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How Far Will You Go for Inclusion?

Dedicated Kenyan Athletes and Coaches Traverse Long Distances Just to Attend Weekly Trainings
Eight people standing around bocce balls on the field.
Special Olympics Kenya athletes during bocce practice.

At 9am on a sunny Saturday morning in June, Special Olympics (SO) Kenya coaches and athletes begin gathering at the Nairobi University sports grounds in the heart of the capital city. They’ve come to train in basketball, bocce and floorball. At least five coaches and 30 athletes have already arrived after taking public transportation, often more than one kind. More are still trekking the distance to the facilities from as far 400km/250mi away.


Victor Lijembe hopes to make the floorball team competing in the next Special Olympics Winter World Games in Turin, Italy taking place in March 2025. He is a committed athlete dedicated to the Nairobi University SO club. There are no clubs where he lives, on the edge of the Kakamega Forest. Even if there was, he would still make the two-day journey to Nairobi University, the location of his first club, the club of his heart, where he first experienced real inclusion.

“I always come back here as soon as I can,” Lijembe shares. “Now that my mother moved to Kakamega, and I moved with her, I still come back here every week.”

This Saturday, Lijembe arrives for floorball practice about an hour after it started. He left his home which 400km/250mi away on Thursday. He arrived in Nairobi on Friday and spent the night with his aunt. The next morning, he got up early to take a bus and motorbike taxi to practice. The entire roundtrip costs him about 2000 Kenya shillings (approximately $15.50), more than the average monthly salary of most Kenyans.

Victor Lijembe: Travels 400km/250m just to practice

While Lijembe can afford the long trip, many athletes and coaches moved further from their home clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic and can no longer afford the travel costs to attend training. Others live closer by but the shrinking economy makes it hard for their families to spare the bus, motorbike taxi and Uber fare.


Even accomplished athletes like John Mwaka, who participated in the World Games in Los Angles and UAE can find themselves short of bus fare. He lives on the other side of town 25km/15.5mi from the training grounds. Instead of skipping practices when money is tight, Mwaka elects to walk to practice, which is happening more often these days.

John Mwaka: Travels 25km/15.5 miles just to practice.

According to Coach Jacky Tabby, coaches travel just as far via public transportation to work with the athletes. “Every coach you see on this field today uses several legs of public transportation to get here. We have jobs and families, but we do what it takes to show up for the athletes.”

For Tabby, coaching isn’t contained to fields and courts. Because she knows most athletes take at least one mode of public transportation to attend training sessions, she requests athletes wear branded shirts. That way, if anything happens during transit, well-doers will know to contact Special Olympics. Additionally, coaches dig into their own wallets to buy water and snacks for the athletes who are traveling and practicing more than half the day under the sun. In the warm-weather climate of Kenya, all team sports, including basketball and floorball, take place on outdoor courts.

Despite the hurdles of travel distances and cost, Special Olympics Kenya athletes and coaches have found creative ways to prepare to compete in local and global competition often taken home gold and proving that inclusion is worth the trip.

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