Waiting for the Tea Leaves to Settle

Frank broke the news late last week—training would be suspended until after the elections. Kibera has a way of becoming a hot spot during election season and a mere presence in the slum can become political. So practice will resume sometime after March 4th.

The Tumaini Sports Initiative’s training has been challenged this year like no other. Resources are scarce; the weather refuses to cooperate; getting nutrition supplements to the students has become difficult due to limited funding and support. A stop watch and training equipment are hard to come by. And now politics are yet another disruption. But the athletes persevere, many of them training on their own when official training is suspended, in hopes of competing in the World Youth Athletic Trials in June.

The global running community is anxiously awaiting the results of Kenya’s election. Ever since the country erupted with violence in 2007, elections are treated with a certain amount of caution. Hotel reservations in the Rift Valley, the famed region where many of the world’s elite complete their high-altitude training, have yet to be confirmed. Running clubs are sending out bulletins on elections and safety. Indeed, our team has had to postpone planning until the elections are over.

Everyone is waiting for the tea leaves to settle.

Following the election, we will finalize plans for our filming schedule this spring. Until then, we’ll hope that peace and democracy prevail, and that we’re back to running soon.

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The Beginning

Welcome to the first post of the TUMAINI FILM PROJECT.

I have long been enchanted by the power of film in international advocacy work; the way it brings global issues into the living room and connects human beings across continents. This interest became much more two years ago when I first read about Frank Murithi, a man who sought to overcome the crime, disease, and poverty devastating Kibera by using one of Kenya’s most sacred traditions. A track and field coach by profession, his vision was simple, yet extraordinary: teach the kids to run. His hope was that through athletics he could provide Kibera’s youth with the discipline, structure, and opportunity that normally eludes “street children.” He may not be able to adopt them all, but he could train them all. For me, a former collegiate track-athlete-turned-humanitarian, this was a story that had to be told.

The months that followed were full of exciting developments, then tragic disappointments, and soon after,  small victories. Frank established an official organization to institutionalize his work (launching in January 2012). I was introduced to a proper documentary film director whom I invited (read: begged) to join us.  Then, just as we were gaining momentum, tragedy struck and everyone involved with the PROJECT went on hiatus. Truth be told, I became much more involved with Frank’s work on the ground than I should be as the documentarian; but I knew from day one there would be nothing traditional about this endeavor.  (I challenge anyone who speaks to Frank about his dream of taking one of his Kibera athletes to the Olympics to somehow restrain themselves from selling their home to help make it happen).

Robert McKee said that storytelling is the most powerful way to insert ideas into the world. This is just the beginning of our adventure as Frank’s program in Kibera officially launches and we work to create a meaningful film. This blog will chronicle the journey of our PROJECT team as we work alongside world-class coaches and athletes in an intercontinental effort to create sustainable, positive change in one of the world’s most devastating slums.

Thank you for joining us!

-Erin