Exclusive: The Roger Federer Foundation on how it's giving children a brighter future

The Swiss Maestro Charitable Foundation kindly granted an interview to Tennis World USA, in which we talked about the mission they have been carrying out for over 20 years

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Exclusive: The Roger Federer Foundation on how it's giving children a brighter future
© Roger Federer Foundation

The power to change things, make them better to help and support young generations to have a future. This is the mission that the Roger Federer Foundation has been carrying out for over 20 years.

The Swiss Maestro Charitable Foundation kindly granted an interview to Tennis World USA, in which we talked with the foundation's CEO Janine Händel about the projects and the future goals of the Foundation.

The Roger Federer Foundation celebrated 20 years of activity in 2023. What were the most important and most challenging milestones achieved over these two decades?

"It has been an exciting journey of learning and development. We started out small as a grantmaking charity, changing into a strategic, impact-oriented and even operational philanthropic organization. It was a truly emotional moment when we reached the millionth child who benefited from our educational programmes. Today, we ensure quality early learning for 2.7 million children in six countries in Southern Africa and Switzerland. This makes us proud, but also humble, as there are many more children desperately waiting for our support."

Pre-primary children in Namibia learn by playing under the watchful eye of their teacher
Pre-primary children in Namibia learn by playing under the watchful eye of their teacher© Roger Federer Foundation
 


 
What legacy do the projects developed in Africa and Switzerland leave and are leaving for their respective countries?

"Our aim is to improve the early education systems in these countries. The impact we aim for should continue once our interventions come to an end. Sustainability can only be achieved if we get all relevant stakeholders around the child to work together. This includes parents, educators, school governing bodies, different government ministries as well as community and political leaders, from the village head up to the president, for example. A major aim is to ensure that governments budget sufficiently for pre-primary education, as this is often neglected.

Currently, we also coach educators on how to improve their teaching and give them a tool that tracks each child’s development. They also learn how to involve parents in the education of their children and give them instructions on how to make toys from household materials. We also give communities the information they need to build multifunctional, varied playgrounds. Ideally, we want to ensure that all this continues once we are no longer involved. Future generations of children will ideally benefit from at least one year of quality pre-primary education in order to have a good start into school."

Roger Federer at the inauguration of a natural playground in Switzerland
Roger Federer at the inauguration of a natural playground in Switzerland© Roger Federer Foundation
 

How does the choice of projects to support work in detail?

"Essentially, we don’t choose projects. We develop interventions and then select partner organizations that implement them, based on their reputation and past work they have done."

In the near future, are there (or could there be) projects to be developed in other countries?

"We’re fully aware that there are many worthy causes out there that could use our support. But our job is not done yet. As a result, we will remain committed to our specific cause in our current countries for a while yet. We’re in the middle of a 10-year strategy - it is important to remain focused for an extended period of time if you want to be efficient and effective in terms of cost."

What is the most difficult part during the entire project development process?

"We rely on good partner organizations who share our values. Like us, they believe in giving people the boost they need to take control of their own future. We are very fortunate that we found these accountable partners. In addition, a project needs to be adapted constantly. We constantly need to examine our actions, questioning whether we have chosen the best possible interventions to get the best results. This means assessing whether we’ve taken advantages of new opportunities or whether we have embraced risks and challenges. As such, the project development process never really ends."

The Roger Federer Foundation supports communities with guidance on how to source materials and construct playgrounds
The Roger Federer Foundation supports communities with guidance on how to source materials and construct playgrounds© Roger Federer Foundation
 

Your mission is to guarantee a future to many young people who would otherwise be unable to do so. If you had to give advice to these young people, what would you tell them?

"Keep the early education of your younger family members and, later, that of your own children, top of mind. It is the foundation of all learning and is the precondition for anyone to reach their full potential. With the internet, or through organizations like our partners, it is relatively easy to access advice and tools on how to give preschool children the optimal movement and mental stimulation they need to reach this potential."

How important is Roger Federer‘s commitment for the success of the Foundation?

"The foundation is Roger’s legacy. He is not only the President of the organization, approving all strategic decisions, but also the face and soul of our engagement. His name – and presence – opens important doors for us, inspiring stakeholders to take action, and gives our work credibility in the eyes of other stakeholders. For example, during a high-level visit to Lesotho in March 2023, Roger met the country’s key decision makers, from the King and Queen, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education, to the chairpersons of parliamentary commissions and CEOs of leading companies. In reaction to our appeals, 115 new preschool classes were created by the end of last year. The private sector also raised USD 3.5 million for early education. This success was brought about by many stakeholders, but it was Roger’s appeal that brought about this result."

Roger Federer
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