Walter Machio joined Daystar University Athi River Campus in 1996. When you met him, it was easy to walk by and ignore him because of his quiet demeanour, but a simple chat with him would blow your mind.
During his sojourn in Daystar, he carved a space for himself in the sports fraternity. Every day after class, it wasn’t unusual to find him in the fields or on one of the courts and over the weekend on the buses going for games. He was also the master of sports statistics talks with the rest of the guys during free time.
He started the Daystar handball team with Michael Wekunda, Robert Jings Odupuyi and several others. At the same time he played on the Daystar soccer team as a central defender. Due to his passion for Sports, he was elected into Daystar University Student Association (DUSA) as the Sports Chairperson in 1999.
Fast forward to 2015 and meet Walter, a recognised face and reliable source of accurate Kenyan Sports information through the award winning website www.michezoAfrika.com. He leads a team of sports lovers and reporters who attend and cover local sports events as well as reach out to young people through sports.
Upon graduation from Daystar in 2000, Walter pursued the event business; an art he learnt while at Daystar. In 2004 when his love for life transformation and sports took the front seat, it led him to begin working with young people. That year he joined the Ngong Road Base Ligi Ndogo where he spent four years building and testing his idea that lives can be transformed for the long term using life skills taught through sports.
The Michezo Afrika Dream was born in 2006 but it took 3 years to take it’s first business step in 2009. Michezo Afrika is a broad idea that has two major prongs namely Michezo Afrika Limited and Michezo Afrika Foundation .
The Michezo Afrika Foundation is the life transformation arm. Its philosophy is simple and two fold. First, start a program in a locality, teach the children to play sport, and this will help teach life skills and provide drive. Second, train coaches and mentors from the locality to keep the program operational long term. This strategy has proven to be the key in ensuring continued success of the established programs.
Since the onset they worked to not only create sports programs that help the young people but also to engage adults in the locality to manage and keep the said programs alive. When they started the programs in Mukuru in 2009, there was great resistance from the parents. Many of the parents were weighed down with their responsibilities and did not have time to engage with their children. Their disengagement with the children was a challenge for the program because there was need to raise locals who would be interested in the program and keep it going in the long term. There was also need for local mentors for the children.
Michezo Afrika Foundation has trained coaches, distributed sports equipment both new and used worth over four million Kenya shillings and set up discipleship centres. They have developed relationships with coaches across Kenya including Turkana, Mpeketoni, Lamu, Mfangano Island, Mukuru, Makadara and Industrial Area Prison. They have seen children from these areas improve their grades and pass KCPE to join high school which wouldn’t have been possible in the past. So far, there are two children with full tuition scholarships in Mukuru and six others who are now in high school on scholarships based on their soccer abilities. These students and all the others who have been through the program and transitioned to high school continue to perform above average in their studies. The work continues.
In 2013, Michezo Afrika moved another milestone by setting up a centre in Bungoma. This centre has conference facilities, camping, accommodation, training fields, team building centre and sports facilities for children including soccer, biking and skating. In two years they envision having a gym and swimming pool.
The focus on this particular village is primarily because of the educational statistics. The transition rate from primary school to high school in this village is only ten percent. This simply means that only ten percent of all the children in this village who finish primary school go on to high school. Imagine with me that there are five hundred students in the village. According to this transition rate only fifty will further their education; what happens to the rest? Walter hopes that through the interactions with the young people all of them will go to high school. The centre currently has forty youth and a full time coach who is paid by Michezo Afrika.
The next level for Michezo Afrika Foundation is the Magharibi Michezo Awards as one of the founding Members. These annual premier sports awards focus on the talent rich West Kenya is in its 3rd year. Up to 70% of Kenya’s team sports talent originates from West Kenya including Nyanza. The hope is that year on year the awards will grow and be able to award many more categories.
It is interesting that the things we enjoyed in our youth can become the threshold for great things later in life. Visiting different places and seeing the power of sports to mobilise communities and pass on messages inspired Walter to do the same. It is important to find passion and it isn’t too hard to find. It is often in the places we have spent a lot of time since childhood that we are likely to find our passion. When we evaluate our lives and see where we have consistently enjoyed spending our time we find pointers. Walter’s passion is seeing people’s lives change and his heart breaks each time he sees people going through hard times. In his view, sports are an enjoyable avenue and great vehicle to change lives.
Though the challenges have been immense, being part of an international board of executives on sports ministry and using sports for his Kingdom has been encouraging. The knowledge that God has a plan for each one of us gives him greater strength to keep going. Seeing people’s lives changed by the work of God from feeling hopeless to heading different initiatives has given him great motivation to be a willing and available vessel for God to use. In his words, “It’s not about me but about allowing God to work through me. If I pause, I stop His Plan.”
As a parting shot, Walter reminded me that each of us must align ourselves to our calling. The journey is not easy and sometimes we will have doubts. There will be the questions of whether to invest in securing family first, get a house, good car, save and then pursue passion later. For him pursuing purpose is the best journey right now and it is very fulfilling. Choosing to pursue purpose has been best because that’s where he’s most effective and God supplies all their needs. It is important to keep our faith as our main driving force because no matter what, God is Faithful.