Ali goes the rounds with care package to Africa

Fans chanted "Ali! Ali!" as the former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali visited the city of San Pedro near the Liberian border this week to deliver food and gifts to war refugees.

Ali came to San Pedro, on the Ivory Coast, after a Roman Catholic nun who cares for Liberian refugee children at a mission in the city embarked on a letter-writing campaign to raise funds for food, medicine and school supplies.

"I never actually expected to get such a response," said Sister Sponsa Beltran, who heard in July from Ali and from Yank Berry, a Canadian entrepreneur whose VitaPro Foods Processing company produces a soy-based meat substitute that has been used to feed refugees elsewhere in Africa.

The two men joined forces to make the trip to West Africa and deliver VitaPro, along with toys and medicine, to the Centre Bon Berger Catholic Mission in San Pedro. Sister Beltran cares for 105 Liberian children - 61 of them handicapped - at the mission. She said about 400 others in the area also rely on her for food and care.

Ali, 55, suffers from Parkinson's disease and speaks in a barely audible whisper, but he shook hands and traded joke punches with scores of children who crowded the mission grounds to see him.

Ali's most famous visit to Africa was in 1974, when he beat George Foreman in Kinshasa, in what was then Zaire, in their heavyweight title bout known as the Rumble in the Jungle. He returned to Africa in 1980 for a far less successful trip, trying to persuade African countries to follow the United States in a political boycott of that year's Moscow Olympic Games.

Many African countries refused to go along with the boycott.

Ivory Coast became home to some 350,000 Liberian refugees during Liberia's seven-year civil war. The war ended late last year and the country's presidential elections held in July were peaceful, but many refugees have yet to return to their homeland for fear of a renewal of violence or because their homes were destroyed in the fighting.

Sister Beltran said she hoped eventually to move all the children at the San Pedro mission to Liberia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat