Shropshire Star

Air base will make its largest aid delivery yet to Kenya and pay tribute to crash victim Charlotte

A charitable appeal operated from RAF Shawbury, in North Shropshire, is preparing for its largest delivery visit to date to Kenya in East Africa.

Charlotte Hope on her visit to Kenya last year

The RAF Football Association Taking Football to Africa and Beyond Charitable Appeal delivers ‘Aid through Football’ by collecting donated items of football kit and redistributing them to children and adults across the globe.

The Appeal is organised by Wing Commander Neil Hope MBE and was set up in 2006 to deliver kit to Africa. It quickly became global and to date has delivered over 347500 items of kit, including over 98500 football shirts to 61 countries worldwide.

This year's trip will include poignant tributes to his daughter, Charlotte who was killed in a car crash last year. She was part of the team that went to Kenya in 2022.

Some of the children with kit from a previous visit

Led by the Wing Commander with the assistance of Squadron Leader Mark Smales, the 16- strong appeal team is heading to Kenya on April 10 with a mixed military and civilian team of 16 people to complete 34 separate deliveries in and around Nairobi and in Gilgil - two hours north of the capital on the Great Rift Valley.

They will meet children and adults in the major slum areas of Kibera, Kibagare and Mathare as well as visiting schools, orphanages and football teams who are all in need of the essential aid. Kibera is Africa’s largest slum with over one million people living in an area of around three square kilometres with no permanent running water or electricity supplies and no sewerage system.

Kits being delivered by the team include items donated by football teams and individuals from across the United Kingdom; from England (The Football Association) and Premier League clubs including Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The team will also deliver a large amount of kit donated by the Appeals local club, and one of its top links, Shrewsbury Town FC, as well as items donated by clubs throughout Grassroots football including County Football Associations; member clubs of Sheffield & Hallamshire CFA, Hampshire CFA, Essex CFA, Worcestershire CFA and Wallsend Boys Club amongst many others.

Some of the children with kit from a previous visit

Wing Commander Hope said: "It is pleasing that we about to embark on another ‘in person’ delivery visit and we are very excited about renewing our friendships across Kenya. 2022 was undoubtedly one of the most successful years we have completed.

"This will be my 17th Kenya delivery trip with over 100 people taking part over the years and I look forward to introducing this years’ team to an amazing part of the world.

"Last year was a tragic year for my family when my daughter Charlotte was killed in a car crash in which her mother/my wife, Helen, was seriously injured.

"Both Charlotte and Helen joined us on the 2022 Kenya trip. On this trip we will deliver kit and present trophies at a tournament in memory of Charlotte as well as visiting the place Charlotte had previously volunteered at; the Restart Centre in Gilgil. Some of her friends from Shawbury and from university are joining us on the visit to see the places she loved.

"Helen and I continue to raise funds for the Restart Centre as a legacy to our beloved daughter. Helen is currently returning to training with the aim of completing the Market Drayton 10k race:

"I would like to thank all the people, clubs and schools that donated items delivered on this visit and to the Appeal, as well as all who have helped us achieve this amazing success, especially the team at Shawbury who help with the Appeal including Supply Receipt and Despatch and also at RAF Brize Norton, BATUK and Braeburn Garden Estate School. We look forward to another exciting year.’

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