A large garbage dump turned into a social football field.
Austin Ajowi, also know as “Baba Yao”, which means “the father of all”, is a Kenyan Football coach from Mathare, one of the biggest slums in Nairobi. When his goalkeeper career came to an early end afer a knee injury, he start to clearing mountains of rubbish in a dumping site on his community. Every night people from neghbouring communities would come and drop their rubbish and Austin would have to start all over again. But he didn’t give up and slowly conquered centimeter by centimeter, meter by meter, each bringing him closer to his goal: build a community playing field for the children of his community, today called Austin Grounds.
Austin became a known coach to develop good female football players, pushing for gender equality, coming to be champion of Kenya. He also began to include more children, to work with the disabled, to help alcoholics, homeless, and anyone who needs help on his neighborhood. He is also co-founder of two based schools in Mathare, Valley View Academy and Destiny Junior Education Centre, with 700 and 300 students respectively.
The neighborhood is strongly affected by the business of an illegal locally-brewed alcoholic beverage called Chang’aa, that is often adulterated with highly toxic chemicals which are added to the brew to make it stronger. Very popular in Kenyan slums, it is one of the leading causes of death in the area. It is produced along the banks of the rivers.
Austin Ajowi keeps working in collaboration with Futbol Más carrying out social football programs, and promoting and developing resilience in children and adults living in disadvantaged communities. Every day he ties his dreadlocks and goes out into the street. Dozens of children hang around his neck. The same scene every day. At 44, Austin Ajowi is still doing what he loves and is passionate about. Something that revolutionised a village, that could inspire a movie script. These children are part of his family and he sees himself reflected in them. People love him and this is the reason why everyone wants to wake up and go to the place that makes them happy, to the place that teaches them values and life skills. That’s why everyone calls him Baba Yao, “the father of all”. That’s why everyone wants to be in that magical place. Everyone wants to play on Austin’s playing field.