Is it this Swiss, hands-on approach, combined with a clearly defined needs analysis plus the use of synergies that make the foundation support so effective?
Foundation Board Member and Federer Manager Tony Godsick recently returned from his first project visits in Malawi and Simbabwe with the insight that “Some things one really needs to experience oneself!”
Dr. Händel agrees. “We believe in the power of Africa. During my regular visits I am continually astounded to witness what is possible!”
For example how African fathers start to get involved in their children’s education, or how older students’ voices are seriously taken into consideration in the decision making process by local school boards. These examples demonstrate a remarkable shift in attitude that can have far reaching effects in accelerating education where there was minimal or none before.
From donor to partner-support organization
The Roger Federer Foundation made the transition from donor to partner-support organization with the pillar objective of project sustainability some years ago. Rather than a donor-beneficiary relationship, capacity is built through a catalogue of measures which also includes financial support, Dr. Händel emphasizes.
In one example, the foundation’s study revealed that the twenty-five per cent grade one and two absenteeism was due to the children themselves perceiving schools as not child-friendly. With parents and schools not enforcing attendance, this would lead to predictable outcomes right at the onset of an educational process which should aim to equip students toward economical independence later in life.
The foundation’s approach was to mobilize schools, parents, children and local partners to develop a comprehensive plan together: playgrounds, providing the most attractive class rooms for grades one and two (a major change in African hierarchy thinking), school meals, improved pedagogy and didactic teaching methods, communication between schools and parents, and more. The foundation undertook the study, made recommendations, provided encouragement and financial support that could not be met otherwise and within one year, absenteeism had dropped sixty per cent!
Africa must be improved by African Peoples
“We proceed on the conviction that Africa must be improved by the African peoples. To us, this also means African organizations must implement the programs. Much of our work is dedicated to empowering and facilitating the growth of African organizations,” says Dr. Händel.
What touches and inspires the CEO is the incredible solidarity and dynamism of the people in these remote, poor areas she meets. With conviction she adds: “It is the basis upon which we have and will continue to achieve remarkable results together.”
Dr. Händel traveled briefly to Zürich for The Match for Africa 3 before returning to Zimbabwe where she and her husband currently make their home with their two daughters, aged ten and eleven.
Around ten per cent of foundation revenue go to projects in Switzerland, where children from economically disadvantaged families are supported to attend extracurricular programs of their choice, such as sports, school support, music and cultural activities, youth camps and more.
While the first three matches took seven years to play out, the next – and first game outside Switzerland in Seattle – follows in just a few weeks. Supported by dedicated co-philantropist Bill Gates with a Youtube promise to fill the 16,000 seats Seattle stadium, Roger Federer plays world ranking number twenty-three John Isner.
The Zürich match with a balance of competitive and playful rallies, fun comment exchanges with Andy Murray, the ballboys and spectators, and the entertainment during the breaks showed Roger Federer enjoying and dedicated to the many facets of the world he moves in.
With the Match for Africa to the benefit of the Roger Federer Foundation, the world’s most popular tennis player may have initiated a new form of social entrepreneurship between high-profile sports and the public. Other firsts may follow: Roger Federer’s dream destination to play a foundation match in South Africa may not be too far off in the future!