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Golden Glove girl touches hearts over mental illness

A mentally ill girl from Kilifi County has won an international award in the Global special Olympics games held in Chicago USA late last year.

Mitchel Mapenzi 18 who completed Standard

A mentally ill girl from Kilifi County has won an internationalaward in the Global special Olympics games held in Chicago USA late last year.

Mitchel Mapenzi 18 who completed Standard 8 afterlearning at the Konjora primary school inKibarani ward Kilifi for mental health students special unit won the medal forher extra performance in saving goals for her team during the tournament heldin July last year.

Her soccer team of integrated players (both mental illand normal) from Kilifi County emerged fourth out of the eight teams whichplayed but she was recognized as the best goal keeper in the tournament heldbetween July 17 and 21.

Journalists toured the school yesterday and managed tocome face to face with Mapenzi and her trainer Nicholus Kai at the school.

On outside look one can easily not detect that the 18year old is mentally ill as she appears to be like the normal person.

An excited but shy Mapenzi could not hide her joy forgetting the award in Chicago something that has changed her life and even theperception of the society about mental ill persons.

The girl from a poverty stricken family was initiallybeing discriminated and neglected for her state but now has become a darling ofeveryone due to her achievement.

Last year she did the KCPE and scored 198 marks. Thisyear she will be joining form one at Kiwandani secondary school

“I started my career of Special Olympics in 2014, myinterests were in football soccer and specifically goalkeeper,’’ she said.

Mapenzi could barely express herself freely during thisinterview due to her condition.

However it’s clear on her looks that the trip to theUnited States remains a memorable one and that has become a turning point toher life.

Apart from the adventure and interacting with othermental ill persons in the tournament abroad the society now looks at her as arole model.

Instead of discriminating her each person now wants tobe associated with her as a ‘celebrity’.

She revealed that her parents have been very cooperativewith her since childhood and have never mistreated her like others who are sufferingin the society because of their health condition.

Mapenzi said the parents are very supportive and arewilling to support her to complete her secondary education and pursue her dreamcareer.

Kai her trainer and mental ill teacher said Mapenzi madethe team proud for the success.

He said the girl was among a team selected by FIFA footballfor hope package that aims at training those with mental challenges.

He said the program was launched in three countiesKajiado, Makueni and Kilifi.

“Kilifi has manyprograms , we managed to get training of coaches done at Pwani university that lasted one week , we begun looking forathletes and partners ,’’ he said.

Kai who is a coach at the Special Olympic Kenya said hehas received so many training in the country and now has been elevated to thelevel of a trainer.

Currently he trains coaches on Special Olympics and it’sthrough that that he introduced Mitchel in 2014 to the sports.

“She liked football and mostly goalkeeping, she servesas the keeper at Konjora primary school, and also plays for Kilifi north subCounty team,’’ he said.

The journey to Chicago he said begun after FIFA inpartnership with Special Olympics to initiate a unified Special Olympics in2017.

He said Mapenzi’s school team and the sub county won thetournament of football for hope in Kilifi North Sub County.

“There was a plan for special Olympics to have a unifiedcup in Chicago. Kilifi County had a trained team and it was selected to go forthe tournament,’’ he said.

Kai said Mapenzi during the tournament saved so many goalsand exhibited experience, skills which earned her the ‘Golden Globe award,’’ hesaid.

When they came back to Kenya he said the Ministry ofsports gave each player including Mapenzi Sh. 50,000 as a prize.


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