Philanthropic Ivorian couple puts smile on slum through tennis
Kenya has produced several tennis champions including Angela Okutoyi, who was the first female Kenyan to play and win a junior Grand Slam match at the Australian Open early this year
However, most of the budding players, who would wish to hone their skills, have had to grapple with several challenges including lack of kit and more so playing on dusty surfaces.
Playing at well-equipped public clubs is sometimes impossible to the players due to prohibitive costs of hiring the facilities thus the notion that tennis is for the rich.
The ideology that tennis is a sport for the privileged few has been put to rest, thanks to the philanthropy of Ivorian nationals Alfred Aka Anoh and his wife Faith Aude - Liliane.
The couple came to Kenya in 2017 and unbeknownst to them, the country was teeming with immense talent which they were only too eager to exploit.
“We booked the plane from Abidjan (Cote d’ Ivore capital) to Nairobi and in tow was our son who was eager to see what was up the sleeves of his Kenyan counterparts, ‘’ Faith said.
“It was one sunny weekend in a tournament and the boy was excited at how Kenyan players were hard-working but that was not the point. The ball was in my court on how best I should assist most of those underprivileged kids,” she noted.
Faith’s interest in the rapid rise of the game in Kenya was informed by the greatest talents the country was increasingly churning.
Faith and Alfred started an initiative dubbed A Smile is Possible, a foundation tailored to bringing smiles to kids from less fortunate communities.
It took a short while for the newly formed foundation to organize a tennis tournament that players predominantly hailed from Kibera slums.
“We do this from our pockets. No one sponsors us and we merely get things moving from our little savings,” said Faith after a tournament.
“It is amazing and that’s why I have been saying I will burn the midnight oil to ensure that I make a contribution that will impact positively in their careers,” she said.
During the tournament, kids got the chance to mingle where they shared different stories of their life and journey in tennis as they aim to emulate established players such as Okutoyi and Changawa. The tournament, which was under the management of top national coach Veronica Osogo, of Zion Zone Tennis Foundation, saw 100 kids of both genders partaking in an inaugural age-group set-up.