An RAF based charitable appeal has reflected on completing 15 years 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, began in late May 2006 in the run up to the World Cup and 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.
The Appeal has been an exceptional success since its inception delivering 279431 items, including 81724 football shirts to 58 countries worldwide to date. The Appeal and its fabulous kit donors have improved the lives of so many young people and adults across the globe through the love of football. Items have been distributed in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia to the less fortunate, bringing a smile and essential aid. Items have reached small African villages as well as the huge ‘Slum’ towns of Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria as well as to mountain villages in the Peruvian Andes, refugee camps on the Syria/Turkey border; war torn Afghanistan and Iraq; diverse areas in Pakistan, India and across the Middle East and South East Asia. The items have assisted people from across all genders, faiths and beliefs portraying the truly diverse and inclusive reach of football and its ability to bring people together.
The Appeal has been fortunate in having a huge number of donors, from individuals to clubs throughout the grassroots landscape up to the League and Premier League clubs to The FA and England. Through the 15 years there have been some continuous donors; The FA/England, Shrewsbury Town, Manchester United Foundation, QPR, RAF FA and Sheffield & Hallamshire CFA member clubs. Many more have joined the Appeal on its fabulous journey, including Hampshire FA, Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion, Durham FA, Dorset FA, Derbyshire FA, Worcestershire FA, Essex FA, Wallsend Boys Club, Wiltshire FA, Handsworth JFCto name but a few. . There have been so many donors the kits would appear endless and the Appeals success has been down to each and every one of them.
Neil said; ‘The Appeal, which began at RAF Shropshire back in 2006, has been an unimaginable success. We have been fortunate to deliver so much ‘Aid’ through using the global love of football and have, hopefully, assisted in improving the lives of so many. Whilst Kenya, in East Africa, is the biggest recipient for the kit with most being distributed in the slum towns of Kibera, Kibagare and Mathare, we continue to deliver items across the world. It has certainly had its challenges with the logistics of deliveries and in the past 18 months of the global COVID pandemic, but this has made our deliveries more important than ever for those 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 was rescheduled for April 2021 and now is pencilled in for Nov 2021!
I am amazed the Appeal, born out of a tipsy conversation in a bar, is now 15 years old. 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. The Appeal would like to thank so many people for making it all possible but with special thanks to the main Appeal organisers: Tony Kinchley, Charlotte Hope, Helen Hope, Irene Nyambura, Louise Simpson, Mark Smales and also the teams at BATUK, RAF Brize Norton and R&D at RAF Shawbury.”
For more information contact:
Wg Cdr Neil Hope MBE
SO1 DAAM & Hd BM Assurance
Name: Wg Cdr Neil Hope MBE