Just 300 days after returning from the northern Gambian village of Sittanunku, Stevenage FC Foundation is preparing to head back to the African country to continue their fantastic work.
Last year, the Charity took fifteen volunteers to the village to coach, teach and build an adventure playground; falling in love with the village so much that the Foundation staff have been sponsoring its football academy from their monthly wages.
This Friday, the Foundation will set off again, this time with even more volunteers including six local primary school teachers, Foundation coaches, a solicitor, an accountant and a 74 year old retired supporter. The recruitment process began back in May 2014 when over 60 people attended an information evening at The Lamex Stadium. Following a series of unique interview stages, 40 volunteers from all walks of life were selected for the trip and the mammoth task of raising £40,000 began.
Since June, the trip has faced several barriers as a result of the deadly Ebola virus. Although Gambia has at no point been infected by the virus, tourism – the country’s prime industry – has seen a 70% downturn. Consequently, flights to the country have been cut to just a single weekly flight and the group’s flights changed meaning many volunteers are unfortunately now unable to go.
Yet the show must go on and will do with 20 volunteers travelling out on Good Friday to coach, teach and regenerate the Mansa Wally Football Academy. They will be installing dugouts made by Head Groundsman John Ryder, new goals and twelve solar powered floodlights; all of which were sent to The Gambia in October in a 40 ft shipping container along with local donations that included medical supplies, bikes, educational materials and an array of sports equipment.
Head of Stevenage FC Foundation Alex Tunbridge said: “Whilst last year’s trip was a fantastic experience and learning curve, this year is all about implementing a sustainable legacy that will allow us to make a long-term impact within Sittanunku.”
The project has been planned in partnership with Football Gambia, a non-profit UK charity which promotes education through football in The Gambia (West Africa). They work with communities, football clubs and schools to ensure that children and young adults attend school and live a healthy lifestyle.
Following our recent golf auction, the huge fundraising target of £40,000 has finally been reached and the trip has officially been given the green light. If you would like to keep up to date with the trip which takes place from April 3rd to the 10th, please visit www.stevenagefc.com or follow the Foundation on Twitter @borofoundation