Features | 10 Mar 2022

Charities.connected: ‘It’s been wonderful to see the joy in their faces’

We talk to the founder of one Belfast charity benefiting from Vodafone’s charities.connected free mobile connectivity initiative.

Jahswill Emmanuel was the victim of a racial attack that resulted in his jaw being broken. For most of us, this shocking experience would have knocked our confidence, made us fearful and even bitter.

But former security officer Jahswill forgave his attacker, believing it resulted from ignorance and prejudice rather than outright racism. And in 2016 he decided to set up a charity to help people from ethnic minority backgrounds, refugees and asylum seekers, integrate with the local communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he made his home 18 years ago.

No small challenge in a region scarred by its own history of sectarian violence.

Jahswill Emmanuel, founder of MSCNI charity

Credits: MSCNI

Credits: MSCNI
Jahswill Emmanuel, founder of the Multi-ethnic Sports and Cultures Northern Ireland charity

The Multi-ethnic Sports and Cultures Northern Ireland (MSCNI) charity started with a football tournament involving local kids, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Some 300 to 400 took part, encouraging Jahswill to carry on.

Now the sporting events are supplemented by cultural activities, from drumming workshops to African dancing, poetry to singing, and the charity hosts “15 to 20 communities”, he says.

“This is our thing, bringing people together, young and old, and giving them new experiences to try, celebrating diversity.”

Covid interrupted their programme, but the charity simply pivoted to delivering food to families in need.

“We assisted well over 2,000 families,” he says.

Essential connectivity

Then Jahswill came across Vodafone’s charities.connected initiative, which distributes free SIM cards loaded with 20GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for six months to charities needing help with their connectivity. It’s part of Vodafone’s wider everyone.connected campaign, which aims to connect one million digitally excluded people by the end of 2022.

He’s been able to give out more than 100 SIMs to the people MSCNI supports, he says.

“The Vodafone charities.connected scheme has been very popular,” says Jahswill. “It’s been great to see the joy in their faces, because this means a lot to them at a time when prices are going up.


“It’s helped people wanting to learn English access lessons online, and to keep in touch with their families and friends. It makes them feel much less isolated.”

One beneficiary of the scheme said: “As an asylum seeker, I can’t afford data and free calls very easily, but this programme is helping me lift off some of the financial problems I’m experiencing.”

Many others echoed the sentiment in a survey conducted by the charity, citing education and connecting with friends and family as the greatest benefits of the scheme.

It has proved so popular Jahswill has ordered 500 more of the free SIMs.

“We’re so thankful to Vodafone,” he says.

‘The future is bright’

The people MSCNI supports come from 200 countries and regions around the world, Jahswill explains, each with different needs and life stories.

“One lady came to our office, she was pregnant, an asylum seeker from Sudan and she’d only been in the country for three months,” Jahswill recounts.

“She needed our help and uses the free charities.connected SIM to study – the future is bright for her.”

Vodafone is donating a tablet computer to the charity to help her.

Jahswill, a Nigerian by birth who is married to a local Northern Irish woman and has four kids, has won several awards for his charitable work. His enthusiasm is infectious and his commitment obvious.

So it’s good to know that Vodafone’s charities.connected initiative is making a difference to the people this inspirational man is succeeding in helping.

  • If you work for a charity or know a charity that could benefit from Vodafone’s charities.connected free mobile connectivity scheme, please apply here.

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