FIVE years ago, Mike Flynn dropped out of corporate life in Australia.
''I had a $10 million advertising budget but a part of me was saying: 'What is the legacy?''' the former Ikea Australia marketing director said.
After leaving Ikea to start his own agency, Mr Flynn began to drink heavily. ''I was slipping deeper into the abyss. You don't notice it, it creeps up, then one day you're desperate and dysfunctional,'' he said.
His life unravelled like an Ikea flat-pack. His first wife left, he attended Alcoholics Anonymous and was living in a tiny flat in Sydney's Neutral Bay, a long way from the harbour views and fat bank accounts he had known.
His decision to pay to volunteer at a Kenyan orphanage was a ''thunderbolt moment''. He moved there because it was somewhere poor in Africa where people needed help and spoke English. ''I was gobsmacked at the poverty, at the conditions, at the beauty of the spirit of the children and the lack of paper, pencils and sports equipment,'' he said.
Today, 40,000 Kenyan children at 48 poor Nairobi schools take part in Little Sports, a program Mr Flynn launched that adapted football's red and yellow card system to teach children life skills, stop violence and wean teachers off the cane.
He started by volunteering to give a sports lesson at a primary school. When he asked about equipment, they pointed at ''two greasy soccer balls, which we would've thrown out years ago''.
Then out came the girls and boys, more than 300 of them. The boys split into an 80-a-side game of soccer with one ball. The girls played netball with the other.
Mr Flynn returned to Nairobi four weeks later, fired up with the possibilities of how to give children in Kenya access to sports and life skills.
With donations from friends in Australia, he dragged a bag of sports equipment on to a field next to Nairobi's Kibera slum and waited. The first week, 50 children started playing.
When he received program material from Little Athletics Australia and extra funding from The Charitable Foundation, his program moved from the slum into the schools.
Mr Flynn is now married to a Kenyan woman, Rose, and they have two children. Little Sports has employed 200 Kenyan youth, is negotiating with donors and looks set to expand across southern Africa.