TAHOMA, Wash. – In line with Kenya’s Vision 2030, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 SDGs, Kenya’s State Department of Youth Affairs is committed to empowering young people and eliminating obstacles to their productivity. Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 represent 25% of the Kenyan population. The Kabete CARES organization is driving youth development in Kenya, helping to empower and break down the barriers that young people face.
In the Youth Development Policy 2019, the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth recognized that investing in youth development in Kenya would have a positive impact on the country’s economy. Youth unemployment in 2019 was 12.1%. To remedy this, the Policy emphasizes social, cultural, economic and political support for young people.
George Kinūthia Wachira founded Kabete CARES in 2005. Its mission is to foster the talent of young people around its region of origin to help their socio-economic development. Kabete CARES is currently driving youth development in Kenya. Over the years, Kabete CARES has transformed the lives of children and adolescents in Kabete Sub-County, Kiambu County, Kenya. Eventually, the organization crossed regional, national and international borders.
The efforts of Kinūthia and his team have earned them recognition, including recognition from the Governor of Kiambu for their service to the community. CARES is an acronym representing the five main activities of the organization: conservation, arts, rehabilitation, education and sports. Here are five ways Kabete CARES is boosting youth development in Kenya:
One of the objectives of the Youth Development Policy is to foster a sense of responsibility in the sustainable management of the environment. In line with this, Kabete CARES is involved in conservation efforts, including cleaning up local communities and planting trees. Kabete CARES has partnered with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to promote conservation and support school feeding programs. So far they have donated 4,000 aluminum plates instead of plastic plates.
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kinūthia reported that these efforts earned the organization a Certificate of Appreciation in The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. UNEP launched the campaign in 2006 in partnership with the Green Belt Movement of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Wangarī Maathai and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
Kabete CARES promotes talents in music, theater and fine arts. Some of the performers went on to become professional actors and theater teachers. The organization has also put together short films which have been shown nationally to support artists for youth development in Kenya.
The policy also focuses on eradicating drug abuse among young people in Kenya. The 2015-2020 NCD Kenya strategy documented that 3.2% of the population abuses alcohol and 7% of children aged 10-14 are tobacco smokers. Alcohol and drug abuse among young Kenyans has been linked to irresponsible sexual behavior, crime and mental health problems. Poverty and peer pressure are the main contributing factors.
Kabete CARES provides psychosocial support and mentorship to address widespread alcohol and drug abuse. The organization has a long-term plan to establish crisis centers where young people can receive help from mental health professionals. Each June, the organization also organizes the “Kabete CARES Say No to Drug Abuse” to mark the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The literacy rate in 2018 among young people in Kenya aged 18-24 was 87.83%. Despite this, enrollment in tertiary education in 2017 was only 11%. Only about a third of pupils enrolled in primary school will receive their Kenya Primary Education Certificate. One way to address this problem is to provide career guidance for youth development in Kenya.
Kabete CARES has invested in education by securing scholarships for talented young people in need, including athletic scholarships as well as training coaches and community leaders. Additionally, the organization has chess programs. Some of the players have gone on to compete nationally and internationally. Moses Kwereba, a member of Kabete CARES and the National Chess Federation, led Kenya’s national youth team to the World and African Championships in South Africa and Zambia respectively.
The youth policy recognizes the lack of safe spaces for recreation and sport in the country. Such safe spaces would facilitate social and character development as well as productivity. Kabete CARES is driving youth development in Kenya through goals to establish sports academies as well as a stadium designed to accommodate differently gifted young people. The organization uses sport to facilitate the development of children and young people in Kenya, especially social development.
In 2009, Kabete CARES created a football academy. To date, he has trained over 2,000 players. Some have played in senior leagues and others have received scholarships. John Mbūgua is one such beneficiary who became a football coach. Some of the Football Academy’s victories include the 2010 Ndogo East Africa Women’s Tournament and the 2011 Kiambu League. Kinūthia reports that Melksham Football Club (UK) has supported the organization with football kits .
In athletics, Kabete CARES has participated in many marathons, including the Kigali International Peace Marathon, the Kilimanjaro International Marathon and the Kuala Lumpur Marathon. In collaboration with Runners Paradise Expeditions and Safaris, Kabete CARES has distributed over 1,000 running shoes to athletes in need.
In 2005, Baseball 4 Africa founder Jim Tamarack introduced baseball to Kabete CARES. Working with the Baseball Federation of Kenya, the partners equipped players in four counties with equipment and training. Kabete CARES is also involved in organizing the annual Baseball 4 Africa national championship.
The Kenya Youth Development Policy Framework 2019 aims to boost the development of young people in Kenya by holistically empowering them. For this, it is essential to support their socio-economic and political participation by engaging them at all levels. Kabete CARES continues to play its part in harnessing the talents of young people through community activities.
The organization has faced many challenges along the way, including dwindling funding. The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected the NGO. Kinūthia, who works in the tourism industry to earn income from running the NGO, said his job has suffered and the organization has suffered. Lockdown restrictions and curfews have also resulted in reduced activity. Kinūthia and some members are finding ways to persevere in order to keep young people engaged in the face of the pandemic. The organization hopes to get more financial support to continue running the programs and boosting youth development in Kenya.
– Beth Warūgūrū Hinga