Tanzania: Shout-Africa visits the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Youth Park, in Dar es Salaam

A well furnished basketball pitch is an attraction to youngsters liking of this game

A well furnished basketball pitch is an attraction to youngsters liking of this game

By Elias Mhegera – A healthy body breeds a healthy mind, says the old adage. This is certainly what one could conclude after visiting the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Youth Park (JMK Park), in Dar es Salaam.

The Sports Park, which was constructed by Symbion Power in the middle of Dar es Salaam City, has become an attraction to thousands of youngsters.

During the Christmas and New Eve the turnout of youngsters to the grounds said it all, that cities must have sports grounds to the ever-increasing youngsters’ population who have been largely denied sports grounds.

President Jakaya Kikwete (now retired) during the opening of the sports ground

President Jakaya Kikwete (now retired) during the opening of the sports ground

The JMK Park spacious facility includes pitches for a range of sports like football, volleyball, basketball, netball and hockey. Within the space of a number of months, the area, known as Kidongo Chekundu, has changed dramatically in its meaning to the local community.

Previously these grounds were the basis for political rallies, and housed cheap car parks and car washes. Since October 2015 however, it has become a place where sports lovers convene – both players and spectators alike.

“It is a common practice to see spectators outside the fences, especially in the evening time. You get a sense that the games we host under the floodlights have become the evening’s entertainment, not just for the players, but for the local community who come to watch the action,” says the Head Coach, Ray Power.

Shoutafrica.com was attracted to the park after this reporter watched a documentary during the Powering Africa Summit in Dar es Salaam, late last week. The summit had convened a variety of experts and investors in the energy sector from Africa and abroad.

Scores of young people use the Sports Park on a daily basis, ranging from students in tertiary institutions to ‘street children’ who have never been given an opportunity to access a world-class sports facility, and also given educational opportunities through the Sports Park’s partnership with Grassroots Soccer.

“Apart from sports and games youngsters also are taught good manners, life skills, nutrition and other extracurricular activities,” said Richard Mtui, Head of Operations at the Park.

Beneficiaries of the grounds are not segregated according to race or social classes, which is a good opportunity for youngsters to bridge relationship barriers early at their tender ages.

Youngsters soon to go into sports pitch now a common practice in every evening

Youngsters soon to go into sports pitch now a common practice in every evening

Speaking to shoutafrica.com, Adi Raval, Symbion Power Senior Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, said the construction of these grounds was part of the Corporate Social Responsibility of his company, promising that more is to be done to give back to the societies in which Symbion works, not only in Dar es Salaam, but in many other parts of the country as well.

The Symbion Power Plant was connected to the TANESCO grid on Friday, June 3, 2011. Since then this company has done extensive work in the supplying of power to TANESCO, and the machines are functioning well.

The introduction of the Symbion Power Plant to the Tanzanian electricity network helped, to a large extent; alleviate the problems experienced in the country caused by severe power shedding.

Apart from the Ubungo power plant, Symbion has ventured in the supply of power to other areas like Arusha, Dodoma, Central Tanzania and Zanzibar, in its efforts to assist Tanzania get rid of its power woes.

The communication manager is proud that Symbion’s transmission and distribution line projects have traversed expansive rural areas and great ranges of hostile territory, with each landscape presenting a unique set of engineering and security challenges.

During its opening in October 2015 President Jakaya Kikwete said the completion of the park at Kidongo Chekundu, marks the beginning of the new era of the country’s sports history, as it provides various facilities for youth to nurture their talents in a professional manner.

“We are so lucky to have this unique facility and we have to thank Symbion Power and Sunderland AFC for their wonderful job and generosity to us. The onus is ours now to make good use and maximise the facility,” said the president.

He urged Tanzanians to repay the generosity by ensuring that they sustain the quality and standard of the park and make sure that the targeted people – boys and girls benefit from the new park. The president also commended Symbion Power and Sunderland AFC partnership which had facilitated the completion of the project in time.

Kikwete now retired, said his government was committed in developing sports because he knows the contribution of sports in the country’s development economically and socially. Moreover he said the new park will give the youth in Tanzania a public facility and professional coaching, the likes of which they have not had access to before.

Earlier the former president had laid a foundation stone and planted a symbolic palm tree on the site in late 2014 to mark a milestone in the construction of the park. The  JMK Park, constructed to the tune of 2 million US dollars (about 4bn/-), is part of Symbion Power, Grasshopper Soccer and English Premier League side Sunderland AFC’s groundbreaking football partnership with Tanzania.