The former FIFA international-accredited referee is now focused on finding a way to bring that joy to children who need it most.
“That is it. That is their passion,” Hayes said of the children of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is one of the three nations where Ebola is the only thing running wild right now. So for those children there is nothing to do, just sit inside in fear, “They are just in panic. Just panic. Most people are just scared to get out,” Hayes said.
Schools are closed as are many businesses, all in the hope of stopping Ebola. “That is Africa. They just have to cope with what they have,” he said.
For most children, what they have is little to nothing and that was true long before Ebola took their joy.
Bundu Hayes fled Sierra Leone in 1999 and came to the United States with political asylum. He left behind his country, his role as a soccer referee at the world cup level and role as managing editor of a leading newspaper.
His mother stayed behind and died three months later, leaving only a message for her son, “Before she died she tell everybody when he call if I am not alive you just tell him to give back. Give back.
He got to give back. So with that inspiration I said ok.” Bundu is doing it one foot at a time. He founded the Samma Foundation to honour his mother and his passion.
Here, kids usually grow out of soccer shoes or not wear them out so the foundation takes donations of new and used soccer gear, packages it up and ships it to Sierra Leone where it goes to school children.
With the help of Klein Youth Soccer, he is collecting shoes, balls and even hand sanitizer.
In 2012, the foundation helped 2 schools, “It is like handing them a million dollar check,” Bundu said. In 2013, there was enough gear donated for 18 schools.
This year the need and the goal is higher, “It is something that you can’t even describe. The excitement, the feelings. Just look at those pictures. The celebrating, rejoicing. It is amazing.”
Bundu is hoping to get the items to Sierra Leone before schools reopen there, depending on the progress in the fight against Ebola. “I am going to give back any time. As long as I am alive I will give back to my country,” Bundu Hayes exclaimed.
He will also stay on the pitch, continuing to referee even at the youth level because every match matters to him too, no matter how big the player, “I just can’t quit. No way, until I can’t blow the whistle anymore.”
He will not stop working to get as much help to his former country as he can either, “The kids need help. Whatever help they can get the kids need help. Something has got to be done.”
Bundu’s doing it by delivering joy, one pair of shoes, one ball, one potentially lifesaving bottle of hand sanitizer at a time.
Source: KHOU.com Houston Texas.