Sierra Leone change the world through sport

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In SIERRA LEONE FOOTBALL unify the POPULATION

Since 2011, hummel have worked in Sierra Leone with the NGO Play31 to create a positive change for people through football. It works to unite an ever-torn Sierra Leone, and has projects in five regions of the country where about 100,000 Sierra Leoneans each year participate in football events. In 2016, two new Girls Peace Clubs were started up as well as the distributing of sports equipment and more than 1000 footballs.

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A young woman explains how participating in the Girls Peace Club make her more confident and how football brings her happiness.

 

BACK IN SIERRA LEONE AFTER EBOLA - 2016

hummel is back in Sierra Leone to visit its partner Play31 after the Ebola virus is gone, to resume working with football as a tool for bringing people together.

"Come. Gather children," calls the teacher to the many children running around in the schoolyard by Patricia Kabbah Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital.

The children gathered themselves together quickly, and a little girl is smiling when she sees Pel Koroma from Play31 and Morten Vestberg from hummel approach. With them they carry a handful of footballs, and when the other kids see it, they break out in celebration, while a little boy look up at the men with big eyes as he gets one of the footballs.

hummel, along with Play31s Danish representative, Josephine Svensson, is back in Sierra Leone. The next days are used to distribute as many footballs as possible to the delight of children and adults in local communities.

"It may seem strange that children can be so happy to get a few footballs. But there are many children in Sierra Leone who have nothing at all. Therefore, it means the world to them, "says Pel Koroma: "This means that they can play."

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A local teacher show his school and explain how football bring peace, unity and so much more to the local children.

 

Football is a means

Moyamba is one of Sierra Leone's poorest district areas. In these outlying communities Ebola survivors are found, football matches on uneven paths are played in the pouring rain, festive football celebrations with high Kwaito music are held and schools where children in tattered uniforms come flowing to receive footballs, and now also two new Girls Peace Clubs.

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"Because girls also love football" as Huratu George manager of the Girls Peace Club, puts it. But Huratu George has an ulterior motive with the project. This is about more than just football.

"My goal is to give the girls a future without abuse, violence and rape. Oppression of women is a major problem in Sierra Leone. Therefore, we teach them the issues relating to young women," she adds:

"We teach them that it's ok to dream about something different than getting a family. That it's okay to want to be a lawyer or doctor. The new generation of women need to be strengthened for us to strengthen our communities. Football is a means to that."

Despite the West African country's natural resources, including diamond exports, which annually brings a profit of $ 300 million, the 11-year civil war until 2002 gave the population obvious scars on the soul and not least the economy. More than 70 percent of the approximately 6.3 million large population lives below the poverty line, which means that far from all can afford to send their children to school or simply give them the basic necessities.

 

IT IS the Lion’s roar THAT COUNTS

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In Sierra Leone there is a positive spirit in the population. A hope for a better future.

When hummel and Play31 throughout the day visit several schools in the Freetown area, the reaction is the same every time. Joy, jubilation. Students proudly displays their schools and talk about the necessity of education, and in the township Car Wash, a single woman takes a stand against the many men.

"We girls also want a football," she insists again and again and then walks away with two.

As outsider westerners, it may seem strange that nothing more than a football is needed to bring people together, but nonetheless the unifying power of sport is clearly evident here. Especially in a football match between ex-soldiers.

After the civil war, the former soldiers were heavily stigmatized in society, and they still are, says Chernor Ajalloh working with ex-soldiers and one of the planners behind todays football match:

"People feel that it is the soldiers' fault that there was a war and division. But the soldiers must of course also be allowed to move on and get a life afterwards. For me it's about equal rights." 

During the Civil War, Chernor Ajalloh was taken by the rebels and made a child soldier. Today, he is 22-year-old and have dedicated his life to help ex-soldiers and work for peace.

"Although I am much younger than them, they respect me. They know that it is not the lion's size, but its roar that counts, and they know I want to help them," he says, pointing out on the football field and smiles:

"Look at all the people gathered here. A whole local community gathered to see ex-soldiers playing football. There is hope."

 

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During the Civil War, Chernor Ajalloh was taken by the rebels and made a child soldier. Today, he is 22-year-old and have dedicated his life to help ex-soldiers and work for peace.

"Although I am much younger than them, they respect me. They know that it is not the lion's size, but its roar that counts, and they know I want to help them," he says, pointing out on the football field and smiles:

"Look at all the people gathered here. A whole local community gathered to see ex-soldiers playing football. There is hope."
 

The After effects of EBOLA  

Right up until January 2016 new cases of Ebola virus were found in Sierra Leone. As was the case during the civil war, the dreaded disease left thousands of children orphaned. One area that was hard hit by the disease, is a small community in the poor Moyamba Junction. More than 30 died, while 25 children survived here."We adults have taken the children to us," says Mohammed Kuyateh, pointing to the children who have gathered in the shade to avoid the hot afternoon sun.

"Ebola shook our reality. Since the disease broke out, we have not been able to help our loved ones because of the infection, we could not hold their hand or say goodbye, and we could not bury them. In itself that is terrible,” saidMohammed Kuyateh and continues:

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"We were probably not fully aware of the repercussions. Today, we survive with the help from NGO donations, because we can no longer find work. People are afraid that we infect them with Ebola. Although we are healthy."“But help from the NGOs only lasts 18 months and will expire soon,” says Mohammed Kuyateh, while he holds Pel Koromas’ hand and thank him for the footballs, which some of the children have already begun to play with under a big tree.  

 

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Ibrahim Bangua, a football coach who has played for the Sierra Leone national team for 20 years explains how football unifies a local community torn by violence.

 

Read more about other Company Karma activities in hummel

Read more about Play31 and support the efforts

Pictures and video by www.Skipperib.dk