Alive and Kicking: The UK charity using football as a force for good in sub-Saharan Africa
In celebration of Alive and Kicking’s 16-year anniversary, COPA90 caught up with Head of Development, Eddie Taylor, who explained how the charity’s work is transforming lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Imagine arriving to play football with your friends but, by the time you’ve pulled on your boots and completed the habitual warm-up stretches, the ball you planned to play with has burst! There are some fantastic footballs on the market but not all are designed to withstand the tough conditions you find on many sub-Saharan African football pitches.  

Established in 2004, Alive and Kicking (A+K) was created to address exactly that, by putting high-quality, locally-made durable footballs in the hands and at the feet of children across sub-Saharan Africa. 

Since then, A+K has made almost one million durable footballs in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia, and continues to be the world’s only not-for-profit ball manufacturer, with all profits reinvested into achieving three charitable objectives: MAKE, PLAY LIVE.

MAKE 

With over 42% of people in sub-Saharan Africa living below the poverty line – meaning their income is $1.90 or less per day – and around 70% of jobs being classified as vulnerable, finding formal, permanent work is one of the biggest challenges that adults face. 

Through the production and sales of locally-made balls, A+K are creating permanent, ethical jobs for people classed as socially or economically disadvantaged. Over the last 16 years, A+K has created over 1,000 formal jobs. Because everyone, no matter what their background, is entitled to work. 

PLAY 

The community football pitch is often a central hub where people come to hang out, chat, and of course, play football. Unfortunately, a lot of organisations, children and young people can’t afford to buy footballs, and the ones that are purchased are often of poor quality and won’t last a single day.

A+K donates a percentage of locally-made durable balls every year because everyone should have the right to play. Since 2004, A+K has donated over 175,000 balls, reaching over 7.8 million young people. 

LIVE 

Despite significant progress in the last half-century, sub-Saharan Africa still faces serious challenges in dealing with deadly disease as well as physical and mental health. Malaria is reported to keep more children out of school in Africa than any other disease. 

20 million people live with HIV, including two million children. In 2015, 17.9 million years were lost to disability as a consequence of mental health problems in Africa. 

A+K has trained over 1,200 youth educators to deliver life-changing health education, using a proven, play-based methodology. Once trained, A+K coaches deliver drills that improve skills like any other you would find around the world.

However, after the participants get a feel for the drill, the coach will introduce an educational element, meaning that as a player’s skill level increases, their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour associated with HIV, malaria or mental health will improve also.

Education for children and young people across these three areas will increase their chances of leading a happy and healthy life. 

Making a difference in Kenya’s second largest refugee camp. 

Kakuma refugee camp is located in the North-western region of Kenya. The camp was established in 1992 following the arrival of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. During that year, large groups of Ethiopian refugees fled their country following the fall of the Ethiopian government. 

Somalia also experienced high insecurity and civil strife, causing people to flee. With an influx of new arrivals in 2014, Kakuma surpassed its capacity by over 58,000 individuals, reaching over 180,000, leading to congestion in various sections. 

A+K, working in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), has created a project aimed at providing stitching skills for leather ball production and repair in Kakuma. 

The project involves 30 youths in the camp. The skills attained will increase their employability and livelihood, while also providing meaningful activities to escape the everyday challenges and the boredom associated with living in a camp. 

Successful participants will receive a repair Kit and, together with these skills, can generate an income through provision of ball repair and other stitching services. In the longer-term, the project will build a cohort of trained stitchers that A+K can engage for ball production, leading to individuals and families gaining a regular income so they can build a new life in their new homes outside of the camp. 

So far, the project has been a resounding success. To date, trainees have hand-stitched over 150 leather footballs, learning valuable skills that will be used in the hopefully not-so-distant future…and this is just the start. 

Over the next three years, A+K wants to grow this project as well as replicating it in other countries across sub-Saharan Africa – creating thousands of ethical jobs, lifting them out of poverty. 

However, the charity can’t do this alone! It needs your support.

Simply by pulling on a football shirt, you could help give thousands more young people access to sport and lifesaving health education, while at the same time helping sustain local, ethical jobs for adults too.

AKFC – Join the world’s most impactful club

The most effective way to support A+K’s mission of ethical employment, access to sport for children and health education for young people in sub-Saharan Africa, is to join our team: AKFC.  

AKFC is a brand new campaign, giving supporters, new and old, the opportunity to play their part. By making monthly direct debit donations, you’ll receive the official AKFC shirt, a handmade ball and be part of the world’s most impactful team. 

This winter transfer window, sign for a club that uses football as a force for good. 

For more information, visit Alive and Kicking’s website 

Follow Alive and Kicking on Twitter @BallsForAfrica