Cleaning up with soccer -- Gifts from local clubs will help African slum mission

By PETER CATON

A LARGE group of Tweed residents has headed to Africa with bags of soccer equipment to help bring some fun to the lives of youngsters growing up in slums.

Forty-six members of local tour group, the Tweed Valley Travellers, left on Saturday for a three-week trip to Kenya, taking with them 138 kilograms of soccer equipment, three kilograms each in their personal luggage.

The equipment will be handed over to Olita Ongonjo, who is in charge of a Tweed Shire Council-sponsored program aimed at encouraging development of a clean water supply there.

The travellers will join him on a walk through Kibera, Africa's largest slum.

The equipment, mostly shirts, will be used by the environmental youth movement to attract young people to its rubbish clean-up days through soccer tournaments. A council spokesperson said some shirts would be given as gifts, while others would be used by teams at tournaments.

She said Kibera had no running water or sanitation, and household garbage was simply thrown into the streets and streams.

The program aims to educate young people and the wider community about the health benefits which stem from rubbish collection and improved sanitation.

"Just the sight of a real soccer ball can attract hundreds of children, who are mostly used to playing with balls ingeniously put together using plastic bags, pieces of foam and string," the spokesperson said.

John Norris of Murwillumbah, one of the Tweed Valley Travellers on the mission, has already seen Kenyan slums.

"It's unbelievably dirty insofar as plastic bags. Plastic bags are the enemy of the world," Mr Norris said.

The soccer equipment was collected and donated by three Tweed soccer clubs: Murwillumbah Services, Tumbulgum Rangers and Banora Point.

Council employee Sandra Zietlow, an active member of the Murwillumbah Services Soccer Club is with the touring group.

Ms Zietlow was host mother of Kenyan orphan Samuel Mwangi when he recently spent six months here on the Tweed.

The latest donation follows a %similar soccer-boot drive in 2005, equipment which was also taken to Kenya by the Tweed Valley Travellers.



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