Hilsea personal trainer thanks Portsmouth residents for generous donations to help poor communities in Burundi

HUNDREDS of football kits were shipped out to Africa by a Hilsea personal trainer on a mission to improve lives through sport and education.

By Belinda Dickins
Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 5:13 pm

Warren Chebby runs Bridge the Gap, a charitable effort which sees him collect donations from people across the Portsmouth area to help boost communities in Burundi

The 48-year-old was raised by his grandmother in the African nation, and grew up surrounded by extreme poverty before getting the opportunity to move to England when he was 17.

Warren recently shipped a 20-foot container full of donated school supplies, sports accessories and gym equipment over to Burundi and spent four months helping communities in need.

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Hilsea personal trainer Warren Chebby delivered a container full of donated goods to people living in poverty in Burundi, where he grew up, through his organisation Bridge The Gap. Pictured: Warren handing out clothing to the children at SOS Orphanage

Warren, who trains young footballers from academies across the south, said: ‘I’m so grateful because I was able to experience both worlds. I experienced poverty in Africa and I experienced a good life as a teenager here and it taught me not to take anything for granted.

‘The feeling that I get from it is really priceless. I remember growing up as a boy and trying to find a pair of boots to play football in, it was a struggle.

‘I just thought even if I can find a pair of boots for one child, I know that will be something they will cherish until they die. Until now I still remember that person who bought me that first pair of boots.’

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Warren, third from left, as SOS Orphanage with secretary Aline Kwizera, who was raised in that same centre, the director Damian Pasquet Barindogo and house keeper Bernadette Nikundana

Bridge the Gap’s aim is to promote education and sports, as Warren believes this will bring people together.

He said: ‘One boy asked me for a pen to write with. That broke my heart, a child who is willing to go to school and learn and can’t afford a pen to write with.’

‘Education is important in anyone's life and kids need to be encouraged towards that.

‘Burundi is a country that has been in and out of civil tribal wars but I believe that through sport, reconciliation is made easy as sports bring people together regardless of their differences.’

The Bridge the Gap tournament which Warren organised for more than 100 children

During his trip, Warren delivered clothing and shoes to SOS Orphanage Village, and ran a football tournament in Kayanza province which saw 120 children from four different counties getting involved.

Warren said: ‘Bridge the Gap joined with the local football federation FFB. We housed and fed the group for three days during the tournament which had a big positive impact, not only on the youngsters but on the whole country.

‘We used the items collected from Portsmouth and its surrounding areas as prizes for the tournament. AFC Portchester fans helped a lot towards this and few of my other friends.’

Warren handing out school and writing equipment

Warren has applied to register Bridge the Gap as an official charity, and is working on setting up a website so he can continue to help communities in Burundi.

He said: ‘This time it was just breathtaking. It’s been amazing. It just shows when people come together we can just do so much.

‘I think it’s going in the right direction. It’s just been amazing and I can’t thank the community in Portsmouth and the surrounding area enough.

‘We have started collecting items for the next shipment, and I want to appeal to those Good Samaritans. If they have any items they no longer use, I’m quite happy to collect them.’

Visit facebook.com/BridgeTheGap2017 for more information or to get in touch.

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Warren Chebby with an award given in Burundi to people who work to help the nation