How we got here



  • In June 2014 former refugee and professional footballer Awer Mabil & his brother, South Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ Awer Bul, return to Kakuma Refugee Camp, in north-western Kenya, to donate football shirts.
  • In August 2014 Awer Mabil briefs businessman Ian Smith, while attending Adelaide United training camp in Alice Springs, on his vision to help refugees.
  • In December 2014 Awer Mabil, Awer Bul and Ian Smith meet & name project “Barefoot to Boots” (BTB).
  • In April 2015 Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launches Barefoot to Boots in Adelaide & offers support for its forthcoming visit to Kakuma through Australian High Commission in Kenya.


  • In June 2015, BTB takes 500kg football gear to Kakuma, supported by FFA & local FFSA clubs.
  • During BTB’s first trip discussions with NGOs and refugees highlight the opportunity to support football, health, education & gender-equality initiatives.
  • Foundations laid for long-term relationships with UNHCR, LWF, IRC & other NGOs.


  • In January 2016 Ian Smith visits Lebanon and Turkey, as part of Friendly Nation Initiative (to employ Syrians settling in Australia) & provides football gear and sleeping bags to refugees.
  • Football Ambassadors from professional clubs in Australia join BTB’s efforts.
  • Discussions commence between BTB & Ugandan-based social enterprise AfriPads, given urgent need for sanitary pads for women.
  • Corporate supporters also begin to partner with BTB (now include Deloitte, GenesisCare, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Liberty House, RACV).
  • In June 2016 BTB returns to Kakuma, accompanied by the Australian High Commissioner H.E. John Feakes, with laptops (from Deloitte) and football gear.
  • A visit to Kakuma General Hospital highlights urgent needs in maternity ward.
  • In September 2016 BTB attends private sector events during President Obama’s Refugee Summit at UN HQ, New York.
  • In October 2016 BTB buys incubators in Nairobi & donates to Kakuma General Hospital.
  • In November 2016 BTB establishes high-quality Board – Ian Smith (Chairman), Margaret Jackson, Moya Dodd, Louise Steinfort, Awer Bul.
  • In December 2016 BTB returns to Kakuma for third time. It also visits newly-established Kalobeyei Camp. Schools and youth groups receive more laptops & football gear.
  • Another visit to Kakuma General Hospital identifies need for oxygen supply while school visits highlight demand for more basic education equipment.


  • In February 2017 BTB gains Not-For-Profit & Direct-Gift-Recipient status
  • In June 2017 BTB visits Bidi Bidi Camp, Uganda, & returns to Kakuma & Kalobeyei with computers, dignity kits (funded by GenesisCare), notepads & pens (funded by RACV) & football gear.
  • BTB Founder Awer Mabil also becomes Patron of Barefoot to Boots.