This is the second in a series of Blogs that will go through in detail what our first ever project achieved, how we set it up, who we worked with, problems we faced, lessons we learned, personal memories and more.
Many of you might be wondering how a group of middle class English people were able to go to a rural area of Ghana and, within a week, organise a tournament, with all the extras we provided, for eight selected teams which we could be certain would benefit from being part of the project! The answer is that, without the help of a local Ghanaian charity, SVG Africa, it would never have happened.
When I visited Ghana in 2010, I was lucky enough to meet both Fred and Rebeca who run a charity that supports a diverse range of projects in the Mpraeso area. They are such a unique and powerful team and the success they have had in the area has been unprecedented – and earned them the wide respect of the community.
Before the trip began, Rebeca was my point of contact, helping me with the difficult visa process, and sharing many, very wordy (from me), emails, about what we were hoping to do and how we might be able to do it. Without Rebeca’s help, we would never have been able to make it to Ghana, and I would probably have lost faith in the idea, long before we stepped onto the plane. Importantly, she was also able to offer us accommodation in the big house they have for volunteers in the area. This was crucial in giving us a luxury (it had running water and everything) base of operations for our week in the area.
When we reached Ghana, the team was greeted on our first night by a very fired-up Fred, who is Rebeca’s charity partner. In that meeting, Fred sat with us, over a drink, and we discussed what we saw for the charity, not only over the next week, getting everything ready for the tournament, but also, some of our ideas about making a longer-term impact in the area. Throughout the week, Fred opened some really interesting doors to us, and the respect he commands in the area was amazing. Through his local connections we were able to source: cheaper medical supplies, discounted use of the Mpraeso Stadium, bulk meals, referees, match officials and so much more. He even managed to get me a slot on 96.9 FM Agoo Radio which, whilst definitely outside my comfort zone (although people say I have the face for radio!?) was an amazing opportunity to promote both Kicking Off and SVG Africa to a wider Ghanaian audience.
The final piece of the puzzle was Dom, who appeared in one of our Vlogs. Dom was one of the co-ordinators work with SVG Africa’s volunteers, and he was appointed our guardian/ helper throughout the week. Whilst we embarked on the trip knowing that Fred and Rebeca would be amazing, Dom was a surprise discovery. Having grown up in the lake area, his knowledge of what the kids, schools and teachers would really want from the tournament was incredible, and allowed us to fine-tune the tournament more precisely. He also had an unbelievable passion for football, which often showed throughout the week. Sitting behind us at the Barcelona vs PSG game (mentioned in the last Blog), all you could hear was Dom yelling, ‘Invincibles! Invincibles! Invincibles!’, as he disputed Arsenal’s ungracious exit from this year’s Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, with a friend! Without Dom helping and guiding us through the week, the tournament would never have happened in the way that it did, and we look forward to working with him again, next time the project runs, in September.
A final mention must go out to Emmanuel (Co-ordinator), Oli (Co-ordinator) and Mac (Legendary Taxi Driver) who all played a massive part in making our week-long co-operation with SVG Africa such a huge success.
SVG Africa are a wonderful organisation and group of people with whom we are proud to work. With their help to guide us, we look forward to the next steps of our mission to empower the Mpraeso Community through football. Let’s hope they want to have us back in September!