“I can only thank everyone”

Josuha Guilavogui on a site visit to the orphanage he’s set up in Conakry, which opens next summer.

Whenever there’s a pause in the action in the Bundesliga, Josuha Guilavogui spends the time on a project that is close to his heart – and this winter break was no exception. Last week, before retiring for what was already a short Christmas break, the VfL midfielder travelled to Guinea, where he has been running an orphanage since October 2019. The fact that the Frenchman is drawn to the West African country again and again is not only because it’s important to him to spend time with the children at his institution – he is also currently expanding the project by building his own, new orphanage with an adjoining school. The move from the rented house to the new home is planned for the coming summer.

Excitement for the move

There are currently 14 children in the care of the orphanage. The youngest is five, the oldest eight years old. The new facility on the 2,000-square-metre site will not only be more modern, there will also be bedrooms separated by gender and more space overall. The adjoining school will also soon include a football field. “The children already know that they will be moving and are really looking forward to it,” says Guilavogui, who travelled to the country of his parents’ origin with his father, two uncles and two cousins. “My family is a huge help to me, but I also get a lot of support from the club. Our kitman, for example, has given me a lot of clothes. VfL Wolfsburg is very well known here anyway, and now you also see a lot of children playing in green and white training clothes here in my village. That's just great.”

Foundation to secure financial future

Everything should be complete next summer. The Wolves’ number 23 will be back on the plane soon after the end of the season, but he is already thinking much further ahead. “I feel a great responsibility here, the children even call me 'Dad',” he says. “It's not enough for me to come once before Christmas and once in the summer. Therefore, if time permits at some point, I will definitely be here more often.”

Guilavogui has borne all the costs of setting up the project himself. In the long term, however, Conakry's orphans should have a home independent of him. “When I’m no longer a professional footballer and no longer even alive, I still want this to continue. That's my big wish,” adds the 31-year-old, who has already made provisions to this end in the form of his own foundation, with the help of which the operating costs of the orphanage are to be covered in the future. The Josuha Guilavogui Foundation is to be launched at the beginning of 2022. “I can only expressly thank everyone who has helped with setting it up. And equally, of course, everyone who supports the orphanage with a donation in the future. Anyone who sees how the children flourish and develop here knows that they are doing something really good.”