performance. No one gets to them. Our philosophy is that if they can’t come to us, we (Tunza) will take it to them. Rural children have little or no avenues to draw opinions from. They are surrounded by poverty, disease and daily impossibilities, and they begin to buy into the idea that this is all there is to life. On the contrary, their counterparts in the city are more inclined to chance on an opportunity that can propel them forward. Even though they may suffer the same problems, the city kids can wiggle themselves out because around them, they see vibrant lifestyles and successful people- and they begin to will themselves to work hard and grab those opportunities. Their opinions are shaped by the many lifestyles around them. They dare to dream and aspire. Their answer to the question “what would you want to be when you grow up?” is more ambitious compared to the rural child. The rural child lives at a dead end, whereas the inner-city kids are more exposed and their plight blatantly revealed to the world. Their shame is difficult to hide and so occasionally the government, local civil society or international funders, will toss funds and self-help programs around to clean up/cover the mess – inadvertently benefiting the kids. There is little chance of that happening to the rural child who is hidden away in the ‘country’s backyard’ when visitors come. For them, there has to be an outside influence that is informed, an external stimulus that has purpose, a Tunza!
What is Tunza mostly proud of?
Tunza has been embraced by everybody we know, and everybody wants to get involved in some way. First, our American network, be it within Field hockey, Boxing or even the non-sporting friends, all are so eager and willing to make a difference to a point we feel we were unprepared for the overwhelming support so soon. Secondly, the community where the Academy is based has embraced the organization in what they term, “their only beacon of hope ever”. We don’t just focus on field hockey but ensure the girls’ grades are good and provide any extra tuition to help them. We also follow up with their families to ensure they can survive above $2 a day by assisting them to get help locally. Lastly, the under-represented hockey community in Kenya sees Tunza as “a much needed initiative.” Players from the generation of 40 years and above are the most enthusiastic about Tunza. They want this to succeed so badly, so that they can volunteer to the program or as most have already asked -invite us to open chapters in their regions or help them start-up similar programs in their villages. The governing body of the hockey only focuses on the capital city Nairobi, and the rural regions are neglected. The overwhelming support here in the USA and the vital role Tunza hopes to play in Kenya has given the program its own legs and is now running faster than we the management can keep up; and we are proud of that.
What are your long-term goals with the organization?
There is one goal and one goal only of the organization, and that is to break the cycle of poverty. There is this unending poverty loop within families in rural Kenya that once you get into, you can never escape on your own. The people that we serve will never get the opportunity to get out. Tunza wants to be there for those people. To achieve our goal, we want to raise and nurture successful community role models who will give back to their community to promote economic growth. The plan is that they will give back in exact measure or even more, of what we are giving them now when they complete our program. However, the giving back starts now -where they get involved in collective community service. For example, Tunza provides lessons to the kids, on the importance of hygiene and how to stay healthy, and in turn they go and teach their families. Disease takes a big chunk of family income, putting a strain on their education. Meanwhile, government programs don’t reach these communities either due to corruption or just sheer negligence.
What strategies convinced the villages to accept Tunza establishment in their community?
At the most fundamental level, sport and play are a child’s right, as detailed in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It reads -States shall “recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” – UNICEF. Therefore, we educate parents about this right and also inform them of the many opportunities sport brings. Most are not aware and are hang on the belief that only academic excellence can bring success in life. We partner with community leaders at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. Lastly, and the best thing of all, we don’t ask them to come to us, we go to them.
What are the age groups at Tunza?
Tunza is a youth program for ages between 7 – 16 years. We want to start them young because proper care at the youngest age forms the strongest foundation for a person’s future. We believe that nurturing and caring for children are the cornerstones of human progress. We feel that at their age, kids have not formed permanent opinions about life and about themselves and we can rescue their young minds; by helping them model and form better opinions about their future; by creating an environment where they are listened to -at least at the institution, if not at home; by instilling in them the belief that they are worth more than being a child laborer, or a child bride. We do this by helping them overcome the fear of expression, reprimand and failure. We still mentor those between the ages of 16 – 19 years as they go through high school and secure college. After that we start them on a path of giving back to their community.
Why does your program dwell more on girls?
We put greater emphasis on the girl-child because they are more susceptible to violence, exploitation and abuse. We promote girls education – protect them from forced early marriages and child labor, which is so prone in the village. Poverty is the greatest barrier to post-primary education and the goal is to overcome it by investing in sports scholarships for girls. Educating girls is an investment that alleviates poverty within their community and has an incredible multiplier effect that provides returns for generations to come.
What are the non-sporting activities that you do?
Tunza programs help overcome social barriers. We use sport-based programmes to improve children’s lives and to strengthen communities. However, we also encourage and nurture other non-sporting talents. At the community level, we help children and families affected by HIV/AIDS to live their lives with dignity. TUNZA uses sport festivals and games to educate families about health issues, facilitate village water committees, encourage women self-help groups and visit the elderly. One of our strongest and most successful non-sport programs is the ‘Tuk-Tuk Home Visits’. A Tuk Tuk is an auto rickshaw that can transport you slowly and cheaply from door to door. Some homes are close to the road, but many others are miles into the impassable interior. We are unable to use the Tuk-Tuk for home visits due to the rocky terrain found deep in the village, but nevertheless, borrowed the name for its relative door-to door- concept.
What assurances do your donors have?
Transparency. We have a direct human connection between donors and recipients. Meaning there is no third party or government or a contracted distributor. The founder (Rael) knows the donors in person and knows the recipients in person. There is no hierarchy of steps to receive and distribute donations. There is no bureaucracy of processes where the recipient is some unknown suffering child somewhere in Africa. Our donors, (if they wish) can literally track their donations and witness their impact.
What are some of the difficulties behind the scene?
We have been rejecting appeals for assistance by similar start-ups in Kenya, regrettably so. This is mainly because we have to be accountable for everything we receive as donations. Even if the donor does not demand it, we are still accountable to the recipient on whose behalf we asked for the donations. They must go to the intended recipients. Diverting funds or items is absolutely unacceptable, unless within reason and transparency. This pursuit of transparency leads us to share gratitude on public forums. Unfortunately, our public display of the benevolence received, brings with it abundant appeals by those who feel we have more than enough to spare.
What are the basic qualifications that one needs to join your program?
To be part of Tunza, the main attributes are passion and compassion. Sport specific skills are an added advantage. You must be driven by passion and dedicated to the mission of transforming lives. “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t need to have a college degree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King
How do you compare the American hockey development model to Kenyan hockey?
Basically, night and day or is it oil and water? Actually – non-existent. We are here to change that. USA is a huge country and so they have their own challenges. However in Kenya, even though we lack infrastructure and resources, we compound the problem by lack of dedication to the call. It is a mentality thing and a cultural disability. Those whom the sport has blessed do not give back, those whom the sport fraternity has hurt, do not look back to make things right for the next generation and those occupying office do not have the players best interest at heart. These three factors keep hockey in America regenerative, a far cry from hockey in Kenya.
What is Tunza’s philosophy in providing aid?
We discourage free handouts. Everyone must play their part. We believe everyone has something to give. Could be their time or skills. There is nothing for free, everyone must earn their keep. We have to pull together. Kids earn it by their dedication to attending practice and involvement on other community service activities. Parents and guardians contribute farm produce, they take the work load off their kids’ house chores to allow them time to practice, and they lend a hand during events. Guest coaches get coaching material and some few equipment to use at their own program. The donated items that we receive are absolutely free, but shipping costs money. Moreover any monetary funding we receive are donated for a specific purpose. So we cannot just distribute items nor dish out money without a structure. We do get numerous requests to share the donations we receive, and we understand there is need everywhere, but we are careful not to encourage a culture of dependency. You have to work for it, you have to play part in the process.
What are Tunza’s non-tolerant policies?
Tunza has Zero Tolerance for the following; child abuse, mismanagement of donations, alcohol abuse, use of profanity on social media or around the kids, dishonest representation of Tunza to any entity or other persons; prejudice towards staff of the communities we serve because of their culture, ethnicity and their political or religious affiliation.
What are currently the most challenging issues about obtaining resources and equipment?
Money is not forth coming. Item donations surpass monetary donations, yet they need to complement each other. People are more inclined to give away their items but not money, even if the item costs much more. Tunza currently relies on personal finances to fill the gaps.
Does Tunza charge for their programs?
Absolutely Not. Tunza is free for kids and their families. Tunza serves under-privileged communities, who see their kids as contributors to the different family needs -such as tilling land or taking care of younger siblings. Most of the girls are under the care of their ailing grandmothers. Removing them from their family duties alone, disrupts the flow of family functions as someone else has to take up the slack. Therefore, we cannot further burden them by charging fees.
Does Tunza accept both Genders in their programs?
Yes. Tunza’s core focus is on the girl child. The communities we target turn out to be mostly patriarchal. The girl child is subjugated to menial advancement while boys have more opportunities. However, we are for the empowerment of all children in these regions. The boy child in the rural area is at greater disadvantage more than a girl child in the city. Moreover, if the boys in the same community are not guided to be upright youth, or feel left out, they may in turn undo all our work with the girls, by infiltrating their progress.
What are some of the real problems faced by Tunza communities?
Tunza has set itself right at the heart of the communities it serves. The problems of those communities become Tunza’s problems as well. We may not solve the problems, but we are advocates for change and solutions. Some of the tough issues include: Forced marriages, Child Labor, Child Abuse by relatives, Extreme Poverty, Disease, Malnutrition, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Lack of Menstrual Hygiene Resources and Alcoholism.
How can I donate to Tunza?
This website has a donate button on every page. All you need to do is click on it. If your payment method preference is not available, you can email us for other options at email@example.com.
United In Sports