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Solibad Congo - Birth of the "Elikia Badminton" project

A young future badminton player in the village of MBanza Ndounga - with, for some, extraordinary abilities...

The partnership with the Humanis Congo Foundation took shape a few months ago, when its president, Dr Joe Borel aka "Dr JoBo", contacted Solibad. He came to our head office in Bry sur Marne to explain how he felt badminton could make a major contribution to helping people in difficulty - especially young people - in his native Congo. Naturally, we were already aware of the benefits of our favorite sport, and jumped on board the adventure, head first - with our hearts not far behind. Equipment would soon be on its way to Brazzaville, then Pointe-Noire, the other major city on the Atlantic coast, where Dr Borel would soon set up two new Solibad & Humanis clubs, in Dolisie and Sibiti, targeting beneficiaries in difficulty or unable to afford to take up sport without outside help.

Dr JoBo (left) , the project's instigator

What's more, Dr. Borel's activities on site went far beyond the usual scope of our actions, but with a new lease of life in mind for equipment that we'd previously refused, due to a lack of beneficiaries: shoes in large sizes and textiles. And even computer equipment, donated by Crédit Foncier via Racing Club de France.

"JoBo", a keen badminton player himself, has made badminton his hobbyhorse for a whole population of adults directly concerned by emergency aid: for several months now, Solibad and Humanis Congo have been supplying badminton equipment for the fire-fighters and first-aiders who train every day by playing badminton, to stay in shape and become more efficient when saving lives on the roads of the Congo !

But this first joint action could not stop there, and our destinies would continue to move in the same direction... Humanis Congo therefore wanted to invite two elected members of the Solibad board to seal this partnership in the field and explore other pragmatic ways of helping local populations. Loïc and Raphaël, respectively Vice-Chairman and

Chairman of Solibad, travelled to Brazzaville from March 21 to 26 with the help of FECOBAD, the National Federation of Congo, which will in turn benefit from the joint action of the two foundations. Solibad's visit also coincided with the national championship in the capital, where the country's top players met. Among them were 7 players from the Pointe-Noire club, stamped Solibad/Humanis, some of whom had just had time to train for a few weeks with proper equipment and, at last, real badminton shoes...

Prince is only ten years old, and has only been playing for a few months...

The athletes wearing the Association's colors defended themselves well, with bronze medals in several categories, notably for Prince (pictured), a 10-year-oldplayer whose parents and grandparents live in very precarious conditions, and for whom badminton represents a real chance to open up a brighter future...

But Solibad's visit to the land of Kikango also led to another wonderful encounter. The first was with Humanis Congo's partner association: ALEDA, "l'Association les Enfants D'Abord", founded by the effusive and generous Rasheda Ondaye, "Madame la Présidente" as Jobo affectionately called her before teasing her with her first name. The meetings that followed, with ALEDA's direct beneficiaries, were to confirm Loïc and Raphael in their purpose on behalf of the Association: for, as its name suggests, the actions of this local association are aimed at the well-being of children in neglected areas, far from the towns.

Badminton with acrobatics and laughter, "a thousand miles from any inhabited earth"...

More precisely, in the province of MBanza Ndounga, almost 3 hours by road from Brazzaville. So Solibad went there, and in addition to the sore buttocks inherent in the "dents" of a road in pitiful condition, the difficult discovery of an environment of total precariousness and disuse... quickly swept away by the songs of the villagers and the laughter of the children when they saw the equally colorful logo of our new partner.

Every time "Mama Rasheda" and her teams pass by, the same rhythms, the same swaying steps, the same handcuffs reaching for the cookies and sweets. The same hugs and kisses for this mother of all mothers. This time, of course, there was another surprise in the President's suitcases: two little white boys and their crazy idea of giving a clownish badminton demonstration. And the shy, quizzical smiles turned to thunderous applause and hilarity when Loïc missed the shuttlecock and hit the leaves of the Palabre tree in the center of the village. Soon, it was the children themselves who took up the rackets and half-inflated balloons. The coordination is there - a sign that this game of "stick and wheel" brings with it its share of dexterity. Before long, the plastic shuttlecocks are out of the bags, and it's with amazement that all the adults watch the children quickly master the trajectories.

Rasheda Ondaye, founder of the Association Les Enfants d'Abord (ALEDA), is distributing rackets...

There's a lot of jumping around, but the sound of the shuttlecocks in the center of the rackets echoes loudly in the bush: a successful gamble. Badminton has been adopted. While the young and not-so-young continue to enjoy themselves like crazy for long minutes, the delegation visits the tiny dispensary a little further on. Here, women from the 36 neighboring communes come to give birth in spartan conditions. Just a few days ago, a padded maternity chair replaced a vulgar wooden plank with protruding splinters, still visible outside. But that's not enough - much more is needed, to ensure a minimum of hygiene for the women, and also the children, who regularly pass through this dispensary for the classic ailments of these parts, where simple infections, however easily treatable with antibiotics or simple disinfections, cause serious illness or even worse...

Play, first and foremost. Sharing and smiles. Badminton makes its debut in the bush

A new program: "Elikia

Compliance" - relative but essential - will therefore be Solibad's first financial contribution to ALEDA and the village, in this second phase of the project, in accordance with the charter of our respective Associations. A "coup de cœur" grant, as we sometimes offer, outside our more regular actions. But to sustain this new program with a budget that is unfortunately not extensible at Solibad - with already many projects to support - we now need to find a means of self-subsistence... Tripartite brainstorming and the desire to give greater visibility - and amplitude - to this obvious action, for us as well as our partners.

The Pointe Noire team, Congo's first solidarity club, wins medals at the Congo National Championships

The "Elikia" program was born, on paper, but very quickly, in the field, with these local experts in emergency aid, these big-hearted souls overflowing with generosity, both investing their personal assets. "Elikia" means "Hope" in Lingala, the language shared by the people of this region of sub-Saharan Africa. The hope that badminton will once again go beyond its original purpose as a sporting activity. That, in addition to its proven effectiveness in promoting diversity, self-confidence and general well-being, it will also provide a means of changing lives through original actions. Already, the idea of a solidarity store is gaining ground and should take shape in the coming weeks. It will benefit all local badminton players and their health, and much more besides...

A short video teaser of our latest action in Congo

A big thank you to all those who made this mission possible, first and foremost Dr. Joe Borel, ALEDA, its President Rasheda Ondaye and her friendly teams, the Congolese Badminton Federation - FECOBAD for its invitation, but also the invaluable help of the Congolese Embassy in Paris, His Excellency Ambassador Rodolphe Adada and his advisor and Health and Social Director Mme Bokilo-Dzia.

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