Africathletics, running towards a better future
‘Run With Us, We Never Stop’. The claim of Africathletics encapsulates the soul and meaning of this virtuous idea. Athletics is the true cornerstone of this multi-faceted project: this fulcrum activity is connected to a series of elements aimed at individual and collective development, such as academics and nutrition.
“The genesis of the project dates back to 2015 and is closely linked to the sports component,” explains Giulia Marazzini the communication manager, “Mario Pavan and Enrico Tirel, the two founders of Africathletics, were 400 runners and track friends. During a meeting, they stopped in front of a banquet of a non-profit organization operating in Africa and decided to make their first experience as volunteers. After a month in Zambia, they wanted to continue their journey in Africa and arrived in Monkey Bay, a small town located on the southern shores of Lake Malawi. In that place they discovered an earthly paradise and decided to develop a project focused on athletics”
Malawi is a narrow tongue of land in southeastern Africa. In this former British colony, three-quarters of the population lives on less than two dollars a day and 12% of Malawians are afflicted by the scourge of HIV. Here, framed by the Great Riff Valley, Mario and Enrico’s multidimensional idea took shape.
“Athletics is the driving element of our project. It’s a tool that helps to evolve the new generations, it allows them to learn the need for a long-term vision: in order to achieve sports results, after all, you need to practice. Every year we give the opportunity to about 200 boys and girls to participate in our project, then we select the most deserving ones focusing on athletic and scholastic performance, in addition to family conditions, finally we assign them scholarships”
Africathletics has grown over time, becoming a force more and more capable of breaking down centuries-old barriers and broadening cultural horizons. A growth that, unfortunately, was sparked by a tragic event, the death of the just 25-year-old vice-president Mario. The reaction to this painful loss was immediate, and led many new figures and Italian volunteers to join the project.
A project that sees scholarships as a fundamental tool to impact the youth of Monkey Bay. The scholarships allow for training with the help of sports instructors, English teachers and a proper diet: a combination of elements that releases a rare power, able to change for the better a single life and, consequently, the entire community.
“We try to keep up with the community. We try to keep up with the community. For us, it’s critical that the project is experienced first and foremost by local residents and that they experience it as an integral part of the community. We want the project to live on even in our absence, we hope that one day it may even become self-sustaining. We are creating the coaches of the future and we are creating the good society of the future by giving young people the chance to learn English properly: it’s a necessary tool to access secondary school. Malawi’s elementary school are often overcrowded, with classes of up to 200 children… Teachers speak the local Chichewa dialect and, after completing the first cycle of studies at age 8, less than 10% of students are able to continue their studies due to language deficiencies. That’s why we provide extra classes in English and math. We also address the issue of malnutrition: Malawi’s land is fertile, so there is no question of malnutrition, but the traditional diet is mostly nshima (a white porridge) and fried foods. With our food plan we are demonstrating how important this component is in the maturation of young Malawians”
Becoming aware of your body, mind, communication skills and future. The work of Africathletics also passes through the example of the first young people involved in the project, who today have grown culturally, as well as physically, and have become testimonials for the younger generation.
The work of Africathletics is also driven by the ‘Conquest of the Castle’, a running race organized annually in Feltre, whose proceeds are donated to the Malawian project, and by an editorial line with a high visual impact. Africathletics has decided to change the classic narrative of NGOs on social media, proposing aesthetic content: content that tells the positive soul of a project that is in continuous development.
“We don’t want to communicate sadness or hardship. Malawians are called ‘the people of the sun’, they always give joy and smiles. That’s why we bring with us photographers who are in line with our communicative idea, their images reflect our thinking. As a next step we would like to create a women’s 7-a-side rugby team. We believe this is fundamental to evolve the concept of women, a historically delicate issue in the African continent. The important thing, as always, will be to treat everything calmly and delicately, with respect for Malawian culture”
If you want to learn more about and support the Africathletics project, click here.
Ph Davide Gaudenzi
Ph Federico Ravassard
Text by Gianmarco Pacione
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