Pamela and Tom both grew up in in the Eastlands area of Nairobi, Kenya, where working class housing developments exist alongside sprawling slum communities. Here in the city’s industrial center, IYF is bridging the gap between unemployed youth and job opportunities in the fast-growing construction sector.

Pamela describes the neighborhood where she lives as “a place of thieves, violence, drug abuse, rape, and early pregnancy.” On the plus side, her life experiences helped the 21-year-old to develop an inner strength and resiliency. “I feel blessed,” she says. “I feel I can survive anywhere.”

Tom also learned to fend for himself at an early age; his parents died when he was just a boy. The youngest of four siblings, he credits his brothers with helping him to finish high school. Now a husband and father, he’s looking to support his young family.

Eight months ago, Pamela and Tom enrolled in Sport for Kenyan Youth Employment (SKYE), a sport for development initiative launched by IYF and Barclays Bank PLC, in partnership with Mathare Youth Sports Association and Arc Skills. “Our mission is to tap the potential of young people and create pathways for youth employment,” says Grace Karanja, IYF’s Country Director in Kenya.

SKYE equips youth ages 18 to 25 with essential life skills based on IYF’s Passport to Success® curriculum, along with technical training in the construction trade, financial literacy education using Barclays ReadytoWork resources, and job placement services.

A strong incentive for young people like Pamela and Tom is the chance to develop job-relevant skills while doing something they enjoy: playing soccer, or football, as it’s known locally. “I learned about teamwork, time management, and being responsible,” says Pamela of the life skills sessions delivered on the football pitch.

SKYE places special emphasis on creating opportunities for young women in the male-dominated construction sector. Pamela credits the initiative with strengthening her self-esteem, making her more assertive, and equipping her to communicate effectively.

After graduating from the intensive eight-week training, both Pamela and Tom were placed in construction jobs. They are now putting their newfound masonry skills to work. “The fact that I didn’t give up and went through this program has helped me see I’ll make it in life,” says Pamela. “I have the know-how.” 

In 2016, SKYE provided over 500 youth with the skills needed to succeed in the labor market, with IYF expanding its sports-based employability programming to other countries.

Watch the video below to learn more about how Pamela and Tom translated their passion for football into careers in the construction trade.