An RAF based charitable appeal has reflected on a successful year distributing football kit across the globe.
The RAF Shawbury based Taking Football to Africa and Beyond Charitable Appeal delivers ‘Aid through Football’ through donated items to impoverished areas of the world. The Appeal, organised by Wing Commander Neil Hope MBE, collects donated football kit from organisations, clubs and individuals across the UK and re-distributes them across the globe to those less fortunate. The Appeal operates from RAF Shawbury, in North Shropshire, through the RAF Football Association.
In 2020 kits donated by clubs from across the United Kingdom, including Premier League clubs; Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa and Manchester United (through the Manchester United Foundation), other EFL clubs, including QPR, and County Football Associations including Hampshire, Dorset, Cornwall, Durham, Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Sheffield & Hallamshire, Nottingham, Surrey, Essex, Huntingdonshire, Worcestershire, Northumberland, Berks & Bucks and Wiltshire. Huge donations have been received from The FA and grassroots clubs including Wallsend Boys Club, Handsworth JFC, Anston Rangers, Chippenham Town, Cheltenham Saracens and many others.
Closer to home the Appeal has received huge backing from Roland Wycherley and Shrewsbury Town FC as well as from the Shrewsbury Town in the Community and many local clubs including Shawbury United, Madeley Sports, Shrewsbury Up and Comers and Shropshire FA.
Neil said; ‘The Appeal, which began at RAF Shropshire back in 2006, has recently passed the incredible milestone of delivering its quarter millionth item of football kit in a delivery destined for Kenya. To date the Appeal has delivered 265000 items, including 78000 football shirts to people in 58 countries worldwide. Kenya is the biggest recipient for the kit with most being distributed in the slum towns of Kibera, Kibagare and Mathare, but, over 19 deliveries in 2020 items have gone to children and adults in The Gambia, Ghana, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Nepal and Zimbabwe. In 2020 the Appeal has delivered 19000 items. This has been a difficult year due to the global COVID pandemic, but this has made our deliveries more important than ever for those living on the breadline in the slum towns of Africa and beyond. Whilst many schools and clubs utilise the equipment, they are also able to use the surplus kit to swap or sell for food and essentials. It is down to the fabulous donations that we are able to provide this essential Aid.’
Over the years Neil has organised delivery trips to Kenya and Nepal. All travellers pay their own way as the Appeal operates a no financial donation policy with those running the Appeal also paying their own way. Neil has completed 13 Kenya trips taking over 70 volunteers with him, as well as 4 Nepal trips. In Kenya the team work closely with the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) and Braeburn Garden Estate International School. The link to the school is through its Executive Headmaster of Braeburn Schools East Africa, John Herbert, who hails from Shrewsbury. In March 2020, a team should have been travelling to Nepal to distribute kit through the Gurkha Welfare Trust and to take on the Everest Base Camp Trek, but this was postponed due the COVID-19 outbreak. The trip was rescheduled for Jan 2021 with 14 people travelling but has now again been rescheduled for late April 2021.
I am amazed the Appeal, born out of a tipsy conversation in a bar, is still running 14 years later. The Appeal has reached adults and young people across the globe delivering aid through the worldwide reach of football. I have been shocked by the support given by a huge amount of people across the UK in donating kit. The Appeal continues to be a huge success and will continue for as long as we can let it. When you see the massive positive effect, it has in the slums and villages in Africa and the mountain villages of Nepal, as well as other places, you realise the impact football can have.”