Supporting development in Africa is one of the major commitments made by the Societe Generale Foundation. On Friday 1 February, the Foundation welcomed the association Terres en Mêlées to its offices, as one of the priority partners in its programme to support charitable projects in Africa, to meet Group employees. Since 2011, the non-profit association has been using rugby as a tool to drive integration, education and empowerment in various regions of Africa. Feedback from an exceptional visit by Marcelia, Pela and Sonia, three Malagasy beneficiaries of the association visiting France for the first time, with Pierre Gony, founder of Terres en Mêlées.
From Madagascar to La Défense and Stade de France
For Marcelia, Pela and Sonia and the whole team at Terres en Mêlées, their trip was a unique occasion. Arriving from Madagascar the day before, the three young women gave the (ceremonial) kick off for the opening match of the Six Nations at Stade de France, thanks to the Societe Generale Foundation and the French Rugby Federation. But this gruelling day started with a special visit to the exhibition "Peinture sous pression" (Paint under pressure), by the contemporary artist Louis Granet. They were then invited to speak at a conference for Societe Generale employees to present the association and its activities.
Growing up with rugby in Madagascar
Terres en Mêlées started up in Madagascar in 2014. Pierre Gony, an ex-professional rugby player and sports teacher, wanted to use the association to combine international aid and sport, two worlds that never meet although, as he says, they share a large number of values. "Rugby brings with it hope", he explains with conviction at the conference. Helping young girls and boys to play and train together from an early age, as well as training the local trainers, are the fundamentals of the association's programme to engage with young people and encourage greater equality in Madagascar, but also in Burkina Faso, Togo and Morocco.
Marcelia, Pela and Sonia have changed a lot since their first encounter with rugby. They have been able to travel, feel empowered on a daily basis, and are recognised as leaders in their communities. "Long live community rugby!" they cheered at the end of the conference. The audience at the conference, utterly under the spell, will be sure to have watched them on the pitch at Stade de France that evening.