Soccer balls score in Malawi

Mar 06, 2003, vol. 26, no. 5
By Marianne Meadahl

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Psychology program assistant Deborah Jopling and Clan soccer coach Dave Elligott are helping kids in Malawi.

They've been kicked by the Clan and drilled into opponents' nets.

Soon, 20 soccer balls will be scoring points with a group of HIV positive young people in Malawi, Africa, thanks to a little teamwork from psychology program assistant Deborah Jopling and Clan soccer coach Dave Elligott.

Jopling learned of the young people, members of a village drama club, more than a year ago while visiting a friend working at the Ekwendeni hospital in Africa. During a safari together, they talked about the youths' search for sponsorship. “They wanted t-shirts, so when they put on their educational plays they would look more official and get more of a positive response,” says Jopling.

Each of the Zombwe AIDS Toto drama club's 30 members has HIV. Their group promotes awareness of AIDS and safe sex in a bid to address the widespread problem.

When Jopling returned home, she approached friends and family to raise enough money for 30 shirts. She collected enough to design a logo with the club name printed on the shirts, and added other needed items, such as books, sewing kits and toothbrushes, as well as a disposable camera, in the hopes they would send back pictures of themselves in their new shirts. The pictures arrived with a letter of thanks.

“They had various officials from the village attend the opening of the box ceremony,” says Jopling. “It was so rewarding to see how our gift made such an impact.”

In their thank-you note, the youths asked for continued support and included a request for matching hats, as well as soccer balls, suggesting the balls would help keep young people out of trouble.

Jopling immediately contacted Elligott, who rounded up two bags of balls. “It's a great cause,” says Elligott. “We were happy to contribute and see them go to such good use.”

Along with the soccer balls, Jopling's next shipment will include 30 sets of shorts and hats, all with the embroidered logo. She also purchased more than 400 condoms to help the club members spread their message.

“It's a fantastic feeling, to be making a difference in the lives of these kids,” says Jopling, who hopes next to raise enough money to send five orphaned village children to school.

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