'Kids are going to school because of football'

Back in the '70s and '80s, Canadian civil servant Bob Munro had meetings all around the world. When he was in Kenya and meetings were long, he'd take walks through the slums of Nairobi. It was here watching kids kicking around a homemade ball that a powerful idea came to him — one that would eventually disrupt thousands of young lives.

Munro helped launch the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), a small soccer league for youth in the slums of Nairobi. The organization has been nominated twice for a Nobel Peace Prize and is run today by the very youth it serves.

Maqulate Onyango joined the soccer league when she was nine-years-old and now works for the organization. She uses part of her salary to send her younger brothers to school. 

"When we sit with my family at a round table to talk, they can't believe that they are eating football and sleeping football and their kids are going to school because of football. Up to today for us, it's still a dream and my dad even today asks me this football thing I didn't know that it can change somebody's life," she says.

Sr. Girls Practice

There are 1,800 soccer teams in Nairobi made possible through MYSA - an organization that helps pay school fees. (Dick Gordon)

How football gave Nolan Bellerose a future

Sport can be a powerful disruptor in a person's life. For highschool student Nolan Bellerose who lives in New Westminster, B.C., it's football that set him on a new path in life. 

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'My childhood was really kind of rough and shaky because I was growing up with alcohol and drugs a lot,' says Nolan Bellerose.

Bellerose had a difficult childhood. His mom died when he was three.  A few months later, his dad walked out and was never to be seen again. 

As a teenager, he admits he was heading down a dangerous road.

"I was getting into trouble and doing bad things with the wrong kind of people."

But when Bellerose was given the chance to play football — something he'd always wanted to do but could never afford — his life took a drastic turn.

"It's just changed me so much, made me into the man I am today and I'm loving it."

Bellerose plans to head to college, maybe to play football but his end goal is to become a social worker, "so I can try to motivate youth around Canada to play sports they want to do and see that it can change their lives too." 

The Blue Zone longevity formula 

While sport can be life-changing, research suggests physical activity that naturally occurs in your regular day-to-day routine has more of a profound impact to living a longer life than exercise all at once.

Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, says the key to promoting the necessary daily movement is the surroundings that Blue Zone areas offer.

"[Blue Zone residents] live in environments that nudge them into physical activity every 20 minutes or so," says Buettner.

He cites gardening, walking to a cafe, even doing household chores by hand instead of using convenient appliances, as ways to build natural movement into their days, even in urban areas. 

Listen to the full episode at the top of this web post.