Norwich man appeals for Congo orphans football kit
A Norwich man who was forced to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a war refugee seven years ago, is appealing for football kit and second hand clothes to take to a school for orphans in a mercy mission back to his native country. Keith Morris reports.
Daniel Aketho, aged 34, escaped from DR Congo in 2000 with wife Angele, after several members of his family, including two uncles, were killed in the civil war. He crossed the border to a United Nations (UNHCR) refugee camp in neighbouring Zambia, called Kawambwa Kala.
While in Zambia, Daniel, a promising footballer, played for a semi-professional team called Mazingira.
After the couple had been in Zambia for seven years, British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the refugee camp and agreed that 14 families could come to the UK as refugees.
Daniel and Anjele were chosen and after arriving in London, they came straight to Norwich and were resettled in a house in Thorpe Marriott by the Gateway Project.
Soon after arriving in Norwich, Daniel met members of Norwich Vineyard church who were giving away clothes and toys to refugee families and was introduced to Jim Green who ran the church’s football team.
Jim signed Daniel up for the team, which plays in the Norfolk Christian Football League, as several other team members also spoke Daniel’s native language, French.
After a while, Daniel managed to find factory work repairing mobile phones and moved to Dussindale in Thorpe St Andrew.
Recently he saw a BBC documentary about DR Congo and people who were living with the horrific results of the civil war – men and women who had been horribly mutilated and children who were orphans, the results of thousands of women being raped during the war.
Daniel explained: “These women have no husbands and it is very difficult for them to get married because of what happened to them. There are also hundreds of children with no mothers or fathers because of the rapes that happened during the war.
Bukavu hospital was featured on TV with a doctor appealing for any help which people could provide.
Daniel was so moved by the film and a desire to do something to help the people in his homeland that he rang the hospital direct.
“Congo is my country and I wanted to do whatever I could to help some of these people,” said Daniel. “So I rang the hospital and asked them what I could do.” He was put in touch with a school for orphans in Goma.
So last year, Daniel flew over with suitcases stuffed full of football kit, toys and books, which teams and officials from the Norfolk Christian Football League helped collect.
“When I went over and gave the clothes and toys to the children they were so happy,” said Daniel. “They were singing and dancing as nobody had ever done anything like this for them before.
“When I went over I did some football training with some of the children and they really enjoyed it.
“I was able to help set up some youth teams and there is some good talent there and they dream of becoming professional footballers but they need support to do that,” he said.
“Another thing we are trying to do is train the women with no husbands to sew clothes and provide them with machines.
“I am planning to go out again as soon as have raised some money for a ticket,” said Daniel, “and I need second-hand books, football kit and children’s books.
“There are 400 children in the school and for $2,500 all of the children can be fed at lunchtimes for an entire year.
The Norfolk Christian Football league are backing Daniel’s efforts and have appealed to its clubs and others from across Norfolk to give Daniel any old kits that are no longer required so that he can take them over.
League vice president, Jim Green, said: “Daniel’s efforts are admirable and as a league we are more than happy to help him by appealing for and collecting any old football kit from clubs cross Norfolk. Youth kits are especially welcome.”
If you can help, please contact Jim Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daniel at email@example.com with anything you can offer.
If anyone can help Daniel with the organisation and administration of his efforts, he would like to try to set up a charity to help with the work.
“The children don’t have any hope or future and with no mum or dad they need my help,” said Daniel.
Hear Daniel interviewed on Radio Norfolk (start at 1.41hrs)
Pictured above in Goma in DR Congo are some of the young players in football kits from Norwich. The red one is from Heartsease Churches Football Club.