Aerial view of East Africa Training Centre, Burundi
The International Clubs (ICs) were created between the two world wars to encourage tennis players to foster friendship and goodwill through international tennis competition.
During this time there was a growing realisation that tennis could be more than just a game and that matches could be used to build bridges and relationships between individuals with very different social, cultural and political backgrounds. There are now 40 ICs spanning the five continents of the world.
The IC has more than 4,000 individual members. They have played and competed on many courts for many hours and, by so doing, have acquired many of the skills that they use regularly outside the game. How someone plays sport is generally an indication of their approach to life.
As an individual, tennis teaches us not only the dedication required to better ourselves, but also how to be part of a team and develop mutual respect for our fellow teammates. These skills, along with others, give us the confidence and strength to take up many different social and professional challenges.
Sport is a great uniform of life - it takes people out of their everyday existence and brings them together on a "level playing field" and shows the opportunities that can be moulded through application.
By focusing their attention on less advantaged communities, the IC’s Philanthropy Programme hopes to give children from those communities an alternative focus to the streets and their inherent dangers of drugs, crime and negative peer pressure.
Through tennis, and the dedication and structure it provides, it is hoped children will learn basics such as commitment, self-esteem, respect for fellow players, physical fitness, the benefit of nutrition and how to play by the rules of fairness - all wrapped-up in an overall feeling of fun and enjoyment – as the video shows.
The IC’s first charitable development programme was co-organized in Burundi in 2009 by the IC of Luxembourg, Sport Sans Frontières, and the ITF.
The IC is currently running three sustainable development programmes. Each programme is monitored by a different national IC:
- Ethiopian kids by the IC of Germany in Ethiopia
- The Vosolooros Project by the IC of South Africa (supported by SATA)
- Leon Mexico by the IC of Mexico
So far these initiatives are focused on a limited number of children, approximately 50 to 100 per programme, but it is hoped more children will be given the opportunity in the future as funds increase through other money-raising activities such as the bi-annual Tennis Ball in London and from corporate and private donations.
The IC has just approved new grants in 2013 to help initiatives in Spain for poor children with learning difficulties (in conjunction with the Catalan Tennis Federation) and in the Netherlands for disadvantaged children in Amsterdam (in conjunction with the Krajicek Foundation).
The IC of Uruguay (with support from the IC of France) has been nominated by the Uruguayan Ministry of Tourism and Support to run the tennis development aspect of its programme to encourage disadvantaged children to do sport and not drugs.
The IC hopes its Memorandum of Understanding with the ITF will strengthen its efforts to help underprivileged children learn a sport and, by doing so, to acquire skills which may help them along life's path.