In April 2012, Chris Lloyd had the opportunity to travel to the Kenyan city of Mombasa to witness the astonishing work that European Tour-supported charity Glad’s House do for poverty-stricken street children. It inspired him so much he recently returned to lend his support to the dedicated volunteers.
During his travails on the Challenge Tour, immediately after the 2012 Barclays Kenya Open, the young Englishman made the life-changing journey to Mombasa.
In the Pro-Am prior to the one of the longest-running tournaments in Challenge Tour history, Lloyd had his bag carried by a Kenyan caddie trained at Glad’s House Caddie Programme, which teaches local children how to carry the bag for professional golfers.
In 2009, The Tour Players’ Foundation, the charitable foundation of The European Tour and its Members, awarded the first grant in its history to Glad’s House. The £7,000 grant got the Caddie Project off the ground, and it wasn’t long before the European Tour Caddie Association (ETCA) added their support.
Three experienced caddies travelled to the Kenyan coastal city to meet the children and provide training for the caddies involved with the programme.
During the five-day visit, the three caddies, who are normally seen roaming the fairways of The European Tour, saw scenes which both haunted and humbled but ultimately inspired.
When Lloyd followed in their footsteps two years ago, he experienced the same emotions and this year he returned off his own accord to continue his support for this great charity.
Funding has since been provided by The Tour Players’ Foundation to offer numeracy and literacy classes for the caddies and more recently the training and employment of a full time social worker who acts as the Caddie Master for the children at Vipingo Ridge.
David Park, The European Tour’s Charity Executive, said: “The Tour Players Foundation and the European Tour are proud to support Glad's House, a charity that does such great work for underprivileged children in Kenya - a country which has a long association with the European Tour.
“It was great to see Chris (Lloyd) follow up on his first visit to Mombasa to see the progress of the charity and the caddies’ project. We look forward to seeing and supporting Glad's House and the caddies.”
This was Lloyd’s account of his second visit to Mombasa:
It had been around 18 months since my previous visit to the Glad's House base in Mombasa and, with it being the off season with my golf, I decided to book a flight and make my way down to Africa.
My trip to Mombasa was about 10 days long and what I witnessed & experienced during this time was amazing.
The first thing that stood out for me was the improvement that had been made to the base in Magongo. There was a notable setup around the base which included 2 classrooms, kitchen and great little library in the corner for some of the children to study.
I was very keen to get in amongst it and on that evening, part of the Glads house team ventured into town to an area called Maboxini to do some street work. This was the place that really stood out for me during my visit last year. The living conditions and the strong smell of glue were just as bad as I had remembered. However, despite this, a warm smile and hello from the kids was never far away.
A huge part of the children's lives in Mombasa is sport especially football and they were all too keen to get me out on the field with them to enjoy a kick about. Their enthusiasm to play was amazing and I'm sure if they could they would play all day long. Despite the boiling hot conditions and the sun beating down we played for around an hour on pitch consisting of sand, dirt and the odd patch of grass.
Everyone on that pitch loved every minute of it, especially me, as the boys chanted the name Rooney every time I had the ball at my feet!
During the rest of the first week I was able to witness the day to day comings and goings in and around the base. From the boys doing their 4 hours a day boxing with Bokey, children coming into the cyber cafe to finish off homework and also visit the base to have lessons in English, Maths and Science.
I was becoming all too familiar with the hectic hustle and bustle lifestyle in Mombasa. I will never forget the daily ride into town on the Matatus (semi-regulated minibus service) and taking the occasional tuk tuk to wherever I needed to be.
Over the weekend I had the chance to see the other side of Mombasa and take a couple of trips to the coast. Clear blue water and white sandy beaches created a very nice backdrop to admire. However with my track record of getting sunburnt I was admiring the view from the shade to keep myself out of harm's way.
I had now spent over a week in Mombasa and apart from the heat I was loving every second of it. I was no longer known as Chris but simply as Rooney, whether I was on the football pitch or not!
On the penultimate day I visited Vipingo Ridge golf club about 40 minutes outside of Mombasa to do some work with the Glad's House caddie programme. The caddies were split into groups of 8 and given the chance to both caddie and play some holes too. This gave me the opportunity to watch and give some tips to help them improve as caddies but also as golfers.
I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness of the caddies to learn and understand more about the game.
From things like where to stand on the tee box to understanding the slopes and breaks on the greens. And from a golfer's point if view, some of them can really play!
On the final day in Mombasa I had the privilege to be involved in Papasa. Kids from town are given the opportunity to come and play football on a local pitch. This consisted of about 20 players a side and a referee that nobody really listened to! All the kids wanted to do was score!
Once the game was over everyone heads back to base to freshen up and grab some food. Soap, fresh water and hearty meal is provided and, with kids everywhere, the atmosphere is certainly a lively one. But for these kids this meal and/or wash might be one of the only opportunities they get during the week to do all of these things and be safe. That's the scary part of it all.
After heading back to the guest house to freshen up I then headed to the airport to start the long journey home via Nairobi. The long stint of travelling gave me ample time to reflect on a truly memorable 10 days and it didn't take me long to come to a very positive conclusion regarding the work Glad's House does.
The work they do is nothing short of amazing and the opportunity that is created for the kids is something that we would take for granted in a heartbeat. And I can honestly say the children are just as inspiring. Despite having very little in their lives a smile is never far away.
I'm proud to be associated with Glad's House and also an Ambassador for the charity. I cannot wait to make another return visit to Mombasa. After only learning about Glad's House 18 months ago it didn't take very long for the kids to grow on me and for me to really appreciate and understand the work Glad's House do.