In Kodjoviakope, a district in Lomé, the capital of the West African country Togo, an ordinary school has received a prize for an extraordinary effort.
Jean Koffi Akpoa is a football manager. He deplores the growing problem of child homelessness in his country and wants to do something about it. “Many children between the ages of seven and 15 are homeless. They sleep on the beach and in the rain, even in the cold season,” Jean Koffi Akpoa told Euronews.
“This environment drives the children to commit crimes related to drugs, theft, illegal business and violence.”
Koffi wants to use football “as a peacemaker” to bring the children together and stop the violence they are exposed to. He was able to win over the institution he works for, the Sporting Club of Lomé, to support his project.
Football has no language, children from different countries can play together
“Football has no language,” says Jean Koffi Akpoa. “When you bring kids from different countries together, they can play. And that’s basically what we did – now they’re like one big family.”
The project ensures that the homeless children can go to school so that they can read and write and also learn practical skills such as carpentry or masonry.
The football manager dreams of having his own school and football academy in Kpalimé, a town 120 kilometers from Lomé, “with a small farm near the academy so that we can take care of the children from the harvest.”
Through the project, 13 homeless children have found their way back to their families in the neighboring countries of Nigeria, Benin and Ghana. “Some of them came all the way from Niger, can you imagine?” He says.
The Sporting Club of Lomé has been honored for its commitment by the international children’s social program “Football for Friendship” (F4F). Jean Koffi Akpoa and everyone involved in the school received the award for “Peacebuilding through Football”.
Participants from over 200 countries applied. All of the projects that have won an award focus on developing children’s football and solving problems through sport. A panel of experts examined applications from football academies around the world, including Uganda, Kenya and India.