27 May 2020

Canberra football community unites to provide essentials for those in need

| Michael Djordjieski
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Collage of Motivate Football Academy Australia volunteers with donations and recipients in Africa.

Emma Ilijoski (bottom left) and Zac Ilijoski (bottom middle) posing with donations sent off to Sierra Leone in 2018. Photo: Supplied.

On numerous occasions, the Canberra football community has showcased a willingness to help those in need. In 2020, the drive to assist people enduring less fortunate circumstances continues.

In 2018, Motivate Football Academy Australia founder, Kitsana “Jimmy” Muongsene, teamed up with Gungahlin United Football Club’s Emma and Zac Ilijoski, and the siblings’ mother’s Queanbeyan hairdressing business, 121 Hair, for a charity drive.

Members of GUFC and other people in the Canberra community got involved to help them accumulate 80 boxes of football items – including balls, boots, equipment and shirts – to send to kids in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in Africa.

The donations that were collected were eventually shared across Africa, including in Sudan, Kenya and Cameroon.

Now Jimmy, Emma and Zac are at the forefront of another donation drive. This time there will be more items donated than just footballing essentials as they will send over children’s books and school supplies for kids.

Emma believes the group will surpass their donation efforts of 2018 as they are currently receiving different varieties of goods and putting boxes together.

Kitsana "Jimmy" Muongsene handing over a donated football an African community.

Kitsana “Jimmy” Muongsene handing over donated footballs to an African community. Photo: Supplied.

“We are all estimating it’s going to be larger this time because there are more people on board,” says Emma. “People here who might not have any soccer gear can just go down to the shops and buy books. They can still help out even if they have never looked at a football in their life.”

Jimmy has set his sights high for what he wants the charity to accomplish. He is highly motivated for this second donation drive after visiting Sierra Leone last year.

“We have about 30-50 boxes at the moment and we are close to beating our record,” he says. “I reckon we are going to get 100 or more.

Emma’s mum, Kathy, owns 121 Hair in Queanbeyan and acknowledges the positive impact of the cause and its large social media presence as more members of the community have jumped onboard.

“Mum’s platform is pretty large and people have been going into her store and dropping off items, which is amazing,” explains Emma. “Jimmy’s academy has had a lot of people supporting him and Gunaghlin United has made a big impact. So have other clubs around Canberra.”

Emma was excited to receive video messages from Sierra Leone of kids singing her and Zac’s names with love and appreciation. It put everything into perspective.

“You never think people across the world, who you have never met before, that you would impact their lives,” she says. “It’s special to be able to say you have done something like that, but we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support.

Kitsana "Jimmy" Muongsene addressing African children sitting on ground after training session.

Jimmy chatting with kids in Sierra Leone following a football training session. Photo: Supplied.

“They share just as much passion as we do and just because they don’t get the same opportunities and training … but the smallest things, such as kits, can make the biggest difference.

“Zac enjoys the process, too, because a lot of the boys and girls over there are his age or younger so he can relate to them and realise how lucky we are here. He has friends who have helped out.”

When speaking to Region Media in 2019 about the donation efforts displayed two years ago, Jimmy explained it was his dream to visit Sierra Leone. In November 2019, he accomplished that when he visited local kids there for two weeks and held training sessions.

“Landing in the country, meeting all the coaches, players and schools just made me think about how lucky we are in Australia,” he says. “Kids don’t have school books, they don’t have food or proper training sessions … seeing they had 50 kids for one session because they don’t have a coach.

“We fed about 750 kids and that was really rewarding. The kids were really grateful for me to just run a coaching session there.

“They called me ‘sir’ and some kids told me they walked two hours to the training. Different ones said, ‘I want to try harder now; you have given me the inspiration to be a better footballer and person.'”

The Canberra community can offer donations through the Motivate Football Academy Australia website, where they can make contact to organise a time for drop-offs. People can also drop off donated items at 121 Hair in Queanbeyan or at the home of Canberra footballer Badrelddin Abbas at 46 Lyttleton Crescent in Cook.

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