Football and Climbing help street kids in Uganda
Ex-Chiswick pupil makes fund-raising climb of Kilimanjaro
Ever thought of realising your dream and raising three thousand pounds for your favourite charity at the same time? Angela Pollitzer from Chiswick (ex-pupil of Hogarth infant school and Belmont primary school) always dreamt of climbing the highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro. She has also been supporting the Tigers Club project – a London-based charity supporting street children in Kampala, Uganda, for more than eight years. So when she heard about the sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, it was perfect!
It is true that not many ladies in their fifties dream of climbing large African mountains. But Kilimanjaro has been on Angela’s mind ever since she started working for the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office in 2000. Angela is in charge of the EU’s €15 million humanitarian programme in Tanzania, host to the largest refugee community in Africa. Nearly half a million refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi are currently living in camps. The money provided by EU taxpayers helps the United Nations refugee agency to provide basic necessities for the refugees: water, sanitation, health care, nutrition and shelter. Angela travels to the refugee camps in Tanzania several times a year, and often passes nearby Kilimanjaro. “I’ve often flown over the mountain or landed at airports nearby but have never seen it close up. It will be great to be able to see the mountain and raise money for a cause I believe in”, she says.
It will take about a week to do the Kilimanjaro climb. Six days up and one and a half days descent. It seems to be much quicker on the way down. “My main concern is if I’m going to get altitude sickness. You can’t tell in advance who’s going to be affected. Sometimes it is the biggest, strongest, toughest and fittest who get sick. We’ve all been warned to have a supply of Diamox with us, which is the medically recommended tablet to cope with altitude sickness. But if you suffer really badly, the only thing to do is take notice of the sickness and turn back. It can be fatal”, says Angela.
The Tigers Club started off around a group of homeless boys who got together to play football and named their team ‘the tigers club’. After matches, people noticed that the boys were very tired, weak, had abscesses and other illnesses; so the first idea was to provide basic medical aid and feed these homeless boys. Over the past ten years, Tigers Club has grown a lot and developed in different directions, such as literacy classes at the Clubhouse, as many of the boys have no basic education. It also has a social work and counselling service that tries to trace and where possible reconcile the boys with their families. If it is not possible to patch things up or if parents have died through AIDS or as a result of violence, Tigers Club tries to link the boys to a Ugandan foster family.
Tigers Club also has a halfway house on the edge of Lake Victoria where the boys can start learning how to farm and rear animals. Older boys also get vocational training and there have been some lovely success stories of people setting up their own businesses. Tigers Club works closely with other organisations in Uganda that work with homeless girls. The needs of homeless boys and girls are hugely different. Young homeless women are often involved in prostitution and at the moment Tigers Club isn’t big enough or in a position to work on those issues – there are other organisations better able to do this.
On a more practical level, in Uganda, football is still a very male sport and it’s the football that attracts the boys in the first place. The team is going strong and the football is still a central part of the project. They’ve had great success in matches and they’re often beating teams from local Ugandan private schools - they’ve even had an ex-Ugandan national football player as their coach.
A total of 26 enthusiasts from 5 different countries are currently preparing for their climb up Mount Kilimanjaro from 23 July –1 August 2004 and raising money for the project. But preparing for Kilimanjaro is not just about fitness training! In addition to walking, climbing and running on average 3 times a week to get fit enough for their climb of a lifetime, the Kili enthusiasts are continuing to identify new and exciting ways of raising awareness about and funds for the Tigers Club project. Indoor video shows, pub nights, football matches, newspaper articles, tea parties and many other events and initiatives have been organised to raise money for Tigers.
July 23, 2004