Your name and what do you do?
My name is Mariam Mpaata. I actually wear many hats. However I am the founder of Junior Stars Youth Development Programme. The programme runs various outfits because as you know young people are interested in many things. You have to be creative to keep up with them. So we run the following programmes; Junior Stars Football Academy, Watoto Africa Soccer Academy, Soccer Divas Club, MMM’s Women Series, and Youth Mentorship forums. Our initiatives focus on using football and mentorship skills to bring together youth and women.
Today however I want to wear the hat of C.E.O at WASA.
Tell us about Watoto Africa Soccer Awards – Mombasa
WASA is arguably the biggest annual football festival coast region has seen in a very long time. Since 2012, WASA has hosted a series of tournaments and Gala Awards bringing together over 60,000 young boys and girls. Youth come from community and schools teams to compete in the prestigious festival because of its organized and fun nature. During the gala ceremonies outstanding players and winning teams are recognized and awarded.
Apart from talent search, we also use WASA to deliver paramount messages, this year for instance our theme was Peace through cultural diversity. We also use the same platform to mentor youth in various departments like photography, events management, refereeing, commentating and so forth. We also invite football legends to inspire the youth during the festival.
This year we hope to hit the 70,000 mark, by taking the event to two other counties. We want to reach out to Nairobi and Trans Nzioa. We believe that the WASA concept can be replicated in several other areas because as it is football is a very popular game. It has been a remarkable project. Last year in December we launched it in Uganda. Our dream is to launch in all East African counties as well as other counties in Kenya.
What do you hope to achieve from this initiative?
There is an urgent need to keep young people busy and away from social evils like drug abuse, crime, radicalization and early sexual encounters. During WASA, Youth are kept busy close to three months.
WASA addresses the lack grass root football structures for younger players. There is a need to create fun, structured and competitive football programs for talented young players within the country.
WASA deliver vital messages to youth each year. WASA 2017 theme is embracing cultural diversity for peaceful co-existence. Through this platform we continue communicate important messages for social development.
There is need to provide youth with mentorship and job opportunities. Through our various WASA departments not limited to: event management, photography, and video coverage, MCs, journalism and refereeing young people have been empowered and motivated to pursue that which they are passionate about.
What challenges do you face?
Unfortunately our success has been our biggest challenge. WASA has become a very exciting event and every child wants to play in the games. This means that our budget grows bigger each year. We credit our success to the many corporates and well-wishers that support us over the years but we still need a lot of support. Sponsorship have not been very easy to come by. However the more the numbers the bigger the financial implication. We appreciate our partners for WASA 2017 Taifa Leo and Safaricom for coming through for us.
What are your plans for WASA?
Our dreams is to take WASA to different counties of Kenya besides this we want to take it to the different East African counties. Already Uganda has taken it positively when we launched there last year.
We also want to set up WASA soccer centers of excellence for talented players in the region.
What have been WASA’s achievements?
WASA’s biggest achievement has been the number of children that have played in the games since inception. We began with 500 boys in 2012 and now we proud talk of 60,000 girls and boys. In fact this year alone we want to hit the 70,000 mark. Each time we interact with these young people we aspire to leave them better citizens of their countries.
Another achievement has been corporate support. Some of our notable supporters have been NTV and Safaricom Ltd among other corporates.
Of Course we also consider that having Mohammed Hersi as our new patron a remarkable achievement. For us to be able to achieve more impact, we need a strong focused team and having Hersi on our team we are hopeful that we can reach more youth.
Tell us more about Hersi’s appointment?
This appointment was announced last week and it was well received. The WASA patron is none other than Mohammed Hersi the current C.E.O of Heritage Hotels in Kenya. Hersi has always had a keen interest in seeing this country’s youths develop to their full potential. He knows pretty well the value of investing in the youth. He is one of the few people who believe that young people if supported can make a great contribution to this country and Africa at large. We are honored to have him as our WASA patron. We believe that together we can crisscross this country with the WASA concept and give hope to millions of youth.
Last week Mohammed Hersi, expressed his humility at the appointment and affirmed that WASA was one of the best youth football projects Mombasa had seen in decades. Hersi has been a supporter of our programmes way back in 2009 when we first invited him as our first guest of honour during a football event. Mr Mohammed has since commended our good work and persistence with keeping young people busy. He pledged to help us fulfill WASA’s vision of reaching millions of children across the globe.