A multi-million-shilling sports and resource centre will be opened in Siaya next week by former US President Barack Obama and will serve an estimated 1,000 young Kenyans weekly.
Those aged between four and 25 years are welcome to read, browse the internet, play and get hands-on knowledge on eight different disciplines, including farming at the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre, said Dr Auma Obama, the institute's founder and director.
She said the institute has fields for football, volleyball, netball, boxing and table tennis and that so far, 470 children have been registered and about 80 youths and 87 parents are working there.
1,000 WEEKLY VISITORS
“The centre will have about 1,000 young people coming through our gates every week once the programme starts running. This is apart from the parents and the adults,” Dr Auma, who is a step-sister of former President Obama, said at a press conference at Villa Rosa Kempinski in Nairobi.
The centre will be open to all Kenyans but for someone to use it, she said, they have to pay an annual membership fee of Sh50, which she said will be used to carry out other projects.
Dr Auma spoke as the excitement over the imminent visit by her famous step-brother grew in Nyanza region.
Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili said in Kisumu that Mr Obama’s visit should be a signal to the world that no one should be afraid of investing in Kenya.
“He is coming at a time when people of Kenya are united as a result of the Building Bridges initiative by President Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga. We are asking him to join us in the conversations that seek to see Kenya attract more investors and build a vibrant business environment,” said Dr Owili, adding that it is an honour to host Mr Obama, who he described as an international brand.
Dr Auma said she completed the centre with the help of various donors, most of them from Germany.
According to a tentative itinerary, Mr Obama will arrive in Kisumu on Monday and he will have a brief meeting with Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o before proceeding to the ancestral home of his father in K’Ogelo, Siaya, to launch the youth centre.
Dr Auma explained that the former US President was visiting because the centre shares a philosophy with the Obama Foundation.
“He himself wants to work with young people around leadership: taking responsibility for your life, using the opportunities you have. So, we have very similar objectives with the work that we are doing,” she said.
“We really love each other and he supports me. You journalists make a big deal of it and I know why — because he is a former US President — and I respect that. But for me, he’s just my brother.”
Dr Auma said both the foundation and the centre are ways of actualising the dreams of their father Barack Obama Sr, an economist who died in 1982 in a traffic accident.
“It is a fulfilment of what my father would have tried to do if he had the right environment and the right kind of support that I have got,” she said, adding that the centre will be an enduring institution.
“It is a state-of-the art centre for knowledge, learning and excellence, meaning that it is not institutionalised; it is not categorised as an academy or a school,” she said.
“There will also be a vocational centre. It is not a college or a polytechnic. It is a place where young people will have the opportunity to try out different vocations in order to realise that you do not get to the successful place you get to only by using your head and being on a white-collar job,” she said.
In Kisumu, Dr Owili said Mr Obama’s choice to make a stop in Kisumu is proof that the city is a globally preferred destination and urged the business community to take advantage of the expected influx of tourists.
Hotel owners Thursday said they were optimistic of a business boom.
“The flight and hotels are fully booked for the next three to four days starting Fri-day. Considering this is a high-profile visit, most of the high-end hotels we have in Kisumu are booked,” said Ms Achie Alai, the Kisumu County Tourism executive.
Western Kenya Hospitality Leaders’ Association chairman Robinson Anyal said industry players were working with the Tourism ministry on how to market the region.