A seaman has cut a niche in the martial arts field of Karate through nurturing children from underprivileged families in Kasipul constituency in the sport, which has sent ripples among karate giants in Nyanza region.
Mr Olafur Halldorsson, a retired sailor and a citizen of Iceland married to a Kenyan, is the director of little known TAKK Kenya Orphanage which has excelled in Karate sporting.
TAKK Kenya orphanage is located about one-kilometre Oyugis from town
Mr Olafur says he came to Kenya in 2017 after he got an early retirement at the age of 59 as a seaman in his home country of Iceland.
He says while in his travels in Kenya, one day he came to know of the orphanage after he was offered a shelter for a night.
“When I woke up in the morning, I was surrounded by children who were in a very bad condition, children suffering from malnutrition and very needy,” he said.
Olafur said that was when he got the call “Can’t I do anything about the situation?” he thought and said if you don’t do anything about this you are a dog.”
It is now six years since he started supporting the orphanage, which he later took over as the director and a karate trainer.
He says children as old as two months abandoned in various places in the sub county are referred to the orphanage through government agencies such as the police, Children’s Service department and hospitals for care.
Olafur says some of the children are HIV positive and they need a lot of care and constant supply of drugs, some yet to get over a very traumatic past.
“I try to give the children a good life as much as possible with the means we have,” he said
Mr Olafur says as an organisation they try to raise the children in a way so that they become of good character.
“A number of the orphans are enrolled in government schools where we offer our support to them so that they get the best education,” he said.
Elsa Akinyi, the manager in the organisation said the children only come in the evening to eat and sleep.
“Apart from education we also as an organisation train the children in sporting activities,” Akinyi said.
She said the new education curriculum recognises the place of talent and how to nurture it among learners.
She said as an organisation taking care of children they identified three games that they deem quite relevant and manageable within the set up: volleyball, football, swimming and karate
Ms Akinyi said luckily, when we started training the first cohort of students on sports many developed interest in karate especially the boys.
“I think the children thought karate was interesting given the fact they were being trained by the director,” she chuckled.
“Karate so far has become the epitome of our institution,” Ms Akinyi said, adding we are already sending ripples across the county and Nyanza region competing with experienced teams such as Ringa Boys, Kisumu Boys, Kisumu Polytechnic and many more.”
She said from the trophies and medal awards they have won, TAKK orphanage karate is a team to watch saying it has already rattled established karate clubs.
Indeed, a quick scan in her office reveals a pageantry of trophies and medals won during previous competitions
The manager said TAKK orphanage as a Junior Karate club has participated in four competitions in the year 2022 and gave a streak of successes.
“The team was the first runners-up in the national inter –counties and institutions karate competition 2022, cadets male team Kumite,” Ms Akinyi said.
She said during the Kisumu open 2022 championships the team took position 2, winning a silver medal.
“TAKK orphanage Kenya took position one at both the Taifa Open Karate championship in Mombasa and Kisii championship,” she said.
She said karate training in the organization started in the year 2021 saying despite initial training hiccups like the community around the institution thought they were training criminals because of the shouts that accompany karate training, they have been able to excel and now the community appreciates what they are doing and have since become supportive.
“We have won two gold medals and a silver, you see,” Ms Akinyi said adding that after the Kisii championship the boys gained new energy, and as an organization they were encouraged to employ a coach and hope to participate in international tournaments,” she said
The manager said initially the director Mr. Olafur was the trainer.
“As a young man I was I trained in karate. It is a good sport in many ways,” Mr. Olafur said
He said given the children they have who are from diverse backgrounds, some even with traumatic past, karate makes one disciplined, it brings feelings of honour and it gives a sense of respect to self and others in society.
Other important aspects of karate the director said includes helping in meditation, being mindful and calm.
“Karate also makes people remain rooted in themselves and society and generally one gains skills to defend themselves against attacks,” he said.
Apart from sports Mr Olafur said they try to nurture the students in a way so that those who are good in academic work are helped to excel and those not so good are trained to gain vocational skills in sewing, knitting and in sports so that they can use the skills to earn a living.
“This I do from my pension and the support I get from friends mostly from a Facebook page I created,” he said.
Mr Olafur said currently they have around 50 orphans in the organisation, some are in secondary schools, one in university, and another waiting to join university this year.
The director said some of the students in karate club can earn a living adding that one or two can become trainers in karate. However, he said there is need for the students to acquire higher education.
“I want the students to get higher education because it is what can take them out of the trap of poverty,” he said.
Felix Ochieng is one of the students in the orphanage. Ochieng is the team leader in the orphanage’s karate club.
“I was taken in when I was in Form-two,” he said.
Ochieng is still accommodated in the orphanage and is waiting to join university this year to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Medicine
He says he has been the karate club team leader and he loves it so much.“Karate makes one disciplined and remains focused in life,” he said.
By Moseti Julius