In a world where progress tends to move at a snail’s pace, it’s nice to have an Olympic track and field star to help speed things along.
Just ask researchers from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management (FKRM), whose partnerships with sport, health and recreation experts in Kenya have earned the approval (and expertise) of Olympic gold medal winner William Tanui.
The Kenyan track phenom, who won the 800-metre event at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, is part of a team of sport and recreation advocates who are currently visiting Winnipeg to explore Sport Without Borders initiatives benefitting young athletes in both Kenya and Canada.
The partnership finds U of M instructors, researchers and coaches aligning with their Kenyan colleagues – among them representatives from Kenyatta University, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Terik Educational Promotional and Development Project (TEPAD) – to develop mentorship programs, fill educational gaps, and address social issues like poverty, HIV/AIDS and drug and alcohol addiction.
“It is the hope that we’re going to bring this community of people together, so that our youngsters have something to look forward to in the future,” says TEPAD representative Tanui, who as part of his week-long stay in Winnipeg will speak about his athletic career on Wed., June 10 at U of M.
“We have this hope that very soon, our youngsters will not just be staying idle, but that there will be something for them to do.”
Among the coalition’s new plans is a project called CAN-YA YES (CAN-YA stands for Canada/Kenya; YES for Youth Engagement Through Sport), a program aimed at setting up athletic mentorships in Terik. Another seeks to address the educational gaps that result when Kenya’s young athletes miss school in order to train or compete, by establishing a sport academy with a curriculum tailored to meet their specific needs (while also affording training opportunities to elite athletes from around the world .
“Our focus this week is to solidify those core plans: The sport academy and the Youth Engagement Through Sport (project), with an enthused research agenda throughout,” says Dr. Jennifer Mactavish, one of several U of M reps who travelled to Kenya for a series of similar workshops last April.
“By the end of the week, we hope to have a strategic plan and some funding proposals, or at least, a better knowledge of who we’re going to apply to for the sustainable funding that will see this project continue in the future.”
The University’s partnership with the Kenyan contingent was first established a few years back, when FKRM students – together with Bison athletes and the U of M’s Children’s Camps – donated hundreds of soccer balls, T-shirts and shorts to young athletes in the Terik community. (Among those on the receiving end was future track star Pamela Jelimo, who’d go on to bring the Olympic connection full circle by winning a gold medal in Beijing last summer.)
In addition to Tanui’s presentation Wednesday night (which takes place at 8 p.m., in Room 133 of the Frank Kennedy Building), the visiting Kenyans – whose numbers include Zipporak Bukania (KEMRI), and Dr. Andanje Mwisukha and Peter Bukhala (Kenyatta University) – will also take in a Winnipeg Goldeyes game, tour The Forks and the Corydon strip, and hopefully even enjoy some sunshine at Grand Beach.
While our unseasonably chilly weather has been a bit of a shock to the visitors’ systems, Mactavish says there are similarities between the two communities that might not be obvious at first blush.
“Theirs is a rural community with a lot of poverty and not a lot of stuff to do,” she explains. “We have communities like that in Manitoba. So the lessons we learn together on this initiative have applications here at home and in Kenya.”
For more information on the U of M/Kenya partnership, see http://myuminfo.umanitoba.ca/index.asp?sec=75&too=100&dat=6/8/2009&sta=3&wee=2&eve=8&npa=19283