(JollofNews) – The boxing champion says he is ‘detemined to change things’ after being touched by the plight of children going hungry when he visited The Gambia.
Amir Khan has faced some of the toughest men in the world but his knees buckled when he came face to face with a two-month-old girl.
The two-time World Light Welterweight boxing champ was knocked out by the mite who is the same age but weighs less than half of his daughter Lamaisah.
When he asked the girl’s mother – who has six other starving children – how she coped, she told him that some days she has to decide which child to feed because she doesn’t have enough food for them all.
“It hit me really hard,” he said. “My mind went straight to Lamaisah, and I thought of her tucked up in her cot back home. It’s heartbreaking.”
Amir, 27, was visiting the barren Gunjur region of The Gambia, where thousands are victims of floods and famine.
He is determined to help and he launches the Amir Khan Foundation with a fundraising dinner in Manchester on August 14.
The foundation is about to begin building an orphanage for 250 children in Gunjur.
He said: “They have given up on life here. The kids starve to death. It hurts so much. I’m determined to change things.
“Meeting that mother – and especially that little girl – touched me like nothing ever has. We drove away in total silence. There was four of us in the car but none of us said a word for miles.”
Amir also plans to sink a vital well in the area to provide fresh water.
The Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest and poorest nations. In 2010, floods left ¬thousands of people homeless. The disaster destroyed crops and led to the famine.
One in five infants is born with low birth weight, and the under-five mortality rate is 98 per 1,000 live births. Malaria and other infectious diseases are rife, and many children are abandoned.
Amir said: “They are on their own here, with no food, no water and no hope.”
The luckier children are cared for in charity-run orphanages, like one Amir and his group visited. He said as they arrived they were instantly surrounded by cheering youngsters.
“They had such joy and hope and optimism,” he said. “The contrast to the village where I’d met the baby was overwhelming.”
There – during the trip organised by the Penny Appeal – he met six-year-old Ramatoulaye Sowe, who made a big impression on him, especially in her boxing gloves.
“She put the gloves on and gave me a little dig to the chin,” he said.
“She was only six but she was the captain of the orphanage. It was her responsibility to make sure all the other kids behaved themselves.
“It’s obvious she is capable of so much. All she needs in life is a break.
“There are hundreds like her and I can’t wait to start helping as many of them as possible. I’m more determined than ever to do some good here.”
•The Amir Khan Foundation will provide funding for charity projects on a local, national and international level. For more information and news on upcoming projects, follow @AKFoundation. to donate, go to www.pennyappeal.org/AmirKhanFoundation