Africathletics is a cultural, educational, and sports project that takes place in Malawi. The project was envisioned back in 2015 by Mario Pavan and Enrico Tirel, who decided to invest part of their time to transmit the positive values and healthy lifestyle of the sport they love: track and field. The goal of Africathletics is to use sport as a vehicle for social development in Malawi with the help of volunteers from all over the world. Our dream is to build a solid sporting reality in the country that can give children the opportunity to achieve their full potential through programs promoting personal and social growth.
WHERE WE OPERATE
A former British colony, Malawi achieved independence in 1964. Located in the southwest part of Africa, the country is crossed from north to south by the Great Rift Valley, a depression in which Lake Malawi extends. The headquarters of the project is Monkey Bay, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants (2008) located on the southern shores of Lake Malawi. Malawi is a densely populated country, undergoing continuous demographic growth. Three-quarters of the population, mostly concentrated in the rural areas, live on less than a dollar and a half per day. One of the major plagues that afflict the country is HIV: about 12% of the population is certified HIV positive or has AIDS, which is the leading cause of death.
Born in 2015, Mufasa Eco Lodge has been our first centre in Malawi
A breathtaking landscape
Our scholarship holders during a training at Mufasa Eco Lodge
PRIMARY SCHOOL IN MALAWI
According to Malawi’s educational system, primary school should begin at the age of 6 and last for 8 years. However, due to limited economic resources and unpleasant family contingencies, access to primary education is not guaranteed to everyone. Furthermore, the high student/teacher ratio (200/1) deeply compromises the learning environment, which does not allow the teacher to pay the necessary attention to each student. Since 1994, primary school has been taught in Chichewa, a local dialect and the language of national identity. English has been gradually abandoned by the population in recent decades, although it remains essential for enrolling in secondary school and for the job market. This precarious and problematic educational system translates into discouraging data: less than 10% of 8th grade students master English well enough to enrol in secondary school. This is the main reason why we decided to start our project in Malawi.
OUR PROJECT IN MALAWI
To grow up free, to study, and to practice a sport. These sound like ordinary activities, rights to which all children should be entitled in their daily lives.
However, there are situations where these rights are far from being realized. Because we perceived this as surreal and unjust, we decided to do something to help and improve the future of Monkey Bay and its people.
Since 2015, Africathletics has been working on a project aiming to sensitize new generations on the importance of sport, nutrition, and education. One of our objectives is to train new coaches that can help us to build a concrete, solid sporting reality in the country. As young athletes grow up, they start to know their bodies, learn to set goals, and share significant moments with their teammates. We are aware that change and improvement will not be immediate and easy, but we believe that barriers, distances, and obstacles can generate important personal growth.
Sport empowers children and prepares them to face life’s challenges but not alone. Nutrition is another fundamental pillar of Africathletics’ program. Our project encompasses a nutrition program that guarantees a balanced and healthy diet for children, without relying on large resources but rather on local traders. Thanks to the scholarship, which supports a child for 1 year, our young athletes have access to a healthy lunch at our headquarters, the Mufasa Eco Lodge in Monkey Bay. The lunch is always followed by Maths and English classes, training and games.
To grow up free, to study, and to practice a sport. These are clear objectives that we are keeping in mind while working on a better future for the children of Malawi.
|1 Spreading athletics in Malawi and training new sports coaches|
|2 After-school classes of English and Maths for children|
|3 Food education for proper development|
|4 Sports practice for the psychophysical development of discipline and resilience in a challenging environment|
We believe that sport, in all its forms and at all levels and ages, is a human expression that enables us to affirm ourselves for the pleasure of doing it (Think about a nice walk in the mountains or a run in the meadows). Sport thus becomes a place where there is room for all desires; space for those who want to walk and experience the environment and merge with nature, and space for those who want to improve themselves day by day in order to excel. Through sport, our children learn not only learn about their bodies but also how to plan, to have a method, to set goals and achieve them. The value we place on sport is significant because we believe that what sport teaches us is something applicable to everyday life challenges
WHY AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITIES?
Because we believe that it is important not to uproot children from their community, we have opted for after-school classes of Maths and English, taught by local teachers and volunteers. In this way, we hope that those getting advantage of extra classes can be of a positive example for their schoolmates.
WHAT DOES FOOD EDUCATION MEAN?
Food is a human right. Adequate food is a necessity for every human being, and having access to adequate food is a human right that many are denied.
The Malawian diet is mainly based on nsima, a maize flour porridge that is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nsima is chosen for its low cost, but this poor diet is also responsible for a deficit of proteins, salts, and nutrients which very often lead to learning delays, concentration difficulties. Other cheap alternatives can provide a more varied diet and ensure proper development for children. It is therefore important to work with families to understand with them how a more balanced diet can be provided with the few finances available.
WHO’S COACHING CHILDREN?
The training of adult coaches is quite challenging for Africathletics considering that being able to combine the personal interest and the responsibilities of future coaches is not an easy task. Teachers are taught the basics of sports practice for school-age children, and they are also instructed on how to plan training programs to prepare for competitions.
OUR WORK IN ITALY
In Italy, most of the work is done by volunteers who collect material (shoes and sportswear) during the entire year. All these resources will be then shipped and donated to young athletes in Malawi. Furthermore, Africathletics participates in many sporting events in Italy to present the project, look for new partners and collect additional material. For more information, visit our dedicated section BECOME A VOLUNTEER
The volunteers’ activities in Malawi are carried out over a period of three weeks. In the morning, volunteers teach some theoretical and practical sports knowledge to primary school teachers, who learn the basics of athletics, how to implement training programs and prepare for competitions. After the morning session, volunteers, teachers, and children have lunch all together. This is a good time to share ideas and proposals for improving the activities and build a trusting relationship with all those involved in the project. One of the strengths of our project is the intimate relationship that we have been able to establish between Africathletics’ team and local people. The idea is indeed to develop this project in a common and shared way so that the objectives and goals are taken up by all. In the afternoon, volunteers support the teachers in the training of children. After these three weeks of intensive training camp, both the academic and athletic activities continue with the coaches and teachers throughout the entire year.
One of the strengths of the AFRICATHLETICS initiative is the personal dimension of the relationship between the volunteers and the Malawian teachers. The spirit is to develop the project in a common and shared way, so that the goals become common to all.