Nana Badu was left shocked and surprised when former England, Arsenal and Spurs star Sol Campbell welcomed him into the Lionhearts squad this week.
The founder of BADU Sports, a Hackney-based volunteer organisation who use the power of sport in the area to help educate and bring the community together, ensured local people were kept well fed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
A food bank was set up and food packages were also delivered by Badu’s young volunteers to vulnerable people, while a helpline for local residents was also set up with the main initiative being to assist people from the BAME community who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
And he was going about his daily business with a team meeting at their HQ in Stratford when Campbell arrived with his number 12 squad number shirt to welcome him into the Lionhearts squad.
“I’m very proud and very surprised,” said Nana.
“I don’t like the whole limelight stuff, but I’m very honoured to receive it and be a part of it.
“This is belongs to the organisation and it really and truly should be for all of the team because it’s the team in the community who have done all the work.
“When lockdown came, my amazing team were able to identify what the issues were going to be and what the community needed.
“We wanted to create a space and a hub for people to just ring up and ask for food and support.
“The helpline was huge for us in being able to support the actual need of the people who were calling the line.”
The Lionhearts initiative, supported by BT, will pay homage to 23 inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation.
And Campbell, who grew up just down the road from Hackney in Plaistow, was impressed enough by what BADU Sports had achieved to make the trip to east London to present Nana with his shirt and hear more about their work.
“Badu Sports is an acronym of my name, but it’s broaden, advance, develop and understand and it’s all about broadening the mindset of young people and families, advancing their learnings, giving them the resources they need and developing them and their skill sets,” revealed Nana.
“Most important for us is to understand their circumstances and challenges and we try to use sport to empower and educate young people but also uplift them so that they feel they belong, they’re worthy and capable.”
The squad so far…
1.Captain Sir Tom Moore – Record-breaking centenarian who raised more than £32million for NHS Charities Together
2. Ranjit Singh – The wrestling coach from Wolverhampton helped organise daily meals for 300 people and the distribution of PPE equipment
5. Betty-Leigh Allinson – Football shirt enthusiast aged five who has raised over £27,000 for a Hertfordshire hospice through a cycling feat
9. Tobias Weller – Nine-year-old inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore to raise almost £150,000 for Sheffield-based charities
10. Joe Wicks – The YouTube fitness coach led the nation and beyond through a daily exercise class for 18 weeks during lockdown.
12. Nana Badu – His organisation, BADU Sports, provided a helpline, food bank and deliveries to vulnerable members of the local community in Hackney.
15. Hassan Akkad – Award-winning film maker who answered a call to be a cleaner in his local hospital before raising awareness of NHS bereavement fund
16. Akbar Khan – Bradford-based volunteer for a charity for people with disabilities who brought their community together during COVID-19 lockdown
18. Dema Aktaa – Syrian refugee who helped raise money for COVID-19 outbreaks in refugee camps by walking on her prosthetic leg.
19. Tony Hudgell – Celebrated young fundraiser who raised £1.6m for the hospital which saved his life as a baby
22. Daniel Sukula – Community leader from Bolton who, after being saved from deportation back to DR Congo, founded a centre for disadvantaged youths.
23. Jay Flynn – The virtual quizmaster helped raise money for multiple charities and entered the Guinness Book of Records during lockdown