Thirty-six-year-old Rosemary Kapondi, fondly known as ‘Maradona’, is a household name in the football fraternity. Rosemary previously played for Kenya women’s national football team, Harambee Starlets, as a goalkeeper. Her love for football can be traced way back while studying at Heshima Road Primary School in Nairobi.
“I was born and brought up with boys and so it happened they influenced my life much while I was young,” Rosemary starts off our interview. This saw Rosemary fall in love with games associated with boys. “I have been playing football for as long as I can remember. Football has made me who I am today. I have played in the Kenya women’s national football team – Harambee Starlets – for more than 10 years. I was in the team when it played in the African women’s Cup of Nation in 2016 plus I have participated in many other local and international matches and in various women football clubs in Kenya,” she remarks.
Although she notes that sporting is yet to be fully embraced in the country as a profession, Rosemary is determined to nurture young talents and change the narrative. To realise this dream, she started the Dandora Dumpsite Rehabilitation Group (DADREG) where she rehabilitates talented children living in the Dandora dumpsite and in the process she offers them education. “Currently, we have over 81 children in the organisation who are being trained in various fields such as football, karate and other games.
In addition, we pay school fees for them. I know education is important. We can’t ignore its impact in changing lives and the opportunities it brings forth. I did not get it when I was young and I had to go
back to school as a grown up. To make sure these children don’t miss out on education, I have used sports as a bait to have them in school. It’s not easy as some of them have been working at the dumpsites for almost all their lives and so it has been a struggle to change their lifestyle,” she explains.
The organisation is in the process of building a permanent school where all children she is supporting
will be enrolled. “As for now, we have collaborated with the best performing schools in Dandora to educate our children but we are currently building a school in order to bring all the children together,” notes Rosemary. She reveals that with their school, they will be able to cut down expenses hence accommodating more children in the programme. “We will also be able to monitor our children closely thereby concentrating on their strengths. After the school is complete, we plan to build a community library where the people around can access books as well as study from there,” she says.
She reveals that one of the measures they have put in place to ensure the rehabilitated children don’t return to the sites is to help their parents lead decent lives by training them life skills which they then use to start a business or look for employment.
“Most people who stay or work at the dumpsites are not educated and they don’t have skills to help them look for a job. I therefore get in touch with the children’s parents and train them on various courses such as tailoring and hair dressing so that they can earn a decent living,” she says.
Rosemary also goes ahead to secure housing for them and pays three months rent upfront and also gives them capital to start a business. Be that as it may, DADREG is also building houses for some of the families that have been relocated from the dumpsite in order to give them decent homes. “Life in the dumpsite is pathetic and most women don’t want that kind of life but they don’t have an option. We have partnered with well wishers who helped us to purchase land and we are now building houses for these women,” she notes, adding that before mid this year, they will have built houses for 78 families.
Rosemary Kapondi’s Future plans
She further adds that her goal is to make sure they get a field that will help the young stars to develop their talents through practice. “It hasn’t been easy. We have worked hard to be where we are. We still have a long way to go but we believe we will achieve most of our goals,” she notes.
She is also putting structures in place for the inception of a daycare and an early childhood education programme where women will be dropping their children and then go to work. “Most women, living in lower-end estates like Dandora, are not in a position to employ house girls so we will be helping them to look after their children during the day as they go on with their jobs. They will be picking them in the evening,” says the mother of one.
Rosemary says that she is well aware of the challenges such women go through having been brought up by a single parent. “I was brought up by my mum and Rosemary monitoring DADREG tailoring beneficiary.