Thursday, December 04, 2003

Orphans await soccer gear

PATRICK MALONEY, Free Press Reporter
2003-12-04 03:12:02

Care. Concern. Soccer balls. Such is the baggage Patrick and Rachel Hoefnagelses will be toting in March when they visit a Ugandan orphanage, where children who have next to nothing will receive what the London couple is collecting -- 500 used soccer jerseys, 500 shorts and several soccer balls.
"We're hoping we collect enough soccer jerseys to do teams with the kids," said Rachel, who visited the same 500-child orphanage in Fort Portal, Uganda, a year ago on a Christmas charity tour.
"They call it football, they kick whatever they have around. They're most excited about us coming to do soccer because they've always wanted to pretend they're on a team," she said.
That's life in much of Africa, she says, where the children she met in 2002 had never before received even one gift. The trip -- which Rachel and Patrick are making with their three oldest children, Clark, Luke and Rebekah -- will only be possible if they can collect from the community what they need: 500 used individual jerseys, 500 shorts and soccer balls and pumps.
Rachel stressed the family isn't looking for money, just old uniforms London-area residents no longer need.
"People can dig out old soccer jerseys out of their closets," she said.
"That trip to Uganda (last year) just opened our heart up for the poverty and the sadness that's in that country," she said. "I cried for weeks when we returned."
But the children are happy, she said, because their way of life is the only one they know. That happiness is what has the family returning.
"That's what life is about, it's about giving," Rachel said. "We saw a need to do something, we want to make sure we make a difference. There's more than just Canada and our rich little Western world."
For Heather Manax, who with her husband has donated 500 skipping ropes to the cause, the upcoming trip is a chance for Londoners to work together to do something positive in Uganda.
"Why can't London, as a whole city, make a difference in the lives of some children in Africa?" she said. "The woman at the orphanage is just so excited these kids could get a soccer jersey."


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