Cameroon: It’s back to school for the 2020-2021 school year!

Due to the health crisis, the school calendar has been severely disrupted in Cameroon. So it was only on Monday 05 October 2020 that our children and their classmates were able to return to school. We wish them a good start to the school year and are determined to give them all the support they need to make this new year a success.

Thanks to the generosity of our partners and donors, our children were able to return to school well equipped. Distributions were carried out with joy in all the centres at the start of the school year. Often, on these occasions, small parties around a snack were organised. At the Eau Claire centre of Bangangté 125 children were happy to receive their treasures and to share a good meal together. At the Zoétélé centre, a ceremony was even organised by Abaa in the presence of the second degree village chief and a few parents, in order to distribute the school supplies and to provide scholarships to support education.

All the children at the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA), whether young or old, now proudly carry a well-stocked backpack.  These pretty “Victor bags” named after our donor Victor Obadia were made by Clarisse, a seamstress from Yaoundé, close to the SBA.

It is thanks to the BIC group, to Mr. Arnopoulos of the ARNO group, to Icrafon following the efforts of Victor Roussel, Secretary of DROP (Doualla Rugby Old Papy’s) and to other generous donors that our children have the necessary school supplies for the school year and that our centres are equipped with books and supplies.

The BIC group gave us 1200 pens of each colour (blue, green, red and black) as well as a few boxes of pencils and felt pens which were distributed to our various centres. And to complete this collection, we were able to purchase other supplies useful to the centres thanks to the voucher of 120,000 FCFA (= 183 euros) that Mr Arnopoulos donated, as he did the previous year.

For our rugby training, we were able to renew our stock of equipment thanks to the generosity of our donors in France and in particular to Hubert and Christophe. Hubert sent boxes containing 41 jerseys and 24 shorts for our rugby players as well as children’s clothing and toys.

As for Christophe, he took care of transporting other boxes of rugby equipment to Yaoundé.  These were packages filled with sports’ vests, rugby polo shirts but also books that Christophe left in Etoudi. He arrived during a rugby training session so that our players and Moise had the joy of meeting him and thanking him in person.

As for our infirmaries, we also stocked up on Laborex medicines and paramedical products offered by the DROP. In September, Victor, DROP’s Secretary came to train with our Bangangté rugby team. On this occasion, he handed over the school supplies offered by Icrafon as well as the Laborex medicines offered directly by DROP. Victor went to great lengths to enable us to receive these donations and we thank him very much.

Donation of medicines from the DROP

A huge thank you to all the donors for allowing our children to return to school well equipped!

 

Translation : Katy Birgé-Wilson

 

Mali: The SBA Mali is born!

With more than 16-years’ experience in Cameroon, the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) opened a branch in Mali. The opening ceremony, kicking off the start of the rugby training, took place on Saturday 24 October at the AS Real stadium in Bamako. As for the daily after-school tutoring, this will begin in a few weeks, the 25 young girls aged 8 to 13 having now been selected.

SBA Mali banner SBA Mali Girls

Through rugby, we want to offer new perspectives for the future of the 70-90 children who will follow our program. Among them, 25 young female rugby players from very disadvantaged backgrounds will be offered tutoring every day after school, except on Saturday, training day. By preventing them from dropping out of school, we seek to protect them against the scourges that plague Mali, namely forced marriages, teenage pregnancies and female genital mutilation (FGM).  A long struggle for girls’ education and gender equality is underway at the SBA Mali.

It is thanks to our referent on site, Boubacar Traoré a.k.a. “PC” that this opening ceremony was able to take place in the best of conditions. The get together was set-up at the Modibo Keita stadium located in the Djikoroni district. It is on the site of the Sports Association of AS Real in Bamako that the SBA Mali will be able to train and it is thanks to Mr. Sow, its president that we will very soon be able to install, on site, a mobile structure to accommodate our tutoring courses.

Joy and pleasure could be seen on all the faces, especially those of the little ones. About a hundred children were present as well as a few parents and guests who honoured us with their presence.

Before 4 p.m., young and old were ready on the ground and at 4:10 p.m. “PC” greeted the first guest: Mr. Sow’s representative: Mr. Abidine Maiga. We then began the opening ceremony with a presentation of the SBA in Bambara, the lingua franca of Mali.

Ceremony launch SBA Mali

The rugby games kicked off at 4.30 p.m. first with the big players: the national rugby sevens team taking on a team made up of other players from Bamako. Then, the U13 and U15 boys each played a game.

Rugby Matches SBA Mali Rugby Matches SBA Mali

At 5:00 p.m. we played the short video of the great Serge Betsen so that, in a way, he could be there with us too. Because of the global pandemic, sadly he was unable to be physically present for the big occasion.  Still, his encouragements rang out throughout the stadium and served as a good transition, prior to the girls’ games.

The girls appeared on the field and played very close games.  Their game was eagerly awaited, the girls holding a key place in the mission of the SBA Mali.  In the attached video you can appreciate their presence and their fighting spirit on the ground.

It was with great pride that the 25 girls aged 8 to 13, who will receive daily after-school tutoring as part of the first year of SBA Mali, were presented to everyone. As you may know, they were selected by “PC” among the Anges Noirs (Dark Angels) players and a meeting with the parents had been organised beforehand. We specifically chose these young girls to provide them with academic support through Malian teachers chosen by “PC”.  The aim is to help them continue their studies in order to provide them with a safe and healthy environment.

Girls of the SBA Mali tutoring programme

The opening ceremony ended with a well-deserved snack and some dancing.  Our children all seemed happy to meet again next Saturday for another training session.

The SBA Mali is launched, dreams will be fulfilled, lives will be changed.

We would very much like to thank the Malian authorities, H.E. Mahamadou Nimaga and his team from the Embassy of Mali in the USA, Mr. Arouna Modibo Touré, former Minister of Youth and Sports, for their support without which our branch could not have seen the day.

A big thank you also to Mr. Lauran, Vice President of the Rugby Federation of Mali, Dr. Seydou Sow, President of AS Real in Bamako who provided us with the ground for our training and the site for the after-school tutoring.

Our children also greatly appreciated the presence of Manhi Dembelebb, the champion of Mali in bench-press and Samba Benzema Doucoure, Credit Manager at Banque Atlantique, two models of success!

To learn more about the genesis of SBA Mali, please read our Press Release and share it with others, friends and more.  We also take this opportunity to thank the journalists who helped us share the good news about our branch in Mali.

 

Translation : Katy Birgé-Wilson

Call for donations: Collection of rugby boots and sport shoes in progress

Friends of the Paris and Toulouse regions, we need your sport shoes and rugby boots!

Our young people are truly enjoying rugby, even barefoot or in flip flops.  Still we would really like to give them sport shoes or rugby boots so that they can train in better conditions.

If you have any of these treasures in good condition (child or adult sizes) in your closets, please send us a photo along with the size of the shoes by email (contact@sergebetsenacademy.org), so that we can see if they would suit one of our budding rugby players.  They will for sure make someone happy.

Thank you so much to all of you who have already shared our call and made a donation.

Our favourite physiotherapist, Major Mouvement has published some great stories on his Instagram account to give us a helping hand and we thank him!

Major Mouvement's call for donation

Translation : Katy Birgé-Wilson

 

Cameroon: Our SBA Coop has tripled its crop production

Four years ago, our CEO, Odile Prevot offered to some mothers of the children we help, the opportunity to create a farming cooperative in Bangangté. She has been closely following their progress, meeting them virtually every month. So far, this cooperative has enabled 17 women to grow their income and has had a positive impact on the lives of their families and the ones of our children. Odile and all the Serge Betsen Academy are very proud of their achievements and their ambitions. She decided to write the following notes to honour these brave women and share with you their success story:

“How creating financial independence for women leads to sustainability?

Back in 2016 while visiting one of our centers in Cameroon, I was sitting in the classroom with a few of the mothers of the children we help. We have known each other for a number of years now and they are always in demand for stories coming from Europe and America.

Whilst seating with one of their babies on my lap, health and education were our main topics of discussion. They explained that, although the duty of the man is to provide a house and cover the main household’s costs, it is up to the mothers to take care of the children and all the costs associated with raising them. However unlike men, their access to financial resources is very limited. One of the mothers, Clotilde, expressed her concern that her working in the fields was not enough to provide for her children’ school fees and other expenses and asked for help as she knew that with the right resources, she could grow more crops and make ends meet.

Other mothers joined in and the discussion became very animated. Realizing it was a common problem, which could become an opportunity if they joined forces, I offered them to consider a cooperative framework, where the mothers would take responsibility over the operations and the management of COOP. The role of the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) would be to provide oversight and the seed funding at the beginning of the year, and in return the COOP would reimburse the funding 12 months later and share a portion of the crops during the year, in order to help feed the children of the SBA center.

And just like that, the SBA COOP was created, the lawyer in me wanted to create a sustainable structure so I drafted the COOP bylaws following OHADA principles, with 11 mothers as founders with the SBA providing corn and bean seeds funding, producing 450kg of corn and 342kg of beans at year-end.

We are now four years later, the COOP has tripled its crop production, provided enough extra income for the mothers to finally afford to pay all their kids expenses, and in some cases allowing some of the mothers to start new businesses, becoming increasingly financially independent.

This incredible success story has also been very positive for the SBA, which was not only always repaid on time by the COOP, but it helped the center in becoming more sustainable as the COOP now provides enough food to feed more than 130 kids of the SBA center throughout the year, totaling nearly 4000 meals.  

Today this micro-financing scheme, offered to the moms, helps them to deal with emergencies, make critical purchases that they could not otherwise afford and put food on the table in times of scarcity, even start new business ventures! But more than that, they are all empowered to speak out more, they assume leadership roles. When I meet them virtually every month we make sure that SBA COOP is an opportunity to meet formally with all the other moms to discuss problems and develop joint actions.

So proud of our rural women. They are working as hard, or more, as the men next to them with less income and as member of civil society we must use our convening power to build capacity and resilience when assisting women in need.”

Odile Prevot

A meeting of the SBA Coop

Event: Once again, so much solidarity this year during the WateRugby!

This year, the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) was present in Toulouse from September 11 to 13 once again as a partner in solidarity with the “WateRugby Sud de France” tournament. Why ? Because the joy of playing rugby is to be shared and because rugby and solidarity go hand in hand.

We had an SBA stall set up where everyone was welcome to discover our mission and our actions, and also to get goodies or a Recycling Rugby confection. The total sales amounted to £1459 (=1608 €)!  Of course, Lionel’s bags made from recycled rugby balls came out as the sales’ big winners.

Stand SBA WateRugby Stand SBA WateRugby 

International players and amateurs alike got involved in all the photos, posing with a Recycling Rugby bag. It was a great solidarity moment, thank you!  We also thank all the visitors who came to us and asked questions, and bought one of our wonderful creations for a good cause! If you have not yet had the chance to grab the bag of your dreams, head to the @RecyclingRugby Facebook page. 100% of the profits are donated back to us. Custom-made confections are also possible.

This year again, we were able to count on the presence and the energy of 10 passionate volunteers whom we would like to thank a thousand times. Big thumbs up to Boris and his daughter Émilie, Nina, Caroline and her son Marius, Corinne the famous girl who taught Serge Betsen to tackle, Stéphanie, Aurélien, Christophe and his daughter Cassandre. You were absolutely perfect!

Stand SBA WateRugby Stand SBA WateRugby volunteers 

A big Thank you also to all the players for making us dream during three whole days! In these complicated times, it has done us a lot of good!

Thank you to Yann Delaigue and the entire “WateRugby Sud de France” team for the organisation and to all the superb partners gathered this year despite the Covid crisis, in particular: Sud de FranceBarraque PeintureDas WeltAuto, GPM Pharmateam, le Groupe ATFTrade Discount, Laptopservice, La Région Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée

Stand SBA WateRugby Stand SBA WateRugby

Finally, we send a special thank you to the Groupe ATF for setting up their solidarity operation in favour of the SBA and our friends from Rugby French Flair. On the Trade Discount platform, the Groupe ATF has sold 2100 recycled computer equipments in September, therefore the SBA is going to receive a donation of £1909 (=2100 €).

Finally, if you want to see the official pictures of our stall and of the Legends posing with the #RecyclingRugby bags, go to our Facebook page. See you next year! Take care of yourself! Stay Safe!

Stand SBA Recycling Rugby at WateRugby Stand SBA Recycling Rugby at WateRugby

Translation by Katy Birgé-Wilson

Volunteer: Josué, SBA former student, now a nurse in two centres!

Thanks to Josué, each centre of the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) now benefits from having a nurse on site.  This is wonderful news for our children’ health! We owe this to this generous young man who, a short time ago was still on the benches of our centre in Bafia.  This is his story:

‘Let me introduce myself: my name is Bidias Josué, I am 27 years old; when I was only 12 my father and mother passed away.  I live in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital.  I have a degree in psychology obtained in 2014 at the Yaoundé 1 University and in 2017 I got my professional diploma in nursing.  Today I work as a nurse in a dispensary located 56 km from Yaoundé, in the locality of Ngoumou.

In 2012, as I was in school year 12 (literary) in Bafia I heard about the SBA; Mr. Jean Cyril Monthé is the one who invited me to join.  Unfortunately I only spent 2 years among this family. They taught me so much and gave me everything.

My parents sadly weren’t fortunate enough to receive good care when they were on their hospital beds.  Since then I have become very sensitive to the suffering of people around me and this has motivated me to do the job that I do, to help and relieve the pain.

After my A-levels in 2013, I always dreamt of joining the SBA family, to give them my very best in order to ensure the best future for my cadets at the centre.  When the opportunity was presented to me, to be the nurse at Jardin Eden and Etoudi, I immediately accepted and started volunteering even before the hierarchy had accepted me.  And above all, it was a way for me to thank this family which for 2 years helped me grow into the man I am now.

My goal when I joined was to give the best of myself when practising as a nurse within the SBA.  Every time I work at the Jardin Eden centre I have to check on all the children, relieve their suffering and have educational talks with them. For those from Etoudi, I have to be there during their rugby training and carry out routine health checks. On Sundays I am present at the Etoudi Centre. For the Jardin Eden centre, it’s on Fridays.

My cadets, I urge you to get to work, to know how to say thank you to all the good wills who sacrifice themselves to offer you a better future!

A special thanks to all the people, near and far, who are actively working to give us a chance for a better future.

Thank you !!!!’

Premier jour de Josué, infirmier auprès des enfants de Jardin Eden Premier jour de Josué, infirmier auprès des enfants de Jardin Eden

Premier jour de Josué, infirmier auprès des jeunes rugbymen d'Etoudi Josué, infirmer et Moise, coach rugby

Premier jour de Josué, infirmier auprès des jeunes rugbymen d'Etourdi

Translation by Katy Birgé-Wilson

Press Release: Serge Betsen Academy, a proven model in Cameroon now deployed in Mali!

Please download the Word version of our Press Release here: Press Release – Serge Betsen Academy, a proven model in Cameroon now deployed in Mali

With more than 16 years’ experience in Cameroon, Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) opens a branch in Bamako, Mali. Since 2004, SBA has helped more than 6,500 disadvantaged children by using rugby to support their development and to offer a route to education and healthcare. It is Mali’s turn to benefit from this winning formula!

 

RUGBY AS MEANS OF SOCIAL INTEGRATION

 Since 2004, SBA has supported over 6,500 children in its five centres in Cameroon, run four infirmaries and served 5,600 meals in the last two years thanks to the SBA Coop harvests (a farming cooperative run by mothers of SBA children), secured a baccalaureate success rate always above the national average, reaching 79% in 2019, built 5 wells and 3 water towers, provided 4.5 tons of supplies and insured 60 rugby players a year.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the centres closed from 18 March, to limit the spread of the virus. SBA ran an information campaign regarding preventative measures and provided support to the children and their families. Each child received a food bag every week, as well as soap, and SBA provided 367 reusable face masks, to help families avoid hunger and protect themselves and others. Since 17 June, only those children who are preparing an exam attend the centres. It is a final bit of support in strict sanitary conditions!

In normal times, 400 children benefit from SBA’s help each week. SBA welcomes children of all ages in after school support groups to help them succeed at school, pass their exams and follow their dreams. SBA has a particular focus on supporting girls so they can continue their education and enjoy a setting that is free of prejudices. All children and their families receive good healthcare from the centres’ nurses, including vaccination and awareness-raising campaigns. For example, an antimalarial programme is in train at the five centres.

Rugby practice supports children in acquiring values and life bearings, for both boys and girls. This helps them build character. A “ Rugby for Kids” programme will start in September 2020 to allow 26 girls and 24 boys from disadvantaged families and aged between 2 and 13 to play rugby and to benefit from a structured education both on the rugby field and in the classroom. Together with their families, they will receive the same healthcare support as all other SBA children.

 

SERGE BETSEN, A RUGBY LEGEND CELEBRATED IN MALI

Before joining English side London Wasps, Serge Betsen excelled in French rugby with 63 caps for the national team, two Grand Slams and three titles in the 6 Nations Championship, and one of the highest honours of the French Republic, the Légion d’Honneur as Chevalier. And the France player was also captain and three times French champion with Biarritz Olympique, for which he played all his career while in France and at the time of his first cap in 1997.

A “Knacker” with a big heart, Serge Betsen is French with Cameroonian origins and lives in London. But his soul has remained in Africa. Serge Betsen is clearly a star in Cameroon… and in other African nations, as he recently discovered that Malian rugby players appreciate his on-field exploits.

Serge Betsen is clearly a star in Cameroon… and in other African nations, as he recently discovered that Malian rugby players appreciate his on-field exploits.

In the lead-up to a Mali Cup in Bamako on 29 July 2017, the Hippos XV team from Bamako Rugby Club contacted Serge Betsen Academy to ask for permission to offer a trophy in his image. This trophy was the reward for Best Player in the Mali Cup. Since then, SBA has been in close contact with Bamako’s Hippos XV and has carried out research into options for developing rugby in Mali. SBA met S.E. Mahamadou Nimaga, Mali’s ambassador to the US to learn more about the country and organised a field trip so that Serge Betsen could experience Mali’s rugby set-up.

 

A TRIGGERING TRIP

Serge Betsen, President of SBA and Odile Prévot, CEO therefore went on a field trip to Mali from 4 to 8 January 2020. Its objectives were to assess the situation for Mali’s youths, to identify their needs, to see young girls and boys from Bamako clubs Hippos XV and Anges Noirs [Black Angels] play rugby, to meet the club’s President and coaches so as to test the case for establishing an SBA centre in Bamako.

A further meeting with M. Arouna Modibo Touré, Mali’s Minister of Youth and Sports strengthened their view that an SBA presence in Mali would serve a real purpose and help convey a passion for rugby and SBA’s values to disadvantaged children in Mali.

At the end of the trip, Serge Betsen received a copy of the trophy in his image. This squared the circle in a way as it is because of this trophy that this adventure started!

 

OPENING A SBA CENTRE IN BAMAKO

In March 2020, SBA’s leadership met to vote on whether to start SBA Mali. Boubacar Traoré aka « PC », SBA’s representative in Mali, became Treasurer for SBA Mali.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SBA delayed the official opening of the Bamako centre to October 2020, but the decision stands. Dr Seydou Sow, President of the Bamako Real sports association, granted SBA Mali access to a rugby field at the Modibo Keïta stadium. Set in Bamako’s Djikoroni neighbourhood, young girls and boys playing for Anges Noirs rugby will be able to train there from the beginning of the school year. SBA will set up a classroom near the stadium entrance to welcome 25 girls for after school tutoring every afternoon. Next step: organising healthcare for those children.

SBA now lends a hand to disadvantaged children in Mali. More lives will improve thanks to rugby! A beautiful story is in the making.

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Maïlys Finel : mailys@sergebetsenacademy.org / contact@sergebetsenacademy.org

www.sergebetsenacademy.com

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Partnership: Discover the SOLIKEND gift card for companies!

Our great partner SOLIKEND has launched a 100% solidarity gift card for companies. It is therefore now possible to offer your employees a dream stay at the hotel. The amount of the gift card is 100% donated to the Serge Betsen Academy or to the charity chosen by you or by the recipient of the gift.

A new concept to discover here in video:

To learn more, it’s here!

Don’t wait to get your gift cards (valid for 2 years) to the delight of your employees, and our underprivileged children!

Health: The anti-malaria campaign has started!

Thanks to donations from the Wasps Legends Charitable Foundation and other generous friends of the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA), our nurses can now provide the care necessary to fight malaria. This is a great relief, because with the rainy season, among our patients the number of children and adults suffering from malaria has reached an all-time high this year.

Djibril, manager of the Eau Claire centre in Bangangté, placed an order with our friends at the “La Nouvelle Dignité” pharmacy and the anti-malaria medicines were delivered to the centre at the end of last week. In order to best distribute the 566 boxes of medication and the 10 mosquito nets a precise inventory of the needs of each centre had been carried out at the time of the order. This is because the medication and dosages are different depending on the age of each patient.

Malaria medicines

The precious delivery was distributed as follows:

  • The Eau Claire centre in Bangangté received 260 boxes of medicines to treat at least 240 cases of malaria, i.e. 100 children, 100 teenagers and 60 adults.
  • The Abraham and Sarah centre in Bafia received 113 boxes in order to treat at least 70 teenagers and 28 adults.
  • The Jardin Eden centre in Yaoundé received 78 boxes to treat 78 children.
  • Finally, the Zoétélé centre received 115 boxes needed for the care of at least 50 children and 50 teenagers.

Medicines received in Bangangté

With these supplies, we are now ready to face malaria in our infirmaries, which is great news! A huge thank you to our nurses for having diagnosed this local urgent need and for providing care to our dear children and their families; they are grateful to our donors for their generosity. Thanks to the Wasps Legends Charitable Foundation, the SBA was able to respond in time to an urgent need for care. Being able to be cared for should never be a luxury.

Malaria tests Infirmary in Bafia

The medicines having been received, screening tests began this week in the centres. At the Bafia centre, out of the 25 children tested in two days, 13 were positive and were therefore able to start their treatment.

Translation by Katy Birgé-Wilson

Volunteer: Henri, French Teacher at the Eau Claire centre in Bangangté

Henri is a French teacher at the Collège Saint Joseph in Bandjoun.

Every Sunday, he drives to Bangangté to assist the children of the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) with any subject in which they may need help. Glad that the centre is located in his department, he is happy and proud to be able to contribute to the SBA organisation.

Thanks to Henri and to all the volunteers, the values of rugby are transmitted on the playing field but also on the outside. This sport, which he, to start with, found: “a little barbaric” is for him a “vector of sharing, team spirit and a taste for work! That’s all our students need to succeed!”

Translation by Katy Birgé-Wilson

Henri