Community Football Academy to cycle 300 miles from London to Paris for mental health awareness

Pictured: The charitable cyclists raising money for the mental health pandemic

By Jessica Smith

The Leicestershire based Community football academy training children and adults, is taking part in a huge 300-mile cycle to raise money for Mental Health Awareness this summer.

The ‘CFA Ride for The Future II’ is set to take place from August 12th – 15th, as volunteers and coaches from the academy plan to cycle from London Trafalgar Square to Paris, a mammoth distance of 300 miles in 48 hours.

Imran Govaria, 42, the academy’s volunteer social media and marketing correspondent, said: “Our charity work is not done for fame or fortune – CFA have a platform and we aim to use our influence in the community to raise awareness on the issue.

“Mental health affects everyone; and so many people still don’t feel comfortable speaking out, especially in the BAME community. That’s why we’re hoping by doing this challenge we’re able to raise money to educate the community to address this issue. We’ll be surviving on a minimum of 5 or 6 hours sleep, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make to raise awareness for mental health.”

The academy aims to raise around £25, 000 with the donations to its GoFundMe page, as its 15-20 volunteers take part in the difficult cycle this summer, with support from local charity Rahma Mercy, which support refugees, giving a sizeable donation and increasing the charity’s reach.

The institute hopes to reopen their doors gradually from March 29th, with 300 children enrolled returning for training, which for some is the vital lifeline they need to stay off the streets. 

 “The academy offers an escape, and it’s amazing to see children smile and be themselves in a safe environment.

“There was nothing like this when I was a child, so it’s so important that they feel comfortable to approach coaches – safeguarding is key for us.

“Rain or shine, our volunteers are there for the children, because we care genuinely care about their futures,” added the father of four.

The academy has raised money in the past for many local causes; a 136-mile cycle last summer raised £20, 000 for Leicester General Hospital’s Neonatal unit, where most of the club’s members were born, a trip to Albania in 2019 to help local orphans, and a further fundraising challenge raised money for Help the Homeless Leicester.

“Charity starts at home, and that’s why we raise money for local charities. We’re a small academy trying to do a good thing for our community – this is just the beginning for us.”

Donations can be made at the GoFundMe page:

Beaumont Leys non-profit delivers 71,932 meals to community since start of pandemic

By Madeline Walker

A Beaumont Leys based non-profit group has delivered more than 10,000 food parcels to hundreds of local families in need since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The group, called E2, currently supports 652 families in the area with its food parcels service. 

Guleid Rooble, David Pollard and Jenny Hand

Each parcel includes seven warm meals, meaning 71,932 meals have been distributed to families from the E2 Emergency Food Distribution Centre on 250 Astill Lodge Road so far.  

Project co-ordinator Guleid Rooble said: “The community really pulled together. 

“Our 152 volunteers really are community champions. 

“I feel happy that those people are being helped. Some people have fallen through the net, and it takes the pressure off (the families) which is very satisfying for me personally.” 

Guleid Rooble and Shirdi SaiBaba

At the start of the pandemic, E2 Launched multiple projects in response to their rising concerns about their community.  

These included the emergency food parcel scheme, Street Co-ordinators, and a telephone befriending scheme which hopes to provide ‘help, comfort, (and) support’ through the covid pandemic.  

In a video post on its Facebook page, E2online, a food parcel recipient praises the non-profit organisation for all the support given to them and their family.  

Food parcel recipient, Omnia Hamsa said: “They’ve helped me so much. And also the E2 youth session; they’re so supportive. And with my daughter being off school it’s all she got, she loves going there.” 

Similar praise can be seen throughout the page.  

The telephone befriending scheme was started to help anybody in the community feeling isolated, and the team are currently taking up to 100 calls a day.  

In addition to this its Street Co-ordinators have been going door-to-door keeping residents informed on the help available, including information on the youth support groups available which are aimed at preventing knife crime.  

To get involved and sign up as a volunteer visit Action Leicestershire at: or Do It at:   

‘Hello again, my dear wife – it’s been a long 20 years…’

The story of how a Zimbabwean family reunited – after nearly two decades apart. Pythias Makonese tells his story.

It is not easy to sustain a marriage when the husband and wife live thousands of miles apart for almost two decades.

A lot marriages would collapsed under these circumstances. Somehow – thanks to the patience of my wife, Nomia, and the help of the Leicester branch of the British Red Cross – we managed to not only keep strong but to re-unite. This is our story.

Nomia Vongai Makonese, 58, a mother of five children landed at Heathrow airport, accompanied by her youngest daughter, Florence, 22, on December 5, 2020. I was there to meet them. At long last, we were together.

This is a story that goes back a long way.

After my teaching qualification, I started work as a teacher in 1978 at a primary school and taught for seven years before I got married. I married Nomia in a Civil Court at Mvuma, Zimbabwe in May 1985. We settled down and raised five children – one boy and four girls.

For 17 years, we lived together and looked after our family. I worked as a teacher. Life was good.

In 1980, there was a change of government in our country as the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) took over from Rhodesian Front (R.F.) headed by Ian Douglas Smith.  

An opposition political party, Movement for Democratic Change, was formed in 1999 led by Morgen Tsvangirai. Most teachers were aligned to the opposition party and were considered enemies of the then-ruling ZANU. This is allowed in England. It’s the nature of politics in a democracy. It wasn’t in my home country.

Many teachers became political victims. The pressure was so great I felt I had to leave my job, my home, family and move to England. This was 2002 and I had been accused of supporting the MDC when I invited the local parliament (MDC) to an annual general meeting of a School Development Association. 

My story for fear of political persecution was not believed by the Home Office when I applied for refugee protection in the United Kingdom. It took 10 years for the UK to believe me, when I finally won my appeal case.

When I gained refuge protection, I used my news status to try to bring about a family reunion – to bring over my wife and my youngest daughter.

This was refused in 2018. But I was determined and appealed again. This time, I was successful.

Still, it took a whole year – red tape, forms, officials – before we could get the travel documents.

The date was set. April 4, 2020. They were all set to board the plane – and the flight was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.

The reunion was put back another eight months.

It was the end of a tough chapter for Nomia, raising the couple’s children single-handedly.

“I was just thrilled to meet my husband,” she said. ” I last met him in October 2002 back in Zimbabwe.”

Its as also a joyous day for Florence. “I was only four year old when my father left me and had only a faint idea on how he looks,” she said. “I am very happy to meet him and will be the happiest child on earth to stay with him unlike in the past when I used to talk to him over the phone.”

Florence is now 22, and aims to further her education, and hopes her siblings can join her one day.

It’s been a long and difficult process to get this far. But the lesson here is that no matter how tough it has been, people want to be with the ones they love the most.

If you have that – and the help of the Leicester branch of the Rad Cross – then anything is possible.

Sheena’s school meals project melts hearts and brings Leicester closer together

By Maria Regina Santos Semedo

Two months ago, Sheena Thakrar came across an announcement saying that there would be no more free school meals vouchers for children during half term or Christmas holidays.

For families who were, in some cases, scared to ask for help, Sheena decided to create Project MK in order to give them supplies with which to celebrate the holidays.

She started right away contacting schools and sharing her ideas on social media, and saw the Leicester community starting to get together to contribute by giving different products and donating money.

Sheena explained how her aunt’s death gave her a name for the project: “I lost my Mina Kaki nine years ago. When I had my first meeting with a school and saw that this was really happening, I knew I had to dedicate this to her. That is why it is called Project MK.”

The initial plan was to help 101 families who were celebrating the holidays but ended up helping 140. Reaching families through schools, Sheena discovered that many had no money to even buy a Christmas tree.

She added: “I always asked the kids if they could have anything this Christmas, what would it be. One of them asked me for an angel, and of course I bought him one.”

During the past two months, the project has been able to receive over £3,000 in donations through the website Gofundme and 90 different products to give to the different families.

Despite the project being successful, it faced some difficulties because of the Covid pandemic.

“The whole situation made things vulnerable, but nothing was going to stop me from helping these families,” Sheena explained.

Understanding that people need help all through the year, she still feels very surprised and amazed with everything that has happened.

“The community has come together. Everyone helped me deliver the festive hampers. Family, friends and the community itself were more united than ever.”

Sheema now plans to register the project in order to have a charity number and understand where else help is needed.

She also confided that her biggest dream is to build schools in India, her homeland, and that this project made her have an opportunity. If you wish to know more about this project and its plans, visit Project MK Leicester’s gofundme page and Sheena Thakrar’s Instagram page.

Foxes fans urged to donate pay-per-view costs to charity

By James Wynn

Leicester City football fans have been urged to donate money that would have been spent on their team’s games to charity in opposition to the Premier League’s new pay-per-view scheme.

The ‘Charity Not PPV’ campaign led to £20,000 being raised by Newcastle fans for a local foodbank last weekend, with around 1,300 fans donating the £14.95 fee Sky Sports were charging for the Magpies’ game against Manchester United.

This movement has now led to calls for a nationwide campaign, with Leicester fans also urged to donate their money if they can.

“The only way to stop PPV football becoming the norm is to not buy it now. If they establish demand it will become a thing,” one Leicester fan said on Twitter.

“Give your £14.95 to a foodbank today and listen to it on the radio. Or go to the pub and watch it.”

Since football restarted following lockdown in June, all Premier League games have been available as part of existing Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime packages, while five games were shown free on BBC One.

However, with fans not expected to return to grounds in the UK until next March, this was decided to be unsustainable and fans of 10 of the 20 Premier League clubs will now need to pay extra to watch their teams’ games every weekend.

The Premier League refused to reveal how many PPV passes were purchased for this weekend’s action, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”.

Many Leicestershire charities and causes were touted as suitable for Foxes fans’ cash, including Help the Homeless Leicester, Trussell Trust and local football clubs, like Barwell FC, who are crowdfunding for a new astroturf 3G pitch.

One fan said, “Why don’t supporters who are considering £14.95 for Sky PPV make a donation to the pitch rather than be fleeced further?”

This message was endorsed by Barwell manager Guy Hadland, who called it a “good shout”.

The Foxes lost their first pay-per-view game on Sunday, as a Ross Barkley strike in the 91st minute condemned Brendan Rodgers’ side to their second straight home defeat against Aston Villa.

Leicester charities will hope to profit from fans’ generosity as they face Arsenal on Sunday evening, with a pass for the game once again costing £14.95.