Eric Kwame Appiah grew up playing football on the dirt fields in his neighbourhood just like any other Ghanaian child. He reflects that green grass pitches were a rare sight those days.
Yet the crave to become the next big soccer star such as Abedi Pele, Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah or Asamoah Gyan inspired many to take football seriously.
Back at home, something else apart from the football caught the fancy of the young Eric.
“I saw my grandmother growing up providing hope for less privileged children who could not afford food, school and shelter,” he told GBC 24. “She gave so many kids an opportunity to have an education and also brought many of them to know Jesus Christ.”
He added that, “so when I was able to travel to the US some 18 years ago, it was something that was always on my heart to do.”
That dream came to pass when he established the Hope 4 Athletes Foundation over 18 years later. Appiah says the aim of the latter programme is to continue giving hope to children under the poverty line in Ghana.
Speaking to Theophilus Sampah on the Sports Page programme on GBC 24 on Monday, 16th January 2022, Eric Kwame Appiah insisted the three-year-old project will continue as the Foundation seeks to carry out its mandate.
“This is not a programme we are going to stop,” he said before adding that, “If you do that, then you’re not changing lives and so this is an ongoing project. This is why we purchased the land so we can build our facilities and continue to provide opportunities for more kids. We are about to complete our boy’s dormitory, staff quarters, three pitches, volleyball court. We have important personalities who believe in what we do.”
This comes after the Foundation chalked some impressive milestones recently with the purchase of an 8.5 acre land at Asikasu near Asamankese in the Eastern Region, coupled with progress on the construction of a boy’s dormitory on the site.
Over 20 boys are currently enrolled at the foundation on 8-year scholarships each which takes them through junior high school, senior high school, and the university.
According to the Foundation, they fund their activities through sponsors and donors in the USA who fund the children’s education, health and nutrition, accommodation, and other needs.
Commenting on the quality of players produced by the foundation, Welfare Manager and Under 15 Coach of the Foundation David Dudor revealed they currently have a player Tony Kyei in the National U-15 team.
“We have talented players who can play in the national team,” he said. He added, “we have a player that was just called to the national U-15 team. We had one kid who was called to the national U-17 last year. We were been able to send one of the kids to the USA in August 2021.
Furthermore, Eric Kwame Appiah said that the academy relies on three pathways that explore the various qualities and capacities of the beneficiaries for success.
“When we talk about hope, everybody’s pathway is different. For instance, somebody’s pathway may be going professional while another person’s pathway may be studying in the USA. Another person’s pathway may be just finding them a trade here in Ghana which they can use to provide for themselves and their families. We have three pathways for the academy. In addition, we have relationships with some of the top coaches in Ghana who train with the team now and then.
He stressed that it is important to use sports as a tool for development to help the less privileged while highlighting meetings he had had with the President of the Ghana Football Association towards achieving his goal.
“I was in Ghana last year and I met with the GFA President, Mr. Kurt and I spoke about some of the things I can help with especially the coaches in division one and we did brainstorm about other things. Every Ghanaian boy wants to become the next Asamoah Gyan and the next Essien. So we are using soccer as a tool to help them achieve their aim.
“We are active on social media, on IG and our tagline is @hope4athletesfoundation, the same on Facebook and YouTube. We do highlight videos for the kids for the world to see. We have five at the Senior High School now. We can be contacted on +1 (614) 260-3180 and 024 414 2931.
Asked about the way forward for the Foundation, Appiah spoke about the need to complete the construction of the Academy’s facility at Asamankese and the addition of more under-age teams.
“The next phase is once we complete the construction of our boy’s dormitory. We are looking to add another age team. So right now we have the U-15s, so we plan on adding the U-13s to the academy, and then hopefully in the next year or two, we will be able to add the girl’s academy.”
On his part, the Welfare Officer of the Foundation David Dudor said the foundation is “going to develop more of the boys to represent the nation in the future.”
The interviewees, Eric and David, expressed their appreciation to the sponsors and donors in the USA for their continual support.
“We want to say a big thank you to our sponsors and donors in the USA. We had some time to get some of them in Ghana to spend some time with the boys in Ghana and that was a blessing. I just want to tell the boys that they should make this opportunity count. We have five pillars that we call pillars of hope at the academy. The first one is God first, discipline, dedication, hard work and make it count. So once we are to help the boys understand these five pillars it will make them go places.”