To whom much is given, much is expected. Social media is by far the biggest gift of the 21st century and because of its magnitude, it has impacted the lives of millions of people around the world. With almost 3 billion monthly users, Facebook is one of the most influential social media platforms. It connects people from all walks of life, giving them access to unlimited information and making the world a small global village.
Facebook acknowledges the individuals who are using their online spaces for good and are championing a better and safer world. One such individual is Shiku Waithaka, founder of Sports for Change – an organization which has directly impacted 50 students by paying their school fees and indirectly impacted 500 students by supporting various schools with equipment and training. Her small acts have had a big impact on her community and this is her story.
Shiku Waithaka is the founder and CEO of Sports For Change, a non-profit organization that supports underprivileged, gifted children in Kenya. She describes herself as adventurous, easy-going and one that loves to make new friends. She traces back her love for adventure to thirteen years ago when she joined a running club that now goes by the name Urban Swaras. Shiku received a couple of medals for the marathons but felt that she wanted to move on to the next challenge; something bigger and better.
Her next challenge was what is dubbed as The Most Beautiful Marathon, the Capetown Two Oceans 56km marathon. It was during her long and tedious preparation for the race that she realized that she wanted to do more than just run a race and be done with it. She wanted to use the influence and connections she had gotten over the years to impact change in someone else’s life. With the help of her close friend Sonja Reifler, the charity Sports for Change was born.
Sports for Change has been in operation for over ten years now and has raised school fees for more than 50 students, and supports many others through their holiday mentorship workshops. Three students in their program recently joined different universities with one of the students going to pursue a course in computer science.
As the founder and CEO, Shiku’s role is to organize and coordinate fundraising events and connect with supporters that are willing to join the Sports for Change family and sponsor the students. These events include adventure sports like the famous Plascon Colour Run which was an effective way of raising funds before all events were cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.
The Merging of Sports/Adventure with Education.
In 2008-2009, Shiku was part of the Kigumo endowment fund that was initiated by then Kigumo MP, Jamleck Kamau.
“We received a lot of applications from students who were passionate about education. We did the selection by doing home visits for all applicants. This exercise exposed me to situations I had never imagined existed. There were families out there living in very poor conditions. Yet their kids had passed with good marks.”
After this experience, Shiku decided that she would do whatever she could to support a few kids who were in similar situations. It was then, that she made the decision to dedicate her passion for adventure to fundraise and fully support the cause she had envisioned.
Shiku reiterates that adventure and sports play an important role in providing outdoor lovers with ways to escape the stress they might experience in their daily lives especially during the current state of lockdown and movement restrictions. She feels like the outdoors has a way of bringing people together for the purpose of networking and connecting on a more significant level.
“Most of our students come from deep interior areas where we go hiking. They must be bright students. We clarify details by checking their report forms followed by a home visit to confirm their cases. It is our greatest wish and hope that we will be in a position to support hundreds of deserving kids each year. All we need to achieve this is to get more supporters and partners on board.”
Her journey with Facebook.
Shiku credits Facebook as being the main platform that she uses to reach out to potential donors and advertise upcoming adventure events. The Sports for Change Facebook page is also used as a platform where supporters can keep track of the students’ progress as Shiku and her team post regular updates of the organization’s beneficiaries and how they are faring. She admits that most of the events, such as the Plascon Colour Run, wouldn’t have been as successful as it was, had they not had the exposure that is made possible by Facebook.
“Facebook is our main advertising platform for adventure sports events like hiking, kayaking, water rafting and running. Very few groups organized hikes then. This gave us a unique opportunity to reach out to adventure lovers, connect people, explore our beautiful country and make a change.”
Shiku explains that a strong online presence is really important to all organizations because the world is going digital and the Internet gives us access to a global market.
“Having an online presence helps in building a brand or organization in terms of visibility and credibility. The world can learn about our work by going online. We have received support from people who we have never met physically. They read about us and decided to be part of our success stories.”
Important milestones achieved by Sports For Change.
Shiku’s efforts in helping underprivileged children to get quality education have been noticed and celebrated by Facebook, under the “Small Act Big Impact” campaign which applauds individuals like her who are using their online platforms namely Facebook and Instagram to better their communities and inspire other people to do the same.
“I am very humbled by this. It is a clear indication that the small deeds we do with passion to help others do not go unnoticed. Definitely, the candles we have been lighting for our students are shining as bright as their success stories.”
Sports for Change has also managed to support its students at the university level. Shiku notes that getting a scholarship for one of her students who is studying electrical engineering in India was a big milestone for the organization. When asked what she attributes all her milestones to, Shiku says that it is the power of consistency, networking and the success stories of her students.
The ultimate vision for the Sports For Change organization.
Shiku and her team seek to create a community of change-makers who will continue with the ripple of kindness. Her dream is that the students they help will pass the baton to other deserving students and the cycle of kindness and education will go on and on. She also aims to build a mentorship academy that will offer leadership training to the youth with the ultimate dream being to offer 100 quality education to 100 children in the next 5 years. With all this in mind, Shiku is well aware of the unique challenges that her organization faces.
“Our greatest challenge is to balance our students’ sponsorship needs and their needs at home. Most of them lack basic needs. Some don’t have a permanent place to call home, some don’t even want to go home for holidays. To them, the school offers a more comfortable life than where they call home. When the pandemic hit, we tried our best to give food to the most deserving families yet still very careful with their education kitty.”
As a parting shot, Shiku says, “We cannot help everyone but everyone has the ability to help someone. We need to change our mindset, be selfless and help where we can. Everyone can help if the heart is willing.”
If you would like to find out more about the Facebook Community Accelerator program which helps leaders harness the power of their community to turn impactful ideas into action go to this link – Community Accelerator.
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.