Probably the best thing to do is spend three minutes watching this clip, which best sums up what The Great Football Giveaway is all about.
Put simply, we get footballs with donations from you, our lovely supporters, and give them direct to children living in poor rural areas of Africa.
In the last few years our volunteers have hand delivered over 25,000 footballs and netballs direct to kids in some of the poorest rural areas of Malawi, Uganda, Angola, Zambia and Rwanda (inc DR Congo) and Tanzania. Over time, with the support of football fans and players, we want to go to more countries across Africa and Asia suffering poverty, more refugee camps, and where appropriate more areas of civil conflict - wherever kids are denied the chance to kick a ball about and enjoy their childhood, we'll go.
What happens on a project?
For understandable logistical reasons, most charities concentrate their efforts in or near large cities and towns. However, we are not tied to any location and can simply head off into the most difficult to reach and out of the way areas. We may have one or two places we know in advance we want to visit, but mostly its a case of asking the locals.
Along the road when we see children in groups or alone, perhaps fetching water, playing by the roadside, or simply walking along we stop and give them a ball and a pump.
When we reach a school or orphan centre we ask the head teacher to gather the children and we surprise them with a bag load of footballs and netballs. It’s a spontaneous, chaotic unforgaettable moment, time and time again.
Before leaving we’ll ask for advice on which direction to head off next, and away we go again. There is always room in the vehicle for someone local to guide us to where they believe are the areas we should go to.
The random and spontaneous nature of our projects mean that any child has a chance of being surprised with a brand new football. We also hook up with a multidue of educational projects along the way and try to help them get their message across. For example the children may listen to a short talk on HIV or Malaria awareness, and then have to answer questions to win footballs.
When we’ve emptied the vehicle we head back to the container for more, and set off in another direction. Along the way we sleep and eat in simple guest houses or people’s homes if we are fortunate enough to be invited.
They tell us footballs can be used to help increase school attendance and performance overnight, or to draw vulnerable kids off the street and into care. We've also seen how kids from villages that once fought each other in war, can now use football to play together in peace. Put simply, footballs are a hugely resourceful tool. We also take a proportion of netballs, another African favourite.
How do we know its working?
So it's pretty straightforward. If you love football, stripped of all its money, marketing and celebrity, join in and give a ball.
The charity was founded by Paul and Sarah Clarke a few years ago after they visited Malawi and saw how many children were kicking around makeshift balls made of layers of tattered plastic bound together with old string, or whatever they could get their hands on. They vowed to come back with some real footballs to give away. It was no hollow promise, they gave up their jobs, threw their energy into launching the charity, and made good on that vow. After the success of the first project to Malawi they knew they had to reach more countries, and the idea just grew and grew. Along with the other dedicated trustees and the volunteers who have joined in along the way they simply love sport, in particular football, enough to see the opportunity to keep using it as a force for good.Q&A with the founders Paul and Sarah Clarke (pdf document)