Kentucky men’s soccer redshirt senior Aimé Mabika considers himself a Lexington native but his roots run deeper outside of the state of Kentucky. Mabika has a strong connection to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the native country of both of his parents.
While Mabika has given back to his hometown of Lexington with the many successes he’s contributed to the Kentucky men’s soccer program, he felt that he also needed to give back to his parents’ native country. That’s when Mabika decided to organize a shoe drive in order to support the Democratic Republic of Congo by engaging the Lexington community to help those in need.
Congo resonates with Mabika as another home because of his strong family ties to the country, even though he never personally lived there. Every member of Mabika’s family is from Congo with the exception of he and his sister, who were born in Zambia. Mabika spent eight years of his life growing up in Zambia before his parents moved their family to Lexington.
When Mabika lived in Africa, he played a lot of soccer and saw firsthand the need for a pair of shoes in good condition.
“I had to be very mindful of making sure I didn’t mess up my shoes because I wouldn’t be able to just go to the store that night and buy another pair,” Mabika said. “In Congo, it’s really even worse where some people really don’t even have shoes, or many shoes or some they don’t fit them right.”
The need Mabika saw and even related to is what helped him launch his idea to action.
Mabika slowly started his collection of shoes with nine pairs of shoes that he gathered from friends and family on his own before he recognized that the drive had the ability to make an impact on an even larger scale.
“I thought I know there are a lot of people that have shoes here that they’re never going to wear anymore so let’s put them to good use,” Mabika said. “Let’s send them to someone who’s really, really going to appreciate them.”
Mabika’s goal for the drive is to collect as many shoes as possible. The need for these shoes is so great that he wants to see how far this project can go.
The shoes are being collected in a drop bin outside of the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex. Mabika is asking the Lexington community to donate gently worn shoes of any size and style in the bin, which he will collect and mail to the DRC. His family members who reside in Congo will assist Mabika in distributing the shoes to the Congo community. Mabika also started a GoFundMe site to help collect donations for shipping and handling fees.
Mabika’s connection the Democratic Republic of Congo and his willingness to make a difference brought this idea together. He’s hopeful that fans of UK Athletics, and the community at large, will help him make this idea work.
Those who wish to donate from outside the Lexington area can mail their donations to:
SHOES FOR AFRICA
Joe Craft Center
338 Lexington Ave
Lexington, KY 40508