British singer Olly Murs has recently returned from a visit to Nairobi where he visited Korogocho Football Academy (Acakoro), a Unicef-supported project which gives vulnerable local children a lifeline through football.
Korogocho is a very dangerous place to grow up for the 90% of its population who are under 18. Some as young as six are even forced to go through rubbish in the local dump site to feed themselves and their families.
That’s where the Academy comes in. It provides 115 children with access to high-quality football training and pays their school fees. They get a hot meal every day and can receive medical and social care.
One of the children to have benefited from the academy is twelve-year-old Linda who joined in 2013, when she was only seven years old. At that time she was living with her mother in a very dangerous part of Korogocho. But tragically struck in 2015 when Linda’s mother passed away and although she lives with relatives, life has been very tough.
The Academy has been a huge source of support for Linda and has helped her survive all the challenges she has faced. With help from the coaches she’s developed into a talented striker and has been selected to play at an international tournament in Austria this summer.
The project has a proven record of success. Its teams regularly win national tournaments in Kenya and three of its children have made it in to the Kenyan national under-20 football team.
Another twelve-year-old who joined the academy in 2015 is Leone who had only managed to attend school on the rare occasions that his grandmother had money for the fees. He also wasn’t getting enough food at home, but with support from the project, Leone is now in full-time education and gets a hot meal after every training session.
His confidence has grown so much that he now has a new nickname among his teammates – the Little President.
All the children at Korogocho Football Academy are attending school regularly, and their performance is improving greatly. The project aims to enrich Korogocho and the children who are given the opportunity to reach their full potential can then go on to be advocates for change in their own community.
However, while Korogocho Football Academy is changing the lives of its 115 children, there are many more are still in need of support. The project has ambitions to grow so that more children can access the opportunities that if offers.
Speaking after his visit, Olly described it as “an amazing trip” and “a real eye-opener.”
“Although I’ve seen the worst, I’ve seen the positives. The money really does make a difference,” he added.
All public donations to Soccer Aid will go towards Unicef’s work protecting children in the UK and globally and will add to the incredible £24 million that has already been raised through the event over the last 12 years.
Soccer Aid takes place later today (June 10) at Old Trafford in Manchester and viewers in the UK can watch the game live on ITV from 6.30pm.