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Kick it with Kenya

Michele Fugii, 22, is spearheading Kick it with Kenya, which combines a soccer tournament with educatin youth on preventable diseases. - Courtesy Photo
Michele Fugii, 22, is spearheading Kick it with Kenya, which combines a soccer tournament with educatin youth on preventable diseases.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

POULSBO —?In a small village in west Kenya, Africa, children play a game of American soccer.

Amidst the hustle, one boy sprains his ankle.

While some of the children run to grab Michele Fujii, 22, a North Kitsap High School athletic medicine trainer and 2004 graduate, others run to grab the village’s first aid box.

“It was this big,” Fujii said, holding her hands up showing the size similar to a small makeup compartment. “All that was in it were Band Aids. I had to tell them the Band Aids couldn’t fix his ankle. They wanted to pour hot water over it, which makes no sense. But no one has ever told them otherwise.”

The incident, which Fujii remembers from a visit last summer, was the source of inspiration for a project she’s spearheading this summer with Charles Wambulwa, a U.S. certified medical doctor and Kenya native, and Village Volunteers, a Seattle non-profit organization.

The project, Kick it with Kenya, combines the love for the sport of soccer with a youth empowerment conference on preventing diseases such as malaria and HIV. The youth conference also incorporates education on the importance of sanitation and clean water and training in basic first aid practices.

“There are way too many people dying from preventable diseases,” said Fujii, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in human physiology this June from the University of Oregon.

Kick it with Kenya will be in August in Kitale, Kenya.

“It is a critical time to have a youth conference and bring people together from all over western Kenya,” Fujii said, adding Kenya’s violent elections in December resulted in kidnapping, riots and fighting between two of the well known tribes — Luo and Kikuyu. “It is definitely a time for peace rebuilding.”

Chris Franklin, North Kitsap High School’s head certified athletic trainer and athletic medicine instructor, remembers Fujii as a student more than four years ago.

“Michele was a very dedicated, driven student who was always driven to do something in the medical field. From the time she became a student trainer until graduation she was real dedicated,” Franklin said. “The main thing about Michele is that she is a very compassionate person and loves to help others. She is very intelligent and being intelligent, compassionate and having a warm heart are all good.”

Although Franklin sees a lot of kids from the athletic medicine program go on to pursue jobs in the medical field, he said he doesn’t normally see them pursue opportunities overseas.

“But that is Michele,” he said. “That is where her passion is.”

Currently, the youth tournament and conference is in its fundraising stages.

“We are raising money in the states to buy all the supplies in Kenya to help support their local economy,” Fujii said. “It would be easy to get items donated from the states but because of the recent violence, it’s really a critical time to help Kenya rebuild.”

During the elections, villages, schools and health care centers were burned down, 3,000 people were killed and more than 300,000 people were displaced from their homes, Fujii said.

“Right now, it’s settling down but the gang violence is coming out again,” she said, adding another reason to the importance of Kick it with Kenya.

By providing the youth with a place to go and motivation to come together, they will be less likely to get involved in gang activity.

“I don’t think we will have a problem at all in getting the kids to come. These are rural youth that can’t afford secondary education,” she said.

After the conference, Fujii said it’s her goal to get some of the kids hired into schools to speak about preventing diseases, sanitation and basic first aid.

“It would provide jobs and a foot in the door to school,” she said. “Every kid there is so passionate — give them an opportunity and they will take it up.”

Fujii hopes that every participant will receive a solar-powered flashlight —?villages have no electricity — and a malaria net to repel mosquitos.

“If you sleep under it at night it is 100 percent effective against malaria,” Fujii said, adding that many families choose not to buy the treated mosquito nets, which cost less than $5 in the United States, because they would rather spend their money on food.

In recent months prices for both food and transportation for villagers has increased triplefold, she said.

The total cost of the program is about $15,000 for a week of food, tournament necessities, nets and flashlights for 300 kids.

“It’s $50 for the jersey, school supplies, food and housing per participant,” Fujii said. “Of all the donations we receive, 100 percent goes toward the project because that’s where it needs to go.”

Shana Greene, coordinator for Village Volunteers, said they are able to give 100 percent of donations straight to the project because the non-profit organization does charge a fee to student volunteers.

“We do have a business plan with program fees but when someone wants to donate to the project we even absorb the wiring fees,” Greene said. “We are really excited for Kick it with Kenya. Everything Michele has done has been real powerful. She will be there personally to hand out the flashlights and nets and it’s going to be a real feel-good situation.”

If you want to become a sponsor of a participant or soccer team e-mail Fujii at michele@kickitwithkenya.org.

For more information visit www.kickitwithkenya.org.

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