Burnley FC shirts change lives of Ugandan Child Mothers

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The famous claret and blue colours of Burnley Football Club are helping to change lives in Uganda.

In 2012 two primary school headteachers visited the war-torn country, delivering strips to youngsters and a group of young women called the Child Mothers.

Uganda Burnley

Uganda Burnley

Now, one of these women is on the verge of being selected for the national Ugandan women’s football team after impressing scouts while playing for “Wavoco wuno kwowa Burnley Female Club” – translated as “Let us transform our lives”.

Julie Bradley and Dawn Forshaw, former heads at Padiham St Leonard’s and Wellfield Methodist & Anglican Church schools respectively, brought the shirts with them after hearing how much they loved playing football.

“These young women were kidnapped some years ago by Joseph Kony and his rebels,” said Mrs Bradley. “They have escaped and wandered through the bush of Northern Uganda before joining others who have escaped also.

“These amazing women are bringing up their children alone, finding ways to survive. We heard they loved football and often play together, so we took them out a full set of Burnley kits.”

Uganda Burnley

Uganda Burnley

Julie and Dawn visited in September 2012 with Pop-Up-Foundation’s co-director Alison Hall. They were followed by Burnley fans Neil Claxton, Simon Grime, Marc Hilton and Chris Heap who spent two weeks coaching the young mothers and in schools. By March 2013, the women had registered their team and in the same month were invited to play Gulu Red Cross – a team who have only lost once in 10 years.

Despite playing barefoot against a team wearing boots, and proudly wearing their Burnley shirts, they were narrowly beaten 2-1.

After the game, Burnley’s goalkeeper Annette was invited to train with the Gulu team and is now in line to be selected for the women’s national team.

It is a dream come true for the young mother (Annette has a four-year-old daughter), who was captured by the Lords Resistance Army as a teenager and forced to watch as the rebels murdered her mother. The atrocities she has endured, along with the other Child Mothers, are too harrowing to print.

But thanks to organisations like the Pop Up Foundation and Burnley Football Club, their lives are slowly being transformed.

Alison said: “I’ve been going to Northern Uganda since 2008. I was looking for people who were the most disadvantaged. These women had been abandoned. They had had babes in the bush and their families had rejected him. Some of them were as young as nine.

“What these girls have been through is just terrible, it’s atrocious. There were in a terrible state when we found them. They were very reluctant to tell their stories, nobody was supporting them.

“We gave them seeds so they were able to start growing food. We then asked ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a football team’.”

Alison last visited Uganda in December where she gave out Burnley strips to five schools, a youth group and the Child Mothers. The Child Mothers had worn out the ones they were given in 2012.

“It’s a remarkable story. All this has come from those Burnley shirts.

“The impact it has had has been incredible. It has changed the entire culture. The women are no longer beaten by their husbands. They are respected now. When they are playing football, the men are cooking. It’s just amazing.

“Burnley must be the most well-supported team in Northern Uganda. We’ve given out hundreds of Burnley shirts all over. Everywhere I go I see people now who are supporting Burnley.”

Alison added: “It’s one of those moments (when she found out about Annette), you get really emotional. It’s incredible that these Burnley shirts have helped inspire these women and change lives. It could be made into a film.”

More information can be found at www.pop-up-foundation.org or {http:// www.seedsfordevelopment.org|www.seedsfordevelopment.org}.