The Story of Ashraf Ahmed
The direct impact of ELF-Africa’s work is 10,000 young women and men from at least 15 counties in Kenya over the last ten years. But the indirect impact is much more. This indirect impact has been made possible by our alumni who have always gone back to their communities, narrowed down the most pressing challenges and designed sustainable solutions to address the said challenges.
From Migori to Bungoma, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kericho, Uasin Gishu, Narok, Nakuru, Nairobi, Murang’a, Samburu. Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Mombasa, and Kilifi there is at least one community initiative started and run by an ELF-Africa alumni. These initiatives solve challenges ranging from period poverty, early marriages, teenage pregnancies, information gap, crime, school drop-out, mental wellness, climate change, female genital mutilation, mobility, and access to persons living with disability, and maternal health among many more.
Armed with skills, tips, networks, courage, and the charge to serve country and community, our alumni brace every challenge in the ELF-Africa spirit of leadership as service. Their goal being lessening the burden of their people and re-writing the stories of their communities.
This is the story of Ashraf Ahmed of Jilore Ward, Kilifi County.
Ashraf first heard of ELF-Africa in 2016 while attending the World Youth Alliance meeting in Nairobi. Among the speakers was ELF-Africa Founder & Executive Director, Caren Wakoli whose speech Ashraf says endeared him to ELF-Africa. His interest could not be settled until he got in touch with Caren days after this meeting. Since then, he followed ELF-Africa on social media, and took advantage of the earliest opportunity to apply for the Tunaweza programme soon as it was advertised.
Prior to joining ELF-Africa, Ashraf did manual jobs mostly at the Malindi Airport and spent his free time playing football for the local village soccer team. This team he says had been started years back as a pass time for many young men in the village. All the while, early marriages, teenage pregnancies, drug, and substance abuse, as well as low levels of education were not lost on him as his community’s most pressing challenges. With each passing day he hoped that one day all these will be dealt with, except he did not know who was to address them.
Ashraf never imagined that he would be a leader. As such, like everyone else in the community he waited for ‘super leader’ to come solve their problems. He resigned to fate and joined the rest in lamenting to their political leaders and blaming them for not acting. It was ingrained in them that only political leaders with financial muscle and greater influence were able to solve prevailing challenges. He would later learn just how wrong he was.
“I was shy, I never knew that I could be a leader. To me, leadership meant having a title, or a political office. Little did I know that I could become a leader and be a person of influence,”
Ashraf credits his acceptance into the Tunaweza to the personal growth that has happened to him ever since. The six-month leadership program raised his conscience and capacity in effective communication, personal branding, and intentionality. He adds that through the leadership creed that they recited every morning, his sense of responsibility was awakened.
“The leadership creed was a constant reminder to me that I am the captain of the ship”
And a captain he indeed became. Soon after the Tunaweza program, Ashraf rose through the ranks in his local soccer team by being named the team captain. This he thought and embraced as his opportunity to attempt to address some the challenges his community has decried for decades. And he was going to do it through what he loves best-soccer. This strong nudge he says was engraved on his heart through the topic of servant leadership. “It taught us about selfless service to humanity and instilled in me the will to stand up and show up as a leader and serve the community.”
First, he though he needed a political position to better serve his people. As such he ran for elective office seeking to be elected as Member of County Assembly for Jilore Ward. “I grew to be a servant leader after the program. I felt compelled to seek political office. It was in that spirit that I vied for MCA, Jilore Ward. Even though I lost the elections, the experience taught me a lot. It ushered me into politics, and I became more interested in governance.”
This loss did not dampen his spirit if anything the desire only grew deeper. He sank his head deeper into the football team where he started by asking himself how he could use football to bring behavior change. Sooner than later, he changed the team’s routine. Instead of meeting only on weekends, he started mobilizing the players to gather at the community grounds every evening after school. This he thought would be a good way for the students to unwind from a whole day of schoolwork. He says that after an hour or two of an intense match, the players are too tired to go our for any mischief but also have a fresh mind to fully concentrate on their homework.
Before long, parents and other community members including passers-by would fill the sidelines of the pitch to watch the match and cheer their preferred players. This Ashraf says boosted the confidence of the players and saw them express themselves more. After each match Ashraf gathers the players in a circle where older men address them on different social issues. The players also exchange thoughts on different academic issues and even cooperate with each other in completing their homework. Ashraf adds that this cooperation has seen many of the players improve in their academic performance.
Before taking over as the team captain, a role he has since transitioned from to become the head coach, Kakoneni Sports club had only one boys’ team with less than twenty players. There was no girls’ team, they had no uniforms, no dedicated grounds for practice and struggled to raise finances as their relationship with the community was not the best. But applying his personal branding and effective communication learnings, Ashraf positioned Kakoneni Sports Club as a community team and not just a pass time for idlers. He roped in more parents, opinion leaders and influencers around. He deliberately invited many of them to watch the matches and even asked them to share their experiences with the team. He regularly shared the team’s performance with all and sundry every time they played a foreign team. And soon there was great ownership by the community.
Today Kakoneni sports club has three distinct teams; a boys’ team with twenty-five players, a girls’ team with seventeen players and an under-sixteen team which has about thirteen players. The community has also formed a management team that offers strategic leadership and helps with fundraising. Through his leadership and mobilization skills, Kakoneni sports club, now called Kakoneni All Stars has close to 10 sets of branded jerseys. When ELF-Africa team caught up with Ashraf and his team in Kilifi, they shared how it is now easy to raise resources from the community as many people now are more open to supporting the team.
Parents and other members of the community also testified how cases of teenage pregnancies have reduced in their community, school transition rates has greatly gone up, and there is not a single member of Kakoneni All Stars who has been engaged in either crims, drug abuse, or early marriages. Parents of some of the players also happily spoke about the discipline of their children, saying they have fewer domestic cases to deal with than before.
At least six players have secured full scholarships in three different schools, relieving their parents of the burden to pay the increasingly unaffordable school fees.
As for Ashraf, he is a happy man or so he says. He says his efforts in football advocacy are paying off and soon Kakoneni All Stars will be a force to reckon with in the entire Coast region. Ashraf popularly known as Coach Ashy has since been appointed as a board member of Malindi High School
Now a businessman and coordinator of ELF Tunaweza program, he believes ELF-Africa will produce more leaders of value and integrity. He urges the African youth to rise up and offer alternative leadership. He calls upon the youth to make sure they are on the decision tables. He says, “The youth should know that no one will come for them and ask what they lack or what they need. It is time for the African youth to be counted and show up when needed.”
Social Media handles
Facebook: Kochi Ashy
Facebook page: Kakoneni All Stars Community Sports Club