The lives of six former street children, who were working as caddies at the Barclays Kenya Open last week, have been completely transformed thanks to the hard work of Glad’s House.
First formed 11 years ago by Victoria Ferguson and Frederick ‘Bokey’ Achola, the charity has dramatically changed the lives of young adults and children around the coastal city of Mombassa by offering them counselling, training, and most importantly a home.
After initially starting out by shipping sports kit and supplies to East Africa, the organisation has grown into one of the largest of its kind in Kenya.
Named after Gladys, the grandmother of Victoria, the NGO has helped the lives of thousands, with golf playing a key part in many of those stories – including last week.
“We first started a sports club,” said Cliff Ferguson, the father of co-founder Victoria who is now the Chairman of Glad’s House.
“To help we started shipping sports kit, shoes, clothes, and then we started sending over money when one day my accountant said to me that we should become a registered charity – so we set up Glad’s House.
Chris Lloyd visits Glad's House in 2014
“We first persuaded the owners of a luxury golf resort called Vipingo Ridge to let us supply caddies six years ago.
“Then I went to the European Tour to ask if they would help us fund this, and they said yes, and we spent that money on three European Tour caddies who came to Kenya for ten days to train them – that’s where we started with 50 of our guys working in golf.
“Since then the European Tour have invited a numbers of our kids to caddy for their players at the Kenya Open, and each year six have come along with their chaperones who help them through the week.”
Working the fairways at Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club last week were Mwamuru Donna, Julius Simiyu, Philip Toboi, Tina Mwasi, Ronard Simiyu and Anna Achieng, who caddied for Stuart Manley, Nathan Kimsey, Marcus Armtiage, Reinier Saxton, Paul Howard and Lukas Nemecz respectively.
“Last week we had two young ladies and four boys at Muthaiga,” Dr Ferguson said. “They are all former street or community boys and girls, and we place a lot of significance on prevent – we always try to pick up children we feel are at risk of street life.”
Glad’s House’s achievements are not just limited to golf. In sporting terms they chose a team of under 14s who represented Kenya in the 2014 Street Child World Cup in Rio de Janeiro – they will send another squad to Moscow in June for this year’s tournament – while they have set up numerous projects to help give their youngsters a vocation.
“It is great that we can train our children to become caddies but we also have a lot of other projects to help them,” said Dr Ferguson.
“At our base we have a carpentry shop, an internet café, a bicycle shop – the biggest in Mombassa – and we are planning for more enterprise schemes for our older children whose education means they can’t get traditional work. That’s a big focus for us going forward.”
Although not in attendance at the Barclays Kenya Open this year Janet Otieno’s tale is a perfect example of how Glad’s House can change a life.
Having worked at the event as a caddie in previous years, and then going on to train other caddies, she is now a social worker who is looking to help the next generation of street children turn their lives around.