For the ten years anniversary of the SBA, we propose to revisit the highlights of the past with the testimonies of those who have sustained the organization throughout its existence.
Olivier Mussat, returns to the shared travel with English people – following a charity event where they all earned their trip with Serge.
First of all, as a French expat in London in the 2000’s, Serge was a symbol to us all when he single handedly defeated the English in 2002, allowing France to win the Grand Slam. Such was the joy that I even wore my France jersey all day in the office the following Monday (as I was the only Frenchman in an office full of Englishmen).
A decade later my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Serge and got involved in his charity. Through work, I had already been many times to Cameroon, but my interactions with the people were limited as I spent most of my time going from an airport, to an air conditionned car, to an international hotel, to an airconditionned office, and back…. so when the opportunity presented itself to see the “real Cameroon” with Serge, we jumped on the opportunity.
We spent a week in Cameroon with Serge with other donors and visited all the SBA centers, met with the workers and the volunteers who help run the SBA on the ground, and most importantly met the children. Of course the children are at the heart of it all, and we were warmed by their smile, their happiness, and their love of the SBA as it offered them a stepping stone for them to get out of poverty.
All along we were treated as we were part of the SBA family, which allowed us to have some very candid interactions, and what we originally thought was going to be a “touristy trip” ended up being very hands on. Some of us helped run the rugby training, some helped with the younger kids reading class, whilst others even went to meet with the local chiefs and businesses to try to drum up more support and show that the SBA was indeed recognized outside of Cameroon’s borders as an example of a charity doing good work.
We met incredibly brilliant students, who had struggled through school because they didn’t have electricity at home to be able to study at night, or their parents were asking them to work instead of going to college, and yet they were infinitely curious and hungry for an education. I will always remember this teenager asking me to explain to him Plato’s allegory of the cave he had read on his own, then switch on to macro-economics, and yet the best job he could aspire to was to be a delivery man as he would not be able to afford university.
I have to say that even though we were in a completely foreign environment, the organisation of the trip was great and we always felt safe. This was a fantastic opportunity which I would recommend to anyone who wants to discover how the conceptual idea of “giving back” can quickly become a reality, and seeing on the ground how couple of dollars a day can really change these kids life was not only humbling, but made you want to continue to do more, much more.