This is the final blog of a short series that has been written to give readers some of the context behind the reason that the Kicking Off charity has been started and why the town of Mpraeso and surrounding area in Ghana has been chosen for the first Kicking Off project. As the Kicking Off team builds up to the first ‘pilot’ tournament in March, we will publish regular blogs to add some personal insights into how and why each member has become involved in starting the charity.
I wanted to save writing this last blog until today (26/02/2017) because I knew that all the strands surrounding the organisation of our first tournament would be moving at such a fast pace that had I written it several days earlier, my writing would very quickly have gone out of date! I also knew that writing it now would give me a good chance to reflect on how far both Kicking Off and myself have come since my Drunken Canadian Adventure and lend some thought to what we will be able to achieve when the team lands in Ghana in just 6 days’ time.
The last few weeks since my ‘Rooney’ blog until now have been a whirlwind of activity where I’ve had to start making difficult calls on things we would and wouldn’t be able to do on our trip in March. In some areas we’ve had incredible success with goodie bag item donations including amazing donations of; Toothpaste, Exercise Books, Footballs, Draw String Bags, Pencils, Toys, Soap and Flannels. The main thing we were missing which I was desperate to be able to give out from an imagery point of view was printed t-shirts. After weeks of trying everywhere I decided to bite the bullet and buy the t-shirts myself which was expensive, but the weight lifted off my mind, and how good 250 royal blue t-shirts will look made it totally worth it.
During this time, an old friend and I also completed a 42 mile (67.5 KM) walk, successfully dribbling a football between Wembley Stadium and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes. This fundraiser was more successful than I could even have imagined and has raised in total around £1,650.00. Not only did it show me that people believe in this start up, but they actively want to support it by putting forward their hard-earned money! I can also now say that I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into starting Kicking Off!
A theme I’ve found with people’s views towards modern charities is that there is quite a lot of ‘Charity fatigue’ and people are beginning to really resent giving money to faceless organisations that never really have any transparency around where donations are being spent. As Kicking off grows and moves forward I want everyone who donates to know and be able to see exactly where their money has gone and be able to understand why it’s gone there. I also want every penny donated by the public to go directly to those we are trying to help rather than into any charity administration costs.
I was recently recommended a book called ‘The Promise of a Pencil’ by Adam Braun, who created and runs a charity called ‘Pencils of Promise’ (POP). Like me, he was 25 years old when he first started his charity and the clever/ ethical way in which he runs Pencils of Promise has allowed it to grow exponentially in a short period of time and is doing real good in communities around the globe. This book is truly inspiring both for me as someone who has actually started a charity, but I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a little spark to get out there and start achieving your dreams, whatever they may be. This book has influenced my thinking on what is possible to achieve and how quickly I could do it with the right strategy. I will be taking the lessons I’ve learned from this book into the next phase of building Kicking Off.
As I sit both chuffed and thankful with how Kicking Off has grown to this point and excited for whatever challenges the future holds, my thoughts can finally turn to the simple fact that me and 4 excellent friends are going to Africa next week to do something incredibly exciting. This trip isn’t going to be smooth and it isn’t going to be without difficult learning experiences, but it will prove the concept works, that concept if successful could be the first major step toward Kicking Off using football to bring communities together and change the lives of thousands of people around the globe for the better. It will also be sunny, and I really like the sun.
Such a huge thankyou to everybody who has so kindly donated items for our pilot trip, sponsored my long walk and been involved in any way possible over the last 12 months. You have truly helped turn my drunken ideas into the beginnings of a movement that people are slowly beginning to believe in as potentially incredible vehicle for positive global change.