Roger Federer: "I'm proud of my African roots"
This gigantic continent holds a magical attraction for me. Through our foundation, we can help improve the quality of education in many places. A good education is something nobody can ever take away.
Anyone who has ever experienced Africa will form a lifelong connection to the continent. My mother comes from South Africa, so I had my first contact with Africa very early on. When I was just seven months old, my parents took me to South Africa. After that, we usually visited my relatives on vacation every two years.
I have fond memories of those days on the farm outside Johannesburg, or how we drove to Cape Town and the coast. Later, my parents took me and my sister on safaris, and of course that was extremely exciting. I love to think back on all these experiences with my parents and my sister. And I'm also extremely proud that I have these African roots.
The last time I was in South Africa was two years ago, and once again I was struck by the magical attraction of this gigantic continent. And it was also very moving to get off the plane and see my African family again after such a long time.
Through my foundation, I can now experience my ties to Africa in a completely different way. The work is great fun for me and I always learn something new, including about Africa. I was particularly impressed by a 15-year-old girl at a school
I visited in Port Elizabeth. With great self-confidence, she said, "I am tomorrow's future." Her conviction became the vision and the central theme of my foundation.
A Few Good Things
I'm very happy that the programs are working so well, and that we were able to accomplish a few good things with our limited opportunities. That's why two years ago the foundation board made the fundamental decision to once again significantly increase our commitment to education in South Africa. We now aim to give one million children a better start in life.
Education is something that stays with people for life and really makes a difference. It can't be taken away. People who have received a high-quality education can in turn have a positive influence on their environment. Likewise, educational projects can set in motion broad social developments that can influence not only the immediate families and close relatives but entire village communities.
I am strongly convinced that this is the right approach. It's easy for someone like me, who grew up in Switzerland and had a great education, to take it for granted. We forget that in many countries around the world this is anything but a given – and that's very true in Africa.
With our foundation, we want to measurably improve the quality of education in schools and kindergartens. This requires not only better infrastructure in the form of new or renovated schoolrooms, but also better trained teachers and involved parents.
In our programs, we partner with carefully selected organizations that have strong local roots. We consider it very important that these village communities take responsibility and actively support the projects for the long term. Because we don't come in and build the schools. The village population does that, and they also help organize the resources needed to make the new infrastructure happen. Our approach is not to deliver gifts, but to support and strengthen local people. We want to empower them to improve their situation by themselves.
There are happy images, and some that are not so happy. Both are important.
I consider it an honor and an enrichment to my life that I have the opportunity to be involved with this foundation. It's very dear to my heart already, but I know that this work will be woven into my life for years to come, long past the end of my career as a tennis player. At first, we also supported projects in central and eastern Africa, for example in Ethiopia. For a few years now, we have concentrated our activities in English-speaking countries in the south. This makes it possible for us to visit several partner organizations in one field trip. In addition, the cultures and to some extent the educational systems in these neighboring countries are similar, which is an advantage for the foundation's work.
When I return from my travels in Africa, I always bring back many happy images and memories, though also certainly some that are not so happy. Both are important.
I find the people there very open and warm-hearted. Time and again, I'm impressed to see how people who live so much more simply than we do – often literally from hand to mouth – can radiate such contentment. Every trip gives me new motivation to make more use of my privileged position to positively influence things in Africa.
Tennis for Africa
I would also like to do something for tennis in Africa. For some time now, I've thought about putting on an exhibition tour across the continent for the foundation. So far I've only played tennis officially in Africa once, at a Davis Cup match against Morocco.
Africa is a fascinating continent with unbelievable people. I hope that someday soon I'll be able to take an extended trip through Africa with my family. As part of that, I'd also like to show my children the work the foundation is doing. It's important to me for them to discover, experience, and learn to love this continent as I have.