Dickens Omondi Odhiambo has been announced as a winner at the 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards, being named as one of five winners of the Courageous Use Of Sport Award, supported by WWE for his work with the Africa Yoga Project.
Dickens has been recognised for his passion for driving social change in his community, along with his trademark down-to-earth demeanour and smile.
This award is given to individuals who have shown dedication and courage in using sport to improve their communities that have stood up against injustice and discrimination – often at great personal risk.
Now in its 12th year, the 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards will celebrate, support, raise awareness and provide funding for ways sport is being used to help make the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality.
Africa Yoga Project strives to create employability
opportunities for marginalised youth across Africa and to help its communities whilst doing so. Their focus primarily lies with the participants who come into the Africa Yoga Project’s program and leave as certified yoga teachers.
Youth in Africa suffer the highest working poverty rates globally at almost 70%, mental health is traditionally taboo in Africa and tools for stress reduction are not accessible to the marginalised. The impact of lifestyle diseases can be reduced by physical and mental wellbeing practices. Therefore, the need for a mentorship program is high and the Africa Yoga Project try to help find the solution.
Since 2009, the Africa Yoga Project has trained over 400 yoga teachers across 21 countries in Africa. Through a three-year employability program, the Africa Yoga Project teach yoga as a vocation to earn income and provide invaluable entrepreneurship and life skills. The Africa Yoga Project teachers build their communities by leading free yoga classes, providing tools for mental and physical health and promoting change through service. Their training includes both paid and volunteer work for instructors to practice their skills and earn an income.
Dickens was born and raised in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa and did not have time to rest let alone play during his childhood. Along with his two brothers he was forced to join his mother in the streets to hawk groceries, denying him ample time to study. This experience exposed him to numerous risks.
“I did not have time to play as a kid, I would leave school, drop my bag and rush to town to sell groundnuts, and I would be back home at 10pm in the night. I did not get a chance to be a child, I feel like I was exposed to adulthood so early.”
During his time in education, Dickens struggled to raise money for his school fees, and spent the final year of his education outside of school, only going back to sit his exams. His final grades were adversely impacted by the economic struggles his family faced, slimming his chances of accessing higher education or decent work.
Dickens’ passion and positive attitude now sees him as a third-year employability Academy enrollee at the Africa Yoga Project and he constantly reminds yoga students, pose-by-pose to enjoy the noble practice with a smile. He has worked with numerous youth groups in initiatives around sports and arts, and has been involved in countless community initiatives as a volunteer with a number of local and international community-based and non-profit organisations as a peer educator, coach, trainer and a mentor. Dickens has used sports to transform the lives of many youngsters in Kibera where he teaches yoga.
Upon winning the award, Dickens is delighted with the opportunities this will present, “winning the award would gear up our organisation-based programs and even introduce more ideas in line with our mission to help sustain the well-being of our sports leaders and community as a whole.”
Despite the numerous challenges, Dickens is an outstanding wellbeing community leader who has demonstrated striking resilience and is determined to re-write his story.
“Neither my past nor the many challenges I have faced will stop me from being who I want to be, I will work tirelessly to exploit my full potential.”
You can watch Dickens’ story here: