A team of mixed Military and Civilians have returned from a 10-day visit to Kenya in East Africa. The team of 15 were representing the RAF Shawbury based Taking Football to Africa and Beyond Charitable Appeal in delivering ‘Aid through Football’.
The Appeal began at the North Shropshire airbase in 2006 and has, to date, delivered over 302000 items of football kit and children’s clothes to 59 countries worldwide. Its organiser is Wing Commander Neil Hope MBE, who is currently based at Shawbury, assisted by Flight Lieutenant Mark Smales, also from RAF Shawbury.
This visit to Kenya was the 15th to be completed and the first in 2 years due to the COVID pandemic. Many of the team were visiting Africa for the 1st time. The visit began on 10th Feb (Day 1) with flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport. Bags were then dropped at Braeburn Garden Estate School in Nairobi, as the base for most of the visit. The team are proud to be partnered with the impressive school who also assist, through the Headmaster, Tim Richards, Executive Head for Braeburn Schools, John Herbert, and the amazing Irene Kinchley, with storing the kit ready for delivery and providing transport to assist.
Day 2 began with a 3-hour journey as the team travelled up the edge of the Great Rift Valley to their home for 2 nights; the Naivasha County Club. The first 2 delivery days were in the small town of Gilgil an hour further north. Gilgil is a very poor town with its roots set in the days of the British Empire. These days it has a heavy Kenyan Army training presence. Day 3 deliveries were limited to 2 excellent locations which have become great friends of the Appeal. First was the Restart Centre, run by the amazing Mary Coulson. The home looks after abandoned, abused, and orphaned children. Second on day one was the Saidia Children’s home. The team also spent time paying their respects and visiting the Commonwealth War Graves in the town. Day 4 saw the team again in Gilgil with deliveries to the Gilgil Youth Sports Development Association (GYSDA), Loving Hands Children’s home (with many children who are HIV+) and Tam Tam FC. The first and last deliveries included playing the children at football. A journey back to Nairobi followed for our first night stop at the school.
Day 5 saw the team travel across Nairobi for 4 deliveries at schools assisted by the UK based Porridge and Rice Charity. The schools in Ruritu, Ngando and Dagoretti Corner provide education, between them, for over 2000 children. The schools were Emmanuel Excel, Lizpal, Foresters and Heri. Day 4 began at the Hope House Orphanage in Mountain View estate, where many of the team fell in love with the babies, before a short journey into Kibagare Slum. First stop was the Kibagare Good News Centre, which included St Martins Secondary School. The centre was started in the 1970s by some nuns with 30 children and it now houses over 800z. On a Saturday they also provide a feeding programme for over 1500 slum children. The team also assisted in feeding the children lunch. Whilst most of the team took lunch with Sister Emmah (who runs the centre) Neil and Mark completed a delivery next door at the Bamboo Pitch to Kibagare FC. They were assisted by Taylor Wood and Rob Owen. Rob is kitman with the Leicester City 1st team and was producing a short film during the visit. Taylor is a year 2 university student in Sports Media and the 2 were working well together to produce information for Leicester City to use. At Kibagare FC Rob completed a live Q&A with Leicester City and Nigeria forward Kelechi Iheanacho. The day was completed by a visit to the Pastor Amos Okolo school, with children from 3 to 18, including children rescued from abuse.
Day 6 was a well-earned down day during which most of the team enjoyed a visit to the Nairobi National Park, Sheldrake Elephant Orphanage and The Giraffe Centre. Neil and Mark used the time to sort through the remaining boxes.
Day 7 saw the team visit Mathare slum. This is a very different area than Kibagare, in that it is part very large concrete buildings with large areas a corrugated iron shacks intermingled. The visit to Mathare was partly in conjunction with the Tushinde Charity from the UK which operates extensively in placing vulnerable and impoverished children into schools in the area. The team delivered items on visits to the Stella Maris School, Brain House Academy and Casa Upendo Academy. They then travelled back to the Githorogo area to finish the day at the Starkids Academy, a wonderful small school to around 130 children.
Day 8 saw the team visit the massive Kibera slum. It is the largest slum in Africa with estimates of between 1 and 2 million people living in shacks and with no mains electricity, sewerage system or running water. It was pleasing to see that work had been done to improve some of the infrastructure with some roads added as well as concrete sewerage off flows, although still all open. First visit was to Raila school, a large school on the edge of the area, followed by the Stara School. This is a brilliant school run by Josephine Mumo and most agreed was probably one of the best of the trip. The school was bulldozered 2 years ago by the Government to make way for the upgraded railway which runs through the slum, but Josephine was able to appeal, and the school (totally remoulded) was then rebuilt slightly further back form the tracks (still corrugated iron buildings which get very hot). Next to visit was the small Kimta School operated by the head of the Kibera Project, and our main contact in Kibera, Vincent Kegode. A quick visit to the HQ building (the local water tower) to see the project was followed by Oloo School. Since our last visit this school has also been rebuilt from a shack building to a breeze block double story building, much better suited to children’s learning.
Day 9 saw the last day of deliveries on what was very much a football day. First call was to the Hearts of Ruiru in the town of Ruiru on the edge of Nairobi. The teams are run by a Prison Officer, Mary Mbaka. The team had a fantastic reception and played a football match against the children. The team dropped a total of 5 boxes for the Hearts and various other teams that Mary supports (Jaspers, TOC, Kiviu Village, Mukuyu Primary School and Devki Secondary School). Additionally, the team were joined by representatives from Gitothua Starlets Ladies team and the CCIC Foundation to pass on boxes to them. The last delivery took place in the afternoon at the DR Kampf School in Eastland’s to the Kick Off to Hope Academy ran by the formidable Musa Otieno. Musa is Kenyan football royalty as he is the most capped footballer in Kenyan history. A tour of the school and assisting in the lunch feed fort the children followed before a football match against an excellent youth team, losing just 1-0. Also, at the school to collect was Kenyan Premier League Referee, Fred Akida. Fred collected a box for his village in Uganda and some fabulous Referees kit donated by Tony Payne, a Shropshire Referee. With the conclusion of the visits the team travelled back to Braeburn for the final evening before flying back to the cold windy UK on day 10.
Overall, the team achieved all the goals set before the trip. 18 months of extensive work ensured a successful visit with all the team getting an insight into the poorer side of East Africa and the workings of the slum areas. We met some inspirational people doing incredible work. Neil said, ‘I am hugely thankful to those that came on the trip for their efforts. The trip was completely self-financed, and I am sure that they will all remember it for the rest of their lives, as will those people we have helped in Kenya. In total we delivered close to 12000 items (59 tri-wall boxes and 15 kitbags) across 10 days (8 days in country) to 36 teams, groups, schools, orphanages, academies, and children’s homes during 25 separate visits. This visit is the culmination of nearly 16 years of the Appeal during which we have delivered over 302000 items to people in 59 countries worldwide. Huge thanks go out to all who have assisted the Appeal especially the clubs and people across the UK who have donated so much kit. The Appeal team will now prepare for the 5th attempt at going to Nepal to complete a delivery trip whilst attempting the Everest base Camp Trek in September 2022.’
Kenya 2022 delivery team:
Wing Commander Neil Hope MBE VR – Battlespace Management Force – based at RAF Shawbury
Flight Lieutenant Mark Smales – Battlespace Management Force – based at RAF Shawbury
Flight Lieutenant (Retd) Tony Kinchley – Babcock DCASO Trainer RAF Shawbury
Warrant Officer (Retd) Louise Simpson – Babcock DCASO Trainer RAF Shawbury
Squadron Leader John Feast VR – Wales and West Air Cadets RAF Cosford
Squadron Leader Allison Feast VR – OC 28 Sqn Air Cadets RAF Shawbury/Hospital Administrator
Squadron Leader (Retd) Suzanne Crooks – Secondary School Geography Teacher – Bourne Academy
Sergeant (Retd) Gary Simpson – Fitness Trainer - Shawbury
Mrs Helen Hope – Lead Biomedical Scientist for Cellular Pathology – Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust
Mr Rob Owen – Kitman Leicester City FC First team
Mr Taylor Wood – Sports Media University Student – UCFB – Wembley
Mrs Julie Smith – Foster Parent - Shawbury
Ms Claire Edwards – Marine Accountant/Link to Fulford School – York
Miss Charlotte Hope – Primary Education University Student - Edgehill
Miss Hannah Crooks – GCSE student – St Georges Academy, Sleaford
Mrs Irene Kinchley – PA to the Headteacher – Braeburn Garden Estate School – Nairobi
Donors (Kit distributed during the visit):
AFC Emley, Angels & Cobras FC, Ann Lewis, Anston Rangers JFC, Aston Villa FC, Barton Town FC, Basingstoke Town FC, Boldmere St Michaels FC, Bourne Academy, Brian Adshead, Brighton & Hove Albion FC, Bristol Downs Lge, Charlotte Hope, Charlotte Lucy, Cheltenham Saracens FC, Chippenham Town FC, Chris Phillips, Claire Edwards, DCASO, Dean Keelan, Derbyshire CFA, Doug Hillard, Durham CFA, England/FA, Espial FC, Forfar Athletic FC, Forfar Boys FC, Fulford School, Glenn Frost, Glenn Scott, Halfords, Hampshire CFA, Handsworth JFC, Handsworth Junior Sporting Club, Handsworth Paramore FC, Harbury Jnrs FC, Helen Massey, Helen Plumley, Hillard Sports, Hook Utd FC, Hopes, Hullbridge FC, John Jergas, Julie Smith, Kadar FC, Keith James, Leicester City FC, Louise Simpson, Malcolm Tanner, Manchester United FC, Manchester United Foundation, Marie Kennedy, Mark Haining, Matthew Arnoldi, Navenby Jnrs FC, Newcastle Benfield FC, Nike, Northern Counties East FL, Nottingham CFA, Oakley FC, Oakwood Yth FC, Oxford City FC, Owen Dow, Packwood Haugh School, Phoenix Football Academy, Portsmouth Ladies FC, QPR FC, RAF FA, RAF Shawbury Cashier, RAF Shawbury PEd Flt, Ranjita Ltd, Reka Varga, Securecloud+, Sharon Loe, Sheffield & Hallamshire CFA, Sheffield Rangers FC, Shrewsbury Town in the Community, Shrewsbury Town FC, SGP, Southampton FC Foundation, Southampton Ladies FC, Staffordshire CFA, Store, Steve Agace, Thetford Town, Tony Payne, Torpedo AFC, Tottenham Hotspurs, Vern Edwards, Wallsend Boys Club, Waltham Wolves FC, Widbrook Utd FC.