“I grew up without shoes, I just want to help.” – Oumarou Idrissa
It all started in 2014 when I went home to Niger, West Africa, for the first time after being in America for several years. I was beyond excited to see my family, reconnect with friends and relatives whom I had left behind. As the days drew near to my departure, memories of my childhood clogged my mind, I was reminded of how poor we were and the life that I had lived prior.
Our house was made of mud and we had no running water, electricity or bathrooms. When we needed to use the bathroom, we would go outside, some distance away from the house and dig a big hole about 25 to 30 meters deep on the ground to sit on, then we’d cover it up after we were done. When we needed water, we’d dig a hole in the ground to find it.
My father, was a driver for the government making a mere $100 per month. As the fifth child of 25 siblings, four of whom died due to health complications, I was raised by three mothers. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. Since my family was poor, I had to start working at the tender age of 11. I sold bread. Life as you can imagine, was a challenge in every way possible.
In contemplating what gifts to take to my friends and family, gifts that could last long, be necessary and provide some sort of relief. I had an epiphany Shoes! Sneakers!
Most children and adults in my village walk barefoot everywhere — through unbearable roads, unpaved pavements, disposed trash, in the dirt subjecting them to potential pain, infections and disease. I realized, some of us may take a pair of shoes for granted, but for others shoes can make all the difference.
I was compelled to form Afrikicks upon my return back to USA.
Initially Afrikick’s mission was to collect gentle worn shoes through donation, ship them to Africa and distribute them to only members of my immediate family and village. However, as we have continued to collect more and more shoes, progressively every year since 2014, we have expanded to other villages, schools and the nearby country Nigeria.
It is beyond a humbling realization that through distribution of sneakers more children and young adults are participating in sports, schools and communities at large.
Playing soccer as a child was my escape from facing the challenges of poverty. When I first moved to Los Angeles, playing soccer allowed me to make a living. I remember, on Sundays, if I scored a goal, my team would give me $30, I tried to score as many goals as I can to make more money.
By providing shoes to people in villages stricken by extreme poverty, Afrikicks is providing relief to people in need, helping to foster the development of talents in children and young adults through sports and ultimately transforming lives.
I always say that America saved my life. Although I had a good share of challenging life experiences when I first arrived, nothing compares to my childhood.
The driving force behind Afrikicks is my past experiences that shaped my undeniable mission to fulfil others basic needs in villages across Africa.
OUMAROU IDRISSA CEO/FOUNDER
Transformation starts with you. . .