If last week’s Barclays Kenya Open was readily forgettable for Ben Evans from a golfing perspective, some of the sights he witnessed away from the course will live with him for a very long time.
Evans missed the cut at the Challenge Tour event after shooting rounds of 74 and 72, but before catching an early flight home from Nairobi he visited Mathare, Kenya’s second largest slum, in his role as an ambassador for the World Food Programme (WFP), the food aid branch of the United Nations.
The trip, organised by the Mathare Community Education and Development Organisation, soon put his golfing woes into sharp perspective.
The 24 year old first became involved with the WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger worldwide, after a chance meeting in Spain with Praveen Agrawal, an Indian charity worker who ran a scheme in the Colombian capital Bogota.
During the following week’s Abierto International Copa Antioquia, held in nearby Medellin, Evans visited a local school which was built and run by a priest, and attended by children from displaced families.
What he saw there encouraged Evans to become a WFP ambassador. He recalled: “Guerrilla warfare had wrecked the lives of many of the children there, leaving them with nothing. They all lived in the mountains, with the poorest living higher up. It was an eye-opening experience, and I decided to get more involved with the WFP.”
Evans’ next WFP excursion was to Nairobi during the Barclays Kenya Open last year, when he shared his experiences of life on Tour with the wide-eyed youngsters on an educational visit to Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum.
Returning this year, Evans visited Mcedo Primary School in the Mathare slum, a 2km by 0.3km stretch of land which is home to more than 500,000 people, as part of the WFP’s “Fill the Cup” initiative, which aims to alleviate hunger amongst schoolchildren by 2015.
According to the WFP, there are currently 75million children worldwide who do not attend school, as the poorest families are often obliged to choose between school and work.
Evans, whose clothing and golf bag both bear the WFP logo, handed out plates of food to up 550 pupils who, without the School Meal Programme, might otherwise have gone hungry.
He said: “Many families are so poor that unless these children went to school, they wouldn’t get fed. None of the classrooms have any desks, and there’s not even running water or electricity. But all the kids still seem genuinely happy, so it’s a humbling experience. I’d played badly but when you see the living conditions in the slum you soon forget about it, because golf seems pretty unimportant.
“The WFP receives lots of funding, so my role is to raise their profile and also to raise awareness of the issues they’re trying to tackle. It’s something I really enjoy doing, and even if I only make a little bit of difference, it still helps.”
For more information about the WFP, visit their website here