A woman from Thika’s Makongeni Estate has helped fight crime in the town’s most notorious slums through her Karate club where she trains young children self-defense skills.
Through her Young Dragons Academy that she established in 2008, Elizabeth Rakwaro,45, popularly known as coach has trained over 500 children a cocktail of self-defense skills such as Karate, Kung Fu, basic discipline and other life skills.
Currently, she has 54 children both boys and girls who flock to an open field where they train from 8am till late in the day in their training attires especially over the weekends and during holidays.
Most of the children whom she has enrolled come from the notorious Kiandutu, Kiganjo and Gachagi slums, most of whom are from poor backgrounds. To the girls, the skills help them fight off attempts of rape and defilement that are so ripe in the slums.
“The aim of the club is to train children from the less fortunate families how to defend themselves from danger posed in slums. We have managed to change the lives of many children from the slums by providing them with tactics to defend themselves in case of danger,” Elizabeth says.
She says most of the children in the club are aged between 4 and 18 years, who are still in school adding that sometimes she is overwhelmed by the demand of those intending to enroll with them.
“We train for free and are quite strict in the way we admit in the club. All of them are learners who are doing well in their education. Our training is meant to provide them with additional life skills to make it in the slums,” Coach Elizabeth says.
She says the team has represented the country in Karate at national levels, East Africa region and international level having been to the United Kingdom early last year where they won a trophy.
Some of the trainees led by Mike Walker, a resident of Makongeni estate, says the skills he has learned from the club has helped ward off attacks from petty criminals who wanted to rob him.
Mike, who joined the club aged 5 years and is now doing his undergraduate studies, says he has gotten enough exposure through travels locally and internationally.
He adds that besides protection, it has kept him occupied, preventing him from indulging in undesirable indulgences of life or engaging in drug abuse and crime.
“No criminal can dare waylay us in the streets. We sometimes take the responsibility of defending our estates from criminals. Criminals fear young boys in the estates as they know they have super self-defense skills,” says Mike.
Susan Nyambura, a parent of one of the kids in the Karate team, says were it not for the skills that their children get from the club, the rate of insecurity in the estates would have escalated to very high levels.
“Every parent in the estate has been encouraging their children to join the training sessions because we are assured that they will protect us in case criminals attack our homes. The club is a blessing to us in the slums as we are now assured of our security,” says Nyambura.
She adds that wayward children have also reformed as they become engaged in training sessions, other than engaging in crime and irresponsible behaviours.
The club patron James Njagi said if they could get a well-equipped training hall or a more conducive open ground, they could admit more children.
“Sometimes we are handicapped in terms of space and we can’t ask the children to fund the programme since most of them come from poor families. If only we could get a training hall, it would be more favourable for the children to beat the effects of harsh weather, and we could admit more in the programme,” said Njagi.
By Lucy Lumumba and Muoki Charles