On the ball with St Albans charity work in Africa

Football Gambia helps to promote education through football, and develop communities in the Gambia.

Football Gambia helps to promote education through football, and develop communities in the Gambia. - Credit: Photo supplied

LOVE for the beautiful game has helped a charity move the goalposts for disadvantaged children in Africa’s smallest country.

St Albans man Ian Stapleton, founder of Football Gambia, has returned from a recent trip to the republic where he took a team of 45 volunteers to take part in a range of projects to help youngsters and their communities.

Football Gambia is a small non-profit UK registered charity that uses football to help provide education to children in Gambia, West Africa.

Ian said: “Everyone loves football and it’s the only way you can engage with young kids. They know all about the players.”

He explained that the charity provides equipment for agricultural projects, runs football courses, works with communities, football club academies and schools to ensure children attend lessons and live a healthy lifestyle.

Football Gambia believes that every child has the right to a good education, so schools across the country are given material donated from the UK to help with this, such as text books, notepads and pencils.

It also provides children with football equipment, and they receive professional football coaching.

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Everything is shipped over including coaching manuals, boxes of footballs and team kit, including from St Albans City Football Club.

Ian said the charity has helped parents who cannot afford to send children to school.

Pupils themselves have vouched their support for the charity, saying they enjoy being in the classroom.

Nicole Williamson joined the group of volunteers, using her expertise in children’s and young people’s services to hold child protection classes with teachers and football coaches.

She said: “They were really grateful, and very receptive as they have never had that input before.”

Other projects included generating income for young men, and teaching new skills courtesy of hair cutting equipment donated for Moussa Rattab’s Extreme Cuts barber shop.

Among supporters recently travelling to Gambia to help with various projects was Lawrence Levy, one of the owners of St Albans City FC.

He and others in the group had their work cut out, helping to revamp a medical centre in Sitanunku, in rural Gambia.

Lawrence said: “I wanted to get involved to see if I could help. We were digging foundations in one village, and painting a medical centre. I went along as a general dogsbody just to do whatever was asked, and I really enjoyed it – it was a real eye-opener.”