Our Patron – Harry Baker

We are delighted to announce that England International Cerebral Palsy Footballer Harry Baker has wholeheartedly agreed to be a patron of Rafiki Thabo Foundation.

It is so incredibly important to find the right patron. Someone who has a strong connection to our cause and believes passionately in what we do and are aiming to achieve. This was the most important factor when we made our approach, as our chair, Jon Uglow, says:

“I am so proud and honoured that Harry is becoming our patron. So much of his life story relates to the core messages of Rafiki – that everyone deserves a chance no matter their start in life; that education can transform lives and livelihoods; that hard work, determination and partnership pays off. I love the integrity of our choice of Harry as our first patron, absolutely meeting our desire to first and foremost be represented by a patron who quite simply fits with our vision!”

Harry is incredibly inspirational and a real role model for our scholars and graduates with his success in the face of adversity. We hope they will take courage and motivation from Harry’s ability to fulfil his dreams despite the bleak outlook he was given. In Harry’s own words:

“I’m extremely honoured and proud to be working with the Rafiki Thabo Foundation in becoming a patron for the charity. Education is something that is very important to me and that every person should have access to. I am now able to support and help the charity deliver this to people who may never have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for the great work the charity does. Finally, being a person with a disability I understand the struggles and prejudice people may face and it is fantastic to again support and help Rafiki Thabo with giving people with disabilities a chance of education in Africa.”

Harry was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth and his parents were told he wouldn’t walk; he would never achieve anything. With the support of his family, together with sheer determination and perseverance, Harry proved the doctors wrong (to their delight). He worked hard to master walking, and that was only the start. Despite being bullied at school for walking strangely, he had the support and resilience to push through these challenges and secure his education while also becoming a standout footballer – so much so that he was scouted, and now plays for England! Harry has played more than 49 matches for his country (and counting), travelled the world representing England and played in four World Cups, three European Championships and won a European Golden Boot! In May 2023 Harry and his squad reached the finals in the European Championships and proudly brought home their silver medals! To read more about the Para Lions squad and their World Cup fixtures head to England Football.

Harry is passionate about boosting the awareness of people with disabilities and disability sport and is actively reaching out to the younger generation to help them understand and be sympathetic to different abilities and also to encourage them to never give up on their dreams regardless of how insurmountable their challenge may be.

Harry supported our Rafiki Relay for Education fundraising challenge. He also took part himself, adding up the kilometres as part of his training for England! Here’s a video that Harry recorded to encourage people to sign up for the Rafiki Relay – in which you can also hear him talk about his own inspirational path to becoming an international footballer, his encouragement to our scholars and to young people everywhere to work hard on their education and reach for their goals!

We can’t wait to do more great work with Harry! There are lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline and we shall be sure to keep you posted! We already have something huge coming up this August, when Harry together with fellow patron Amar Latif will be taking on the challenge of a lifetime as they trek Kilimanjaro for Rafiki Thabo Foundation! They will be lead by our third patron extreme explorer Bob Bhania! Two of our graduates will also join them, one of whom, Ayiesa, runs Dadashi Children’s Centre for children with Cerebral Palsy. Together with his mother-in-law, Ayiesa makes sure these children receive therapy and the support to finding a pathway into education. It will be amazing to introduce Harry and Ayiesa to each other! Read more about our Kilimanjaro Trek and how you too can take part on our dedicated page.

“To hear the stories about young people who have benefitted from Rafiki’s programmes, like Wycliffe who was born with a disfigured foot and could not go to school but who thanks to Rafiki was able to go to school and university and better his life, make you realise that some of us are so privileged, and we just need to take time and look after other people.” 

Harry Baker, March 2021

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