A US-based Everton supporters’ group has raised more than 1,000 US dollars to help fund COVID-19 vaccinations for members of Everton Uganda – a community football club established in the African country to support disadvantaged children and young people.
Everton Uganda – which was formed by passionate Blue Ali Senkunda – gives boys and girls from the poorest parts of the nation’s capital, Kampala, a fun and safe space to play football. The club also provides advice on health and safety, as well as education opportunities.
Atlanta Evertonians has fundraised for the club since 2018 and accelerated their efforts after being informed of the challenging living arrangements Everton Uganda team members were faced with amid a dramatic spike in COVID cases.
Uganda has reported a 2,800-per-cent rise in infections between May and June, while vaccinations are scarce in the country, with less than two per cent of the population having received a COVID jab.
As well as overseeing Everton Uganda’s football operation and community work, founder Ali helps house disadvantaged and homeless people who have joined the club. He is currently living with his wife, two children and 28 Everton Uganda members in just two rooms.
The country’s vaccine shortage means paying for a COVID jab from a private hospital is the best way to ensure protection against coronavirus and, upon hearing about Ali’s circumstances, Atlanta Evertonians immediately set about raising money to purchase vaccinations for Everton Uganda.
Bridget Bryson, from Atlanta Evertonians, told evertonfc.com: “The age limit in Uganda for vaccines is 18, so there were 12 people [in Ali’s household] who were desperately in need of a vaccine.
“That's Ali, his wife, three coaches and seven players from the senior team.
“After Ali spoke to Steve Landy, our chairman, Steve reached out to the supporters’ group and, within 36 hours, we raised more than enough to vaccinate all of them.
“We’ll give the rest of the [surplus] money to Everton Uganda, too. They oversee so many soccer teams, so that will allow them to get more of the coaches and players vaccinated.
“We’ve got such a strong unit in our supporters’ club and Everton Uganda has become so close to us. Ali is always posting pictures on our Facebook group of the kids playing in tournaments. There is that connection.
“Ali has a ridiculous amount of people living in his house. He steps in to find a home for all sorts of people facing hardship. He has joined some of our Zoom calls, which we have when Everton games are on, and there are always a multitude of people at his house.
“It means a lot to be able to help in this way.When Steve emailed us all to tell us we’d raised enough money to provide the vaccinations, he wrote, ‘It’s great to be a Blue’. That sums it up.”
Pictured: Bridget Bryson (right) with fellow Atlanta Evertonians members
Since starting to fundraise for Everton Uganda in 2018, Atlanta Evertonians has sent more than 5,000 US dollars to the African club to support its football activities and outreach initiatives.
Bridget believes the supporters’ group’s sense of togetherness and social responsibility reflects Everton’s values.
“We’re so happy we’ve been able to come together to help those in need,” she said.
“And I must add, all of our US supporters’ groups do so much work for great causes, it’s not just us.
“I don’t want to say it is uniquely Everton – I am obviously not in any other supporters’ clubs for other teams – but you get that feeling there is something special about the way we have that attitude towards community.
“Our group is probably 50/50 in terms of British ex-pats and Americans, but it doesn’t matter. The emotion and the response [to supporting community schemes] is exactly the same.”
Atlanta Evertonians has also raised thousands to assist the life-changing, life-saving work of Everton in the Community.
“It is a big deal to us,” Bridget adds.
“We’re Evertonians, so we want to support the Club’s charity.
“It’s a way for us to feel we’re part of the family but, most importantly, we’re helping people.”
Everton will battle Premier League rivals Arsenal, Italian champions Inter Milan and Colombian giants Millonarios in the 2021 Florida Cup.
For further details about the competition and ticket information, click here.