As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, youth halfway around the world are saying thanks to two student-athletes at Case Western Reserve University. Juniors Elshaday Belay and Leah Levey have started a campus chapter of the Likoni Community Football League, organizing apparel and equipment drives that benefit more than 600 children in Kenya.
Belay, a biochemistry major and University Athletic Association All-Academic midfielder for the men’s soccer team, and Levey, a nutrition major and three-time All-UAA forward for the women’s soccer team, recently founded Likoni Community Football League (LCFL) Case, a local chapter for the international nonprofit organization that helps provide a safe, structured soccer system for students in Kenya.
LCFL Case already has garnered a great deal of support, particularly through its partnership with the UAA. So far, four UAA institutions—Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Brandeis and Case Western Reserve universities—have donated more than 300 jerseys and shirts, as well as socks, pads, cleats, soccer balls and more.
“We hope to continue this relationship with the UAA, and if every year the schools have equipment that is no longer being used, we want to obtain it to ship to Kenya,” Belay said in an interview for CWRU’s athletics website. “We also hope to expand this program to teams throughout the country and with other clubs at Case.”
Belay also has enlisted the help of the men’s head soccer coach Dan Palmer to contact vendors throughout the country, seeking donations of used equipment.
Though LCFL Case’s participation extends beyond the university, its roots are deeply connected to Case Western Reserve. Ben Levey, the founder and director of the LCFL, is Leah’s older brother. He founded the LCFL following a trip to Kenya after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. On his trip, Ben Levey encountered hundreds of children who possessed a love for soccer but were playing in disorganized, unregulated games. He sought to channel their passion into a safer, more structured and more competitive environment.
To help achieve his vision, Ben Levey organized eight coaches from the Likoni region to help establish teams, create schedules and organize referees. Thanks to the hard work of Ben Levey, the coaches and other volunteers, the LCFL—now in its sixth season—has grown to include nearly 600 children.
“All of the stories and videos my brother showed us inspired me to create this club,” Leah Levey said in an interview with the athletics department. “I’ve learned that these kids in Likoni, Mombassa, share the same love for soccer as we do, and they truly enjoy playing the game with their teammates.”
On campus, LCFL Case continues to grow, now including roughly 25 members. With this growing support, Leah Levey hopes to create a volunteer opportunity for Case Western Reserve students to visit Likoni, Mombassa, Kenya.