Félix Auger-Aliassime returns to Togo, where his father was born
Félix Auger-Aliassime had not returned to Togo since he was 13, but he perfectly remembers the first time he visited the Sokodé prefecture, in the Centrale Region. This is where his father Sam grew up before moving to Canada in the mid 1990s. “I’ve seen hard things there, though it is a stable country with many good things as well,” said Félix. “I thought that if I had a successful career, I could help children make their dreams come true by giving them the opportunities I had in Canada. Helping people in need means giving them a chance; maybe one day, they will help someone because you showed them how.” To do so, Félix, who was born in Montreal, partnered BNP Paribas to launch the FAAPointsForChange programme. He donates $5 per point won in matches to EduChange, which improves the living conditions and promotes the education of children in Togo. BNP Paribas adds $15 to these $5. To decide where and how the funds should be spent, BNP Paribasglobal head of partnerships, events, and sponsoring Vincent-Baptiste Closon went to Montreal in 2019; he set the ways and means of the programme with Félix and his family. “ We had already exchanged a lot beforehand. Félix said his priority was the children’s education. We agreed that we would act in Togo, where his father Sam was born and raised. We saw that the NGO Care could help us. At first, we thought it would be better to act in the Kara region, which is the poorest in Togo. They did need help there.”
Since the programme was launched in 2020, the over 18,000 points scored by ATP World No 6 have raised €360,000 for humanitarian aid and helped 10 villages in Togo. Ten sports grounds and schools have been renovated; 80 teachers have been trained and provided with equipment; and hundreds of children have been given food, clothes, health care, and psychological care. In late November 2022, instead of celebrating Canada’s Davis Cup victory with his teammates, Félix went to Togo to see what had been done with the funds raised. “I have seen pictures and read reports over the past three years, but nothing compares to experiencing it, feeling it, exchanging with the kids,” he said. He visited several of these villages along with his dad, Care members, and Vincent-Baptiste Closon. They visited schools and training centres, and they met kids and trainees, as well as leaders from the local communities. Félix was offered traditional dances when he arrived. He also played football with the kids. Some of them have literally been saved by the project, like this super shy girl who was a dressmaker and had moved to Benin to find a job because she could not survive in her village anymore. Thanks to the project, she came back home and could escape the streets and the violence. She even made a dress for Félix’s sister Malika as a thank you gift. It was a unique moment for 22-year-old Félix, who now wants more. “It was a wonderful, life-changing experience,” he said in L’Équipe. “It helped me see what could be improved too. It is just the beginning; I want to build something that will last there.” Félix wants the basis laid by the projects to pave the way for local people, so they can bring their own contribution in the future. So far, 80 people have become textile workers, carpenters, or welders. Their training has been financed by the programme. Félix Auger-Aliassime now knows that the only way for the initiative to last is to keep winning lots of points.