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Spent an incredible week or so in Sierra Leone planning a whole new set of projects, hopefully starting in November 2017. Loads more to follow, so watch this space….

In the meantime here a few photos to whet the appetite.

And yes – WE NEED VOLUNTEERS, so get in touch!



Yup, them balls are bouncing across northern Malawi…

The Great Frootball Giveaway are currently in the north of Malawi distributing thousands more footballs and netballs to kids in some of the country’s poorer areas. Our team of volunteers arrived last week and set off for the north, starting in the Mzuzu region and branching out from there.

If you’ve given us a ball and would like to call the team while they’re out there (so you can experience it live when they give your ball away), then do call them any time on +265 996 618 191 – sure they’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, below is a few words from Caro (one of the team that is out there) and some photos. Will keep you in touch with how things develop.


ps. You may notice that I am not out there with the team, despite originally planning to be there. Unfortunately I managed to break my wrist (playing football – silly boy) two days before travelling – The GFG is a very physical thing and unfortunatley I had to make the very painful decision not to go. Humph. Anyway, enjoy the photos…

A big hello from Team Malawi 2013. Duncan, Karl, Steve, Caron and Caro plus our fantastic drivers Davie and Allon are currently on day four of our Great Football Giveaway tour of Malawi.

We travelled north on Sunday from the capital Lilongwe to Chikangowa distributing balls at the roadside to delighted youngsters along the way.

Day 1 in Chikangowa

We visited over 4,400 pupils between five primary schools, two secondary and two pre-preps. One of our highlights was meeting headteacher George from Mtangatanga CDSS Secondary School whose thanks for the ten balls was overwhelming as he told us the pupils would benefit so much from them and they would help them focus and excel in both their physical and academic studies.

Day 2 in Chikangowa

We visited four primary schools, one secondary school and one pre-school before making our way through to a very rural village. It was obvious to see that this community was particularly deprived and witnessing the excitement from those who received the balls we gave was another wonderful high point for us. On the way back to our base we were surprised by the appearance of some cheeky baboons – no balls for them! This fantastic day was topped off by visiting our host Joseph’s beautiful family home.

Day 3 – The road to Mzuzu

In order to reach more children, the team decided to split into two to cover more ground. One team focused on schools while the other distributed to villages off the beaten track. At one point, a mother whose children had just been given a ball expressed her joy by running to our vehicle with a huge smile and shouting “God bless you”. It’s moments like these that confirm just how positive the Great Football Giveaway’s work is.

This far north we are a long way from the capital and government funding in sparse in these parts. Our plan is now to continue further north and bring huge smiles to children’s faces in areas of the country that are most deprived.

Malawi certainly lives up to its name as being the ‘warm heart of Africa’; the team receives one beautiful welcome after another. Thank you to all who have donated and helped make this wonderful work possible. We look forward to continuing our journey.

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1,736 footballs and netballs given new homes; 67 schools, three orphanages, two care centres and one child’s prison visited; well over 2,000kms covered; nine Tanzanian towns/cities frequented with five brilliant drivers – our Great Football Giveaway project finishes today after 19 days in Tanzania. But I am sure this is not the end. The group now goes its separate ways physically – Rachael and Patch back to London, Chris and Becky out to Zanzibar for a few days, Katherine heading home to Amsterdam and Steph off to the north of the country to take on Africa’s highest mountain – but the work we have started in Mbeya feels to have barely scratched the surface. Or dust of which there is endless in South West Tanzania. 

We have met several people that have had a deep impact on our time out here, three in particular who deserve special mention for the selfless work they do, day in, day out, in their local communities; Deborah McCracken who runs the Olive Branch for Centre, Dr Alex Lengeju running SOS Villages in Dar and Arthur Mbumbuka of Youth Build Future in Mbeya. All of them dedicate their own lives, energy and limited resources to help give children, as many as they can reach, better lives. Arthur, in particular, acted as our very own Mbeya host, guide and ‘go to’ man and welcomed us into his home from start to finish of the trip. A lovely man, the work Arthur currently does through Youth Build Future and the plans he has for the future are inspiring. All three that I have named are heroes to us and I thank them for everything they helped us all with during our short time out here. 

The very last few footballs were excitedly handed out before noon yesterday, an emotion filled morning. However, our final ‘official’ football drop visit took place on Sunday morning. This visit was one of our most harrowing. A trip to Mbeya Children’s Prison to give some much needed footballs and netballs to kids who only have access to the outdoors for an hour a day, opened our eyes to wider problems that Tanzania faces. Two words that don’t sit right together – children and prison. Meeting over 15 of the prison’s inhabitants, kids aged between 8 and 18 years old, whose crimes ranged from suspected murder (not always proven) to stealing a mobile phone to buy much needed food for them and their starving families, has proved impossible to forget. 

Through playing outdoors with these kids for an hour, our superficial experience of the prison was a positive one and it would be easy for us to mentally leave these children behind in the (false) belief that their existence is a pleasant one. Truth is we were not able to witness the reality of their lives – cramped dormitory cells, repetitive meals, regimented lives, no meaningful rehabilitation system in place. The children acted as a family unit, some clearly more secure inside the jail than they had been in their previously fractured lives with no support or family outside of the prison walls. It was difficult to comprehend what some of these children had and continue to go through. We will never know. But what struck us in the short time we were there was the immeasurable joy that the balls brought to them all. Having the footballs to play with allowed them, for a short time, to melt into being kids once more and that was a privilege to witness. I hope the (small) gift of the balls provides some sign of hope and love to each of the children locked away inside those walls. If ever there were kids that deserved that, these were them. 

Our time out here has, for each of us, put into perspective how fortunate we are to have so much in our own lives – the basics for living (free flowing water, as much food as we want, education and medical supplies, electricity at all times), a network of support, loving friends and family, freedom of speech, and the luxury to live our lives in the way we choose. Many of the people that we have met in Mbeya may lack obvious material possessions but their core values are amazing and what they are truly rich in far outweighs material wealth. They embrace joy, love and respect for others, enjoy a greater freedom of time, demonstrate effortless grace and an unbreakable desire to work hard, to learn and to help others each and every day – values that put many westerners to shame. 

As we write, news has just reached us of the meaningless, destructive and violent riots across the city of London. Shocking scenes and an embarrassment to our nation, never have I been more relieved to be far away. The people causing such unprovoked damage in the UK could benefit from spending some time out here to learn and observe the true meaning of respect, pride and a sense of community. 

I only hope that when we return to our roots and previous lives, amongst the thousands of photos, video footage and memories we each have, we will never forget all that we have experienced and felt during this Great Football Giveaway. To give more, to take less, to get back to enjoying the simple things in life, to share everything we have with others. Not much is needed to bring joy to someone’s life – a football and a smile have worked time and time again out here. 

Far harder to measure is the effect that the balls will have on all those we have met. What does the child walking innocently along an empty dust track with his bike and sugar beet, as he does day in day out, say to his family when he sprints home with his new football surprisingly thrust upon him by some over-zealous Muzungos driving past? The primary school with over 1,000 pupils and not a single football for sports classes – how do they begin to use the 18 new balls they now have overflowing their once bare sports cupboards? The spike in increased school attendance this provokes from kids desperate to return to school if only to play with real footballs, is this sustained over time? How many lives might be saved by innocently reading the two messages neatly emblazoned on the 1,500 footballs provided by Alive & Kicking (‘Malaria Kills – use a mosquito net’ and ‘Play safe – prevent Aids/HIV’)? There are many so questions we have, impossible to list them all here. 

As well as sharing with us the biggest smiles we have ever seen, the kids were all quick to realise that you can’t play football on your own. We hope and strongly believe that the balls given out will all be shared and have a wide sphere of influence, far greater than the original pair of hands that tightly grasped each and every ball we hand delivered. 

It has been an amazing and humbling experience.

Children are children the world over. Simple pleasures make people smile. A football can do that. Thank you everyone for every ball you have donated. The Great Football Giveaway is great because of you. 

Over and out. 

Steph, Rachael, Katherine, Becky, Chris and Patch

In Africa it is the height of rudeness to refuse any gifts you are offered. So this evening, amongst the dwindling sacks of footballs and pumps in our trucks, we are also now the proud owners of a tree’s worth of bananas, two sacks of monkey nuts, a small mountain of maize, a bag of paracheches (avocados), two eggs, soda bottles for all of the team, a bounty of red maharagi beans, a vat of (sour) yoghurt, sugar beet and a free lesson on how to eat it (there is no graceful way) and best of all, a live chicken given to us as a gift from the grandfather of our driver, Ernest.

The chicken, newly christened The Colonel, was calm and quiet, a little bemused by his new abode in the boot of the truck and we were careful not to squash him as we continued our football pumping work around him. I’m not sure the Great Chicken Giveaway will ever take off but whatever happens to old Colonel, the addition of livestock certainly added a new dimension to our travels.

The people of Tanzania could not be more generous and hospitable and to everyone who has offered us smiles and gifts, and to all those who have welcomed us into their homes or helped us in any way at all, a huge ‘Asante’.

Almost 1,500 footballs now down, we write from Utengule, an area renowned for some of the best coffee in East Africa. Having spent last night in Tunduma, it feels like we are almost returning home as we near Mbeya once more. The only mention the town of Tunduma, situated on the border of Zambia and Tanzania, warrants in the guide book is being ‘infamous for thieves’. Hmmm. The town, one that clearly never sleeps, was not the most memorable we had frequented and certainly made us appreciate the charm of the previous towns we had visited in the past few weeks.

There was no time to see the much feted (in these parts) Mbozi Meteorite on our travels back from Tunduma today; footballs take priority over seeing the seventh largest known meteorite in the world. And as always, there have been some especially memorable and spontaneous football giveaways, a few highlights including:

– a classroom of children breaking into gospel singing as a thank you for their zawadi (gift)

– a boy falling off his bike in disbelief having been thrown a football from our truck window

– a caring mother running over to reassure her inconsolable child that a (‘lesser spotted in these remote parts’) white muzungu offering a football, whilst unusual, is nothing to be afraid of – and witnessing the child slowly grow in confidence as they hugged their new toy

– watching out of the rear mirror as we drove away, to see the excitement on faces realising we had actually left the ball for them

There’s no doubt the giveaway has made the six of us appreciate how special a brand new football can be. Kicking a ball about is one of life’s most simple pleasures. Discussed at length over dinner tonight, before we arrived in Tanzania, none of us were able to imagine the sheer volume of joy that our footballs would create. Nor can we really know the deeper impact the balls will have on each and every child, school, orphanage or family we have visited. One to mull over further as we try out the local Arabica…

Steph, Katherine, Rachael, Becky, Chris & Patch

To see just some of our photos from out in south-west Tanzania, check out our Flickr page:

Yesterday Patch, our final team member (and professional photographer for RPM) arrived armed with enough audio and video equipment to start up a small production company out here. His very first time to Africa, we were delighted to see him and to have the chance to observe his first impressions of witnessing the brilliant reception we have received with the footballs everywhere in Tanzania.

Briefly back in Mbeya and following another fantastic lunch at the home of our host and ‘man on the ground’ Arthur (more about Arthur and his work on a later blog), we swiftly took Patch on the road to visit his first school, Nsongwi Primary School. Arriving a little late in the day, it turned out that only the pupils who were in detention were still left at the school. We gave the naughty ‘offenders’ a much needed treat from their duties by employing our usual brand of chaos; throwing footballs all over the place, joining in games, starting sing-alongs, chatting Swahili to the kids…

According to Becky, our teacher in the team, detentions don’t really work so we felt all the better to have timed this particular football visit when we did.

The highlight of our day soon followed – a visit to The Olive Branch for Children, a centre located out of town and close to the main train station in Mbeya. The centre is run by Deborah McCracken, a Canadian teacher who visited Tanzania in 2004 for a 3 month placement and never left – after falling heads over heels in love and then marrying her bodyguard, a Masai warrior.

Deborah, who gave birth to her first child only a few weeks ago, has lived out in Mbeya for well over six years taking care of orphans, many of whom have HIV. After a wonderful welcome of songs and some African freestyle dancing, every one of the kids came up to each of us to give us a hug. The biggest hugs ever. Needless to say they were overjoyed with the footballs and it made their week. And our afternoon. The Olive Branch does fantastic work caring for some of the happiest children we have met, despite of the difficult starts that many of these kids have endured in their short lives. Again a big thank you to everyone who has donated money for a football so far, you really have made some very deserving children extremely happy.

1,242 balls successfully given out, we’re back on the road today and heading towards the Tanzania-Zambia border with the two trucks, brilliantly driven by the lovely Ernest and Emmanuel, full to brimming with the remaining balls for the final week.

If the power or internet supply doesn’t conk out once again (we are fairly remote so don’t hold your breath – just uploading this blog has truly been on African time), we are desperately trying to get some photos uploaded onto the blog too…fingers crossed it all works.

Chris, Rachael, Becky, Katherine, Steph & Patch

660 balls already given out, thousands of smiles banked and hundreds of kilometres on the clock, it’s virtually impossible to put into words the experience we are having out in the vast district of Mbeya. Inspiring, humbling, thought-provoking, fun, at times distressing, unforgettable; none of them really quite cover it.

From Dar to Iringa, Mbeya to Tukuyu, we now find ourselves in Kyela, close to the Tanzania-Malawi border. Described unfairly by the Rough Guide as a “hot, mosquito-infested town”, Kyela is certainly hot. And perhaps a little infested. However, it definitely has its charm.

Everyone has welcomed us in ways that are rarely (if ever) seen in the West. All of the many different places we have visited have reacted in wonderful, engaging and quite different ways. There are, however, two places that we have seen in our first week out here that stick in our minds. Both organisations have been designed to cater for disabled children and adults. Disabled people are commonly ostracised by society all over the world and Africa is no different. The two places we have visited that have set out to change that, and from our eyes appear to be having great success, are Neema Crafts in Iringa and Katumba Primary School in Tukuyu.

Neema Crafts was the very first place of this trip that we visited. Set up by English couple Andy & Susan in 2003, the centre is a vocational handicrafts training project for disabled youths. It first began with 3 young deaf people as staff but now employs well over 100 disabled youths and with a new guesthouse opened only last Friday, this number is set to grow and grow. The workshop offers tours, facilities include a book exchange and massage centre and the project’s output (including batiks, pottery, jewellery and paper made from, wait for it, elephant dung…) is all sold in the shop on-site. What is so immediately noticeable about Neema is not just the startling impact it has on the workers’ lives but the positive effect it has on local attitudes towards disabled people.

Katumba School was the last of the schools we visited on Friday. Run by Head Teacher Amos, the school caters for both able-bodied and disabled children. We were privileged to spend a couple of hours with the disabled children. The disabled at the school are loosely categorised into 4 groups – blind, Albino, physically & mentally disabled. As a group, we were blown away. The children were mischievous, unwaveringly caring, great fun and extremely protective of each other. Every child used their own individual strengths to help those around them. The kids, refreshingly unaware of their disabilities, are fully integrated into the able bodied arm of the school once they have passed their exams. The work by Amos and his father and staff is a credit to the town of Tukuyu and certainly left an imprint on our minds long after the dinner bell went and we reluctantly had to leave.

As you would expect, the school children of the 25 Mbeyan schools and 2 orphanages we have visited thus far (and their teachers too) have gone absolutely wild on seeing the footballs. Stampedes are common and wonderful occurrence with pupils seeping out of every classroom, hedge and tea plantation to see what is going on. Virtually every school we have been to, most with hundreds or thousands of pupils on their books, don’t have a single football or netball for their sports’ classes. It is staggering to witness what the small gift of a ball (so generously given by the many donors to TGFG) means to these people.

Photographs of our experiences will follow. We have taken a million pictures already so selecting even a few to share is no easy task. And that is before the final team member, our professional photographer Patch Dolan, joins us next week. Patch will certainly have his work cut out for him in Mbeya; a quite wonderful place filled with beautiful people.

On that note, and as we pack up the trucks to hit the road for Matema, we’ll bid you farewell for now.

Steph, Katherine, Rachael, Becky & Chris

PS. If you would like to buy a football, there is always time. And thank you. More balls, more smiles.

Since you last heard from us we have:

  • travelled over 800 kilometres with over 1,500 balls, from Dar Es Salaam to Mbeya, in a small bus driven by larger-than-life Godfrey who was fuelled by Red Bull and Ugali (a very heavy, maize type porridge…a little like polyfiller);
  • given out our first football;
  • given out a further 200 footballs;
  • “visited” 13 schools – to be precise, we have arrived unannounced as a surprise at each of these schools to the delight and squeals of teachers and pupils alike;
  • swallowed an awful lot of (Tanzanian) dust…;
  • been welcomed, hugged and kissed by more Tanzanians than it is possible to count.

It has been an incredible few days and almost impossible to summarise in words.  However, a few of our high points are:

Katherine – singing and dancing with over 1,000 pupils and their teachers.

Becky – throwing footballs from the truck and seeing their disbelief turn to delight, and then seeing the children run off to play football. 

Chris – as soon as we have arrived at every school, we seem to cause mayhem as the children suddenly start dancing, shrieking, squealing with delight…. and that’s before they’ve even seen the footballs.

Steph – the sheer joy and unbelievable energy generated by every single football that we have given away so far. And actually making it to Mbeya in the first place – a charming area of the country.

Rachael – giving a football to a boy (aged ~ 11years old) who we met today as we stopped to buy oranges; Arthur found out that he does not go to school and he earns money selling carrier bags.  We played football with him amongst the oranges, and left him with a football, but more importantly, a smile on his face.

This morning, we left the town of Mbeya and headed south towards Malawi to the town of Tukuyu. Just arrived, we will be back shortly. With photos.

Rachael, Steph, Katherine, Becky & Chris

PS. If you would like to buy a football, there is always time (click here). And thank you. More balls, more smiles.

Jambo and greetings from Tanzania.

All is well, the sun is shining and the footballs have arrived. This is very good news indeed as it means we can do our great football giveaway in Mbeya as originally planned.

It’s fair to say we’ve had substantial problems getting our footballs through the Tanzania/Kenya border over the past few months. This is not uncommon in the history of Great Football Giveaways. A proverbial “Welcome to Africa” – but with that welcome comes absolutely no guarantee the balls would arrive in time for this project so we are especially chuffed that the 50 sacks of footballs finally arrived, from Nairobi’s Alive and Kicking base, earlier today. Thank you to Elias, all at SOS Village and Paul for all their hard work, tireless dedication and effort to help make it all happen.

Having just seen the footballs unloaded safely into the safe haven at the fantastic SOS Village, we’re enjoying a bottle of the local brew in the lowly lit (power-cut-stricken, not uncommon) Wista’s Inn in Dar. Bliss. It has been fantastic to meet the locals, all extremely helpful, and we are trying our best to learn Swahili; special mention to Chris, Rachael and Becky on this front who I suspect may be fluent by the end of the fortnight. Mzuri sana.

Tomorrow morning we begin our journey out of Dar es Salaam (not the capital of Tanzania although everyone assumes it, me included – Dodoma is in fact the real McCoy). The plan is to travel down to Iringa, about a 9 hour journey, and then base ourselves for the evening there at the Lutheran Centre before we set off for Mbeya the following day.

We will be in touch from Mbeya with news of our adventures as well as to report where the first football(s) of the giveaway ends up. There is no wrong or right place to distribute the balls across the continent of Africa (clearly with the exception of famine-struck areas). Wherever we go, we are expecting beautiful countryside, welcoming locals and for the kids to welcome us with the biggest smiles we’ve ever seen.

If you would like to buy a football, there is still time (click here). And thank you. More balls, more smiles.

Lala Salama – good night for now, we will be back.

Steph, Katherine, Becky, Chris & Rachael

The Great Football Giveaway Blog

Spent an incredible week or so in Sierra Leone planning a whole new set of projects, hopefully starting in November 2017. Loads more to follow, so watch this space….

In the meantime here a few photos to whet the appetite.

And yes – WE NEED VOLUNTEERS, so get in touch!


Filed under: Sierra Leone 2017/18 — Paul @ 6:08 pm

Filed under: Malawi 2013-15 — Tags: — Paul @ 5:18 pm
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