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Volunteer stories

Meron Watkins

I did my work experience for Shamas Rugby Foundation in March of 2018. I decided to do my work experience there because for one I looked up to my rugby coaches very much and I wanted to see how they impacted the lives of so many children and families as they impacted a lot of students at ISK.
Here is a brief overview of my reflection and the first day of my work experience.
For my work experience, I decided to work at the Shamas Rugby Foundation. The Shamas Rugby Foundation is a nonprofit organization that used the sport of rugby and its founding values to bring social change to children and youth living in urban slums in Nairobi, Kenya.
I worked in many different sectors such as the social worker, I worked with a photographer in the field and sorting donations to give out to each of the developments. The slums they work with are Mathare, Kibera, BTL, and Kangemi and help them live a more sustainable life, get a better education, and to enhance their opportunities of getting jobs and a better life in the future, but also using rugby as a way to let them firstly enjoy and learn the game, give them a career choice in rugby but also to let them make decisions and see how the use of sports impacts them using scrums and tries to change lives.
On my first day,  I arrived at school to meet my mentors, they are also the Rugby Coaches at ISK. We firstly went to pick up a photographer who was working as a volunteer for a couple of months with Shamas Rugby. When we arrived at the office, I was introduced to everyone there and set straight to work. My first job was to sort through donations which came from mostly abroad. I sorted through all kinds of donations including, boots, shirts, winter jackets, raincoats everything. It all had to be split evenly between what could go to the children and what we could provide for the coaches as well.
Later, we went for lunch at Open House to discuss this new accelerator that they were launching for a project where they had to raise $5000 in three weeks. We held a meeting for around 4 hours to come to a final decision to promote the Global Accelerator.
My impressions of the projects that I was involved in were truly inspiring. I’m so thankful that I got to work so closely and I got to go out in the field and understand more as to what they do instead of having it read and described to me. Overall I was very happy that I chose to work here for a week. I got to meet new people who wanted to change the world but also were there to make themselves have opportunities in the sporting world but also in other aspects. This was an amazing experience and recommended to anyone wanting to help out in the community but also for a better understanding of the struggles that we are not told about and how people dedicate themselves to helping others which is not seen as much now. Thank you to Edoardo and Priscah for giving me the opportunity to work beside them.

Spencer Ochieng

Volunteering at SRF had never hit my mind, but as philosophers say “Let life take its course”. It was a rare opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. I was so naive when I joined SRF- maybe it’s because of the fact that I had just cleared high school. Moreover, I was a Shamas runaway, having left the foundation in 2013 but that’s a story for another day. To my surprise, I was warmly welcomed back to the organization but this time as a colleague.

Working had never been so interesting. I enjoyed every bit of the tasks that I did despite having no professional expertise. This was made possible by the family that I worked with. It would be so mean of me if I don’t mention these people who made SRF my home away from home.

Catherine is the head of the social work department. She guided me as my boss and a friend. She taught me basic computer skills such as scanning, using Word and Excel. Through her, I understood office ethics.

Linnet (Social Worker) was a sister to me. She made me feel at home while in the office. She would advise me about life and be always ready to listen to me.

Bernadette (Social Worker) was my inspiration. I learned a lot from the way she balanced her duties in the office and in the field as well. She is now on the National women’s rugby team and I’m so happy for her.

Each time I had troubles with my computer I’d ran to Muli for help. I remember one day when I had trouble with an important online application and he came to my rescue. To me, He was an IT guru, something that he learned on his own. He was a gentleman and very humble- I looked up to him in many ways.

Sisko was a very close friend and a rival as well when it came to the field(Shamas and Impala have a rivalry that can be dated back when the foundation was formed).

These are the people I worked closely with during my time at SRF. It is said that an institution is never complete without a strong foundation. As far as I am concerned, the social work department was the foundation of SRF. With Catherine’s leadership, this department did tasks that were very important to the organization. From home visits, registration of players, following up on student-player scholarship, disciplinary of the student-players… Indeed, this department partakes a great role in this institution.

SRF’s Founder, Mr. Azim Deen, is a selfless person and a great supporter of SRF. I remember playing with his son, Zayn, when I was still in Shamas.

Priscah, the Head of Operations, always amazed me with her personality. If I was a poet I would put it precisely as “She dined with the Kings and Queens but did not lose the common touch”. If this was the medieval age, I would classify her as one of the nobles who would connect and help the peasants.

The CEO Edoardo de Paoli, is one very unique person. He was open and defiled protocol, for the betterment of those who were in need. He is the one who gave me the privilege to work in Shamas.

Each time I arrived at the office, I was welcomed with sweet tea that was well prepared by Lorna. She is a hard-working lady and very loyal to SRF.

Ann is the institution’s secretary, and each time I was with her she would encourage me to keep working hard. She is a believer and always told me to put my trust in God so as to have a bright future.

Through Shamas, I met people such as Leo who enabled me to see the importance of passion. He employed passion in whatever he did, however small it seemed.

All these people helped me grow professionally, spiritually, and individually. I got into SRF as a boy but came out as a gentleman. The four months that I spent in SRF introduced me to the professional field and I really thank SRF  for that.

The work done by SRF in community development is invaluable. Many rugby players from Kibra, Mathare, Kangemi, Tatu City, and Eastlands have benefited from the program. One commendable thing that I observed while at SRF is gender equality. Both boys and girls are considered as equals and this makes SRF a very important figure to society.

Leonard Pumpe

I volunteered as an independent photographer for Shamas Rugby Foundation from February to April 2019.

Having scrolled the internet for volunteering opportunities, I stumbled upon Shamas through a friend of mine. What struck me first and foremost, was that Shamas is a truly Kenyan organization. Most of the employees are Kenyan which means that Shamas does not only bring change to the youngest ones, but it also creates job opportunities for the local workforce.

In my role as a photographer I got to know the organization from two perspectives: the first one is the office perspective. Surprisingly, the transition into a Kenyan office was quite smooth. The employees were wholeheartedly welcoming and I felt a good working atmosphere in the office with a good joke now and then. The management ensured that I understood the organization, the founding values, and what it is trying to achieve. Being equipped with this background knowledge I was able to perform in my role as a photographer on the field. This brings me to the second perspective.

In the field, photographing Shamas beneficiaries on the rugby pitch, in school, at home, or on the way to school, was an experience I don’t want to miss. The rugby coaches are great, very dedicated to bringing a valuable experience to the children, and focused on their long term growth. They are doing a fantastic job and it was a pleasure working with them and getting to know their stories.

Having worked with Shamas for 3 months, I realized that it is an organization focused on one thing – creating opportunities. Creating opportunities for children who are incredibly talented and motivated to achieve something in this world. Yet, in Nairobi, they often lack the necessary resources or the confidence to do so. Shamas tries to equip the children with the necessary values such as self-awareness, confidence, honesty, integrity, uprightness, and modesty to get ready for life and pursue their dreams. Shamas does convey these values through Rugby. Because when they play Rugby, they ingest these values in a more natural way (instead of listening to them in school) and they are able to apply them in their daily life more quickly.

It was an honor to work for such a dedicated organization. I believe Shamas will continue to positively impact many lives and I wish them all the best for this endeavor.

Thomas Trenchard

I first came across Shamas soon after moving to Nairobi in 2015.

Having played rugby in Italy since the age of 6, I really wanted to continue playing and developing my skills. I was invited to attend and join one of the training sessions run by Shamas at the Kenyan Harlequins RFC on Sundays, and since the very start, I greatly admired the uniqueness, importance, and effectiveness of this program.

I instantly had the sense that beyond its life-changing core missions and values, Shamas clearly offered the children of Nairobi’s poorest slums quality rugby training and play. Over the years spent living in Nairobi, the Sunday sessions spent as both an assistant coach and player will remain some of my most memorable moments.

The teamwork, dedication, and passion children and coaches shared for the game was truly one of a kind. The smiles, speed, and skill of the players would astonish me each and every session.

Above all, I will always remember the atmosphere throughout the monthly tournaments: the smell of food being cooked by mothers, the utter love for rugby, and the omnipresent feeling of joy.

At the very end of my time spent in Nairobi, I worked on a project for my IB diploma. I decided to research how the geography of slums influenced the player’s reasons and rates of participation in the program.

Throughout this experience, I had the chance to explore various aspects of the program in great detail. I was given the opportunity to interview players, coaches, managers, and many other organs of the foundation. With every questionnaire, my view of Shamas increasingly materialized into what it is now: an exemplary sport for development program.

I also had the chance to work at Shamas as an intern, giving me an even greater understanding of how great of an effort every single individual within the organization puts in to make change happen.