VIPINGO RIDGE is a resort golf club with a mission. Designed by former Kenyan Open winner, David Jones, and located in 2,500 acres some 27 miles north east of Mombasa this idyllic setting provides wonderful views across the Indian Ocean and perfect playing conditions. But there is much more to it than that.
What Vipingo Ridge does, most importantly of all, apart from simply delighting golfers, is deliver a massive benefit to the community by working with a local charity to improve the grisly plight of the street children of Mombasa.
An English girl, Victoria Ferguson, who worked as a volunteer with the street children as part of her gap year, founded the charity in 2006. Appalled at the routine glue sniffing many of the youngsters indulge in as a way of staving off hunger, Ferguson recruited her mother and father to provide sufficient financial backing to open a small centre where the youngsters could go to for food and shelter. She called it Glad’s House after her grandmother Gladys Galloway who had looked after far more fortunate children as a nanny.
Glad’s House expanded rapidly and now helps fund and integrate many of the children into families, whilst educating and introducing the older ones to places where they can work. The shelter is always open to provide the opportunity for these children simply to be children rather than sad young scavengers. And many of them love sport.
Football is their main passion and there are now a number of teams in the Coastal Kings and Queens side for boys and girls. Then there is a boxing club, basketball teams and golf. And it is through golf that many of them are working as caddies which is where Vipingo Ridge Resort comes in. The Baobab club, the first of a scheduled pair of spectacular loops of 18 holes, trains and employs a selection of those street children who are interested in earning a regular wage and also learning to play golf.
The directors of Vipingo do what many other clubs in the area do not, namely ensure that the caddies do not have to live off tips alone which often results in unseemly scrums forming when visitors arrive, as hard up bag carriers hustle for business. At Vipingo the caddies keep tips on top of their monthly earnings.
Former street girl, Janet Otieno, now works full time at the club. She says, ‘When I was roaming the streets of Mombasa I did not think that one day I would be in a place like Vipingo Ridge, let alone playing golf. I did not know anything about golf! Here we are paid a salary at the end of the month and we are also allowed to play golf every Tuesday and, for this, I will always be grateful to Glad’s House.’
The European Tour, including the Challenge Tour which plays annually in Kenya, plus the European Tour Caddies Association have all provided help with the tour caddies assisting new recruits to learn the skills required when carrying a bag.
But what the Vipingo caddies of all levels of experience are desperately short of is decent clubs to play with on their Tuesdays off and some of them are very talented indeed, especially given the poor standard of kit most of them are using.
So, in January a container leaves for Kenya with space on board for any men’s or women’s clubs that you no longer use and that are just gathering dust in the attic or garage. For any more information simply contact firstname.lastname@example.org or StephenKillick@royalashdown.co.uk and help improve someone’s life through your generosity.
The Blogger at Vipingo with Safari; caddy, 16-handicapper and former street boy.