Golf is a sport which can inspire, enrich and change lives. But not often does it transform a life like it has done for Julius Amos Ndeta, who was living on the streets of Kenya and headed towards a life of poverty and drugs before he was saved by the Glad’s House Foundation.
Just a few years ago, Ndeta was living rough on the streets of Mombasa. This week, thanks to the Glad’s House Foundation supported by The Tour Players Foundation - the charitable foundation of The European Tour and its Members - he fulfilled a dream when he caddied for a golf professional, three-time Challenge Tour winner Phillip Archer, before the Barclays Kenya Open.
In fact, the 24 year old Kenyan now works regularly as a caddie, lives in a house and sends money home to support his family, having lived on the streets for over a decade from the age of nine.
“Being a caddie has transformed me,” said the shy Ndeta, who received glowing reports from Archer on his caddying skills. “I now have a house, and before I lived in the streets. I have many different experiences from this and it has changed my life.”
The Glad’s House Foundation was set up by Englishman Dr Clifford J Ferguson, along with his daughter Victoria, in 2006.
As many as 60 young people living on the streets of Mombasa have been taken out of the poverty trap and introduced to the Glad’s House Caddies Project at Vipingo Ridge Golf Course, which lies approximately 30 miles north of Mombasa.
With the help of Glad’s House, people such as Julius and his fellow caddie graduate Janet Otieno, who caddied for Chris Lloyd in the Barclays Kenya Open Pro-Am, have been given a helping hand through golf.
The game, according to the Glad’s House Director, Fred Bokey Achola, has proven a perfect mechanism for helping youths in Kenya to steer clear of crime and drugs and instead pursue a career which provides instant income.“Golf is something even I could never have experienced before because it’s quite exclusive,” said Achola.
“However, as an intervention strategy it is extremely effective. If I talk to the street boys, it’s very hard to put them in skilled training because they are usually very impatient. But working as a golf caddy, the results are there and then.
“You carry a bag, you come back and you get paid so it’s very straightforward, not like putting a street boy in as a carpenter or as a mechanic. That will take a long period of time and they are impatient. They embrace caddying.”
The street work involves Achola, his right-hand man Jelle A Abdi and other staff introducing themselves to the young people on the streets before inviting them to a camp where they are free to play football and other sports and are also provided with clean water and food. Any form of drugs are banned – according to Achola, 95 per cent of the street kids sniff glue as a narcotic.
When the children play football, the social workers engage in informal conversations with them and try to find suitable and willing youngsters for training as golf caddies.
Julius and Janet, a 28 year old mother of two, were top of this year’s class and were rewarded with the experience of carrying bags for top European professionals.
Victoria Ferguson, who named the Glad’s House Foundation after her late grandmother, could not help but shed a tear when watching Julius displaying his skills on the 18th green.
“This is the reason we do what we do,” she said. “All of our work throughout the year comes down to this. We’re all so proud of Julius and Janet and watching the turnaround in their lives has been incredible.”
Dr Ferguson, chairman of the Glad’s House project, said: “The ongoing support of The European Tour through the Tour Players Foundation is simply fantastic.
“Their support has ensured that our caddie programme is an ongoing success, with caddies now based at both Vipingo Ridge Golf Club and Nyali Golf Club.
“The latest donation is being used to provide accommodation for our caddies on the Glad's House Tecklenberg Farm (near Vipingo) and also to fund a teacher’s salary to help improve their education, and the caddies are all very excited about this.”
Mark Roe, Chairman of the Tour Players’ Foundation, said recently: “We are delighted to play a part in the development of this wonderful charity, which provides hope to so many people in the Mombasa area and beyond.
“It gives us great pleasure to help this organisation lift people from poverty and give them work and education through the medium of our great sport: golf.”
Chris Lloyd's visit to the Mombasa base of the Glad's House Foundation will be filmed and shown on the Challenge Tour Series, which begins on Sky Sports this month.
You can visit the Glad's House Foundation's website and donate money here.