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Can You Fight Poverty Starting with a Soccer Ball and a School?

October 1, 2014

Today’s post is part of AmeriCorps Alums’ REALTalk series on race, equity, and AmeriCorps alumni as leaders.


Ryan Sarafolean

When you think about tools for fighting poverty, a soccer ball may not be the first one to come to mind. Yet, AmeriCorps alum Ryan Sarafolean’s innovative nonprofit, KGSA Foundation, uses soccer as one of the many ways to reduce poverty and gender inequalities in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The core of the Foundation’s work is to build and harness the unique strength of women to lead their communities out of poverty.

In 2012, Ryan received an AmeriCorps Alums Segal Entrepreneurship Award for founding KGSA, and Kibera Girls Soccer Academy is its pilot program. The Foundation works closely with local leaders in Kibera to provide artistic and athletic opportunities and microfinance opportunities to over 120 girls and families every year. KGSA’s next challenge is to construct a 4-story boarding and community centre that will provide both safe and secure housing and a host of academic and health support services. To support this effort, Abdul Kassim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy is travelling to the U.S. to speak about the importance of educating girls in extreme poverty.

Abdul_205Abdul is a fourth generation Nubian, born and raised in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. His mother and grandmother raised him; he never knew his father. After having a daughter of his own, Abdul was determined to create more opportunity for all girls in Kibera. In 2002, he helped girls believe in themselves by coaching them in soccer. By 2006, Abdul created the first-ever free secondary school for his soccer players in Kibera. The school started informally with a few girls, one table and rented chairs. With a stable place to live and study, Abdul hopes that the academic performance will improve and more girls will thrive.

Come meet Abdul and hear about the  work he is doing in his home of Kibera! See highlights from the tour schedule below to see when Abdul’s speaking tour is coming to a city near you! To learn how else you can help and connect with KGSA, email and click here for a full list of public events on the tour.


Thursday, October 2nd Saint Paul, MN
  • Come hear from several different Cretin-Derham Hall alumni speak about their experiences working at KGSA and how it has altered the course of their life and work. Abdul will speak to the significance of the C-DH community involvement and the direction of KGSA.
  • Location: 550 Albert Street S. St. Paul, MN – C-DH Commons Room @ 6:00-8:30pm
 Saturday,  October 11th San Diego, CA
  • On the International Day of the Girl, join high school peer education group Global Arms of Advocacy (GAA) to learn about empowering girls and women through health and education. Hear Abdul Kassim — founder and executive director of Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, a free, all-girl high school in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya — tell his story and those of the women and girls who inspire him. Plus, listen to other guest speakers, work on a creative project to benefit others, and view a chapter of Girl Rising, a film that highlights the power of educating girls internationally. You’ll leave confident in your power to make an impact.
  • 1:00-4:00pm located at the Balboa Program Center – 1231 Upas Street, San Diego, CA.  (More information HERE)
Thursday,  October 16th Boston, MA
  • Join the KGSA Foundation and the Harvard Engineers without Borders group for a talk on international development and sustainable engagement strategies.
    ** Location: TBD, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Email Ryan at if interested in attending
Friday,  October 17th Boston, MA
  • KGSA is hosting an event with MIT. The Topics discussed are below.
    • Location: Building 10 and Room 485 (fourth floor) 1:30 – 3:30pm
    • (1) Brief history of the school, Kibera context
    • (2) Goals in education/how does what is taught at KGSA compare to other Kenyan schools
    • (3) Planning details of building a school in Kibera – I remember you had a lot of interesting planning comments and think it could be of interest to the planners here
    • (4) Challenges – or opportunities for KGSA that could be brainstormed with the folks in the room
Friday,  October 24th Washington, D.C.
  • Abdul is speaking at an event at American University with practitioners and experts on Men and Masculinity in the field of Gender Equality @  5:30 – 7:00pm
    • Location: 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
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