Dedication to squash has given 14-year-old Faith Shirwatzo a precious education and spared her from life as a peasant farmer in rural Kenya.
Faith lives in the Kibera Slums in Nairobi with her father and eight other siblings. A charity called the Sunflower Trust identified Faith, amongst others, as a child in need of support both for literacy and sport.
When her father could no longer afford to pay the £10 per term to keep her at school (there is no free education in Kenya), Faith was set to leave the capital city to live and work with her mother, who is a peasant farmer in a rural area with no access to education.
But Faith was involved in the Savannah Community Squash Programme (SCSP), which introduces squash to under-privileged children in Nairobi and Naivasha.
Noticing her ability on court, one of SCSP’s founder members stepped in to pay for her education, not just at the primary school but at a boarding school. This allowed SCSP to develop her squash talent to the point that – less than two years from her first introduction to the game – she won the Start of Season Tournament U15 category held at the Impala Sports Club in Nairobi.
Samara Stewart, from Dorset, UK, recently raised funds to provide the SCSP with 100 rackets, pairs of trainers, goggles, balls and a rebound net and visited Nairobi to deliver the equipment.
She told Squash Mad: “Faith is from a very deprived background so this intervention is simply life-changing for her.
“At boarding school, she will not only have the opportunity for better learning in a safe environment, but will also be able to spend more time training for squash.”
One of Faith’s older brothers (pictured above) has become her training partner and picked up a racket last year for the first time aged 21. He escorts Faith to training with SCSP as often sessions finish after dark and her return trip to home can be dangerous.
SCSP has Kenyan national ladies’ champion Elizabeth Mulwa and her father, the legendary John Mulwa, on its coaching team.
Building on Faith’s success, not only in squash but in education, the SCSP is initiating programmes in other towns around Kenya which have access to a squash court or where there is a court in the vicinity.
Stewart added: “It is our mission to build great squash talent to represent Kenya on various fronts and also provide an alternative career path to the individuals in these underprivileged communities.”