Arsenal.com brings you the latest diary from our Gap Year students, who are enjoying the final stage of their programme, gaining skills in football coaching and experience in local schools overseas.

Henry and Joe are currently working on the voluntary scheme out in Kenya. Here’s the latest news from their travels…

“We worked in Nairobi for a week, coaching in clubs and school teams in Kibera, the second largest area of slums in Africa.

The charity ‘Alive and Kicking’ helped organise our stay and provided transport to and from the slums every day. ‘Alive and Kicking’ is a social enterprise which provides sports balls for children, jobs for adults and promotes health awareness through sport. They put us in touch with Kibera Mpira Mtanni, another amazing community project, which aims to encourage and provide access to education through the power of football.

The four days we spent with the project was a great experience – we met some inspirational community coaches, teachers and children. For the first time in Kenya, we had to coach on a muddy pitch after a night of rain… the few children with boots coped slightly better than those in bare foot!

The enthusiasm and love of the game that we have encountered everywhere we have coached this year was evident once again. There were some very talented players in the sessions and it was good to coach some of the older teams too, although most of the 17 year olds towered over Joe and I. We managed to coach about five sessions a day on various pitches/areas of relatively flat ground, with schools and local clubs bringing teams of different ages for the sessions. It was great to meet and coach so many people in the 4 days we were there, but we felt that we had really only scratched the surface of Kibera.  

On the Friday we coached at the Makini School, which was a more relaxing but equally enjoyable experience. It is a private school in Nairobi with very impressive facilities. The children were again talented and many were Arsenal fans. One 9 year old was already sporting the new home kit – the first time we had seen it! 

We were lucky enough to visit the ‘Alive and Kicking’ factory on the Saturday, home to about 70 permanent staff. Joel Kinuthia from ‘Alive and Kicking’, who had helped organise our week, showed us around. We saw the production of footballs from start to finish; the cutting of the leather panels, hand printing, panel checking, hand stitching, inserting the inner bladder, all the way through to quality control. We even got a chance to try stitching ourselves – over an hour later we had stitched about 5 panels together. We were hoping for a job offer but when we heard that one of the stitchers finishes 7 balls a day we realised we were slightly off the pace!

After this, we visited an elephant orphanage and a giraffe centre before heading back to Nakuru after an unforgettable week in Nairobi. Here we have been going back to the same schools as before. Having been to the schools for 6 weeks we have been able to establish strong relationships with teachers and children, which has been incredibly rewarding and has hopefully benefited the schools. We are looking forward to our last week in the schools and a chance to give out some Arsenal medals!

We then have just one more week of coaching in Naivasha before we head back in Nairobi to fly home.” 

For more information about Arsenal’s Gap Year Internship Programme, contact John Olaleye on 0207 704 4159 or email jolaleye@arsenal.co.uk.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 19 Jul 2011