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Federer serves up ace for charity

Federer is reaching out to children in South Africa

(Keystone)

As Roger Federer seeks to defend his Wimbledon crown this week, the Swiss tennis star’s charity is launching its first overseas project.

The world number one has announced that the foundation, which bears his name, is going into partnership with a Swiss-South African aid organisation.

The 22-year-old from Basel dreamt up the idea of establishing the Roger Federer Foundation last December, at the end of a year which saw him win seven titles on four different surfaces.

He is estimated to have earned SFr16 million ($12.7 million) in prize money last year, but it is not clear how much has been put aside for the new charity.

The foundation has unveiled plans to work with Imbewu, a non-governmental organisation that runs programmes for young people in the New Brighton township just outside the South African city of Port Elizabeth.

The partnership with Imbewu is aimed at improving the lives of young people growing up in an area where unemployment runs as high as 80 per cent.

Young people

“Setting up the foundation is my way of trying to give something back, especially to those who are least well-off,” said Federer.

The tennis star’s foundation will work with Imbewu to sponsor schooling for around 30 South African children.

Imbewu’s coordinator in Switzerland, Pascal Holliger, told swissinfo he was taken aback when the world’s best tennis player offered to support his charity’s work.

“It’s hard to believe that such a champion and a star would associate his name with a small organisation like ours,” he said.

“But I think our work reflects the kind of person Roger is: humble and close to people. He could have supported a much bigger charity which would have brought him far more publicity, but that was not his goal.”

Federer said his decision to support development projects in South Africa was made in part because his mother grew up there.

“I have always had a close affinity to the country… and Imbewu will allow me to help children and young people by providing practical support in a very deprived area.”

Education and health

Imbewu sponsors education programmes for children living in New Brighton and also runs projects aimed at increasing awareness about the danger of HIV/Aids.

Holliger says nearly 40 per cent of residents in some parts of the township are HIV-positive.

“This is a huge problem. Every time I return to South Africa I find that somebody I know has died, so prevention campaigns are crucial.”

Federer’s parents are trustees of their son’s foundation and have already visited some of Imbewu’s projects.

But Holliger says the defending Wimbledon champion himself is not yet a celebrity in the township.

“We hope to see him here very soon, because our aim is to create a true partnership where Roger can be involved in the projects we run.

“At first nobody really knew who he was, but he’s starting to win many fans. So I think Roger is going to be big in New Brighton.”

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh

Key facts

Roger Federer says he came up with the idea of setting up his own charitable foundation on Christmas Day last year.
The Roger Federer Foundation has gone into partnership with the Swiss-South African charity, Imbewu.
The charity is involved in sponsoring education, health and sports projects for young people in the South African township of New Brighton.

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