Terres en mêlées, the journey of a lifetime

Published on 10/10/2019

Terres en Mêlées, the journey of a lifetime

A pioneer in using rugby as an educational tool, Terres en mêlées is a French association active in 5 countries, who aim to promote the greater social equality for girls, equality between boys and girls, environmental protection and intercultural dialogue. On the occasion of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the association, supported by Societe Generale, is bringing a group of young people from remote fishing and farming villages in Madagascar to attend the tournament and take part in the Societe Generale Rugby Spirit Festival.

Eight young people from Madagascar are on their way to Japan

In a few days, eight young people from Madagascar will be in Japan to watch the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. They have never before left the island of Madagascar, and are making preparations for a journey that will change their lives. "They" are eight young girls and boys who have been selected to participate in the Rugby Kids Festival between 23 and 26 October, on the fringes of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

As a key partner and official bank of the tournament, Societe General initiated this cultural exchange programme with ChildFund to give young people around the world an opportunity to participate in the World Cup festival. A Touch Rugby tournament for the Asia Pacific region was organised in Hong Kong at the end of August to raise funding for the visits alongside partner associations.

Head office staff members participated in this initiative during the June CCTime by providing support to Terres en Mêlées. This association has been a privileged partner of the Foundation's Africa Programme since 2018 and works to provide education through rugby in four countries (Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Togo and Morocco). These young Madagascans were selected through three arms of the association in south-west Madagascar, Tulear (4), Ihorombe (2) and Mikea (2).  The children from Mikea live in small fishing villages on the sapphire coast north of Tulear while those from Ihorombe live in zebu farm villages in the arid lands of the Lhorombe plateau.

To complete the administrative requirements of the trip to Japan, they had to embark on a major trek, the first stage of which involved leaving their village for Tulear. For the children from Mikea, this involved a 13-hour journey in a truck over 130km.

Once in Tulear, they were able to meet up and start training together, at which point they also got the opportunity to watch documentaries and look at photos of Japan in preparation for their trip to the land of the rising sun. The next leg of the journey took 30 hours, over 1,000km from Tulear to the capital, Antananarivo. There, they discovered a new environment and met France's sports ambassador, Laurence Fischer, who was overwhelmed by their stories and shared her own experience as a three-time karate world champion. They obtained their passports and visas, accompanied by teachers from the Terres en Mêlées association."

Over 13 days, the group experienced life in Madagascar's capital city and discovered the prominent place given to rugby, with its 260 rugby clubs and thousands of children who play every day. After that they returned home to prepare with their teachers through their individual academies for this fabulous adventure that will open up a whole new world in which they get to mingle with children from nine other countries and cultures. "This will be my first time on an aeroplane. There is a good sense of team spirit and solidarity among us, we are happy to be together. We laugh a lot!" says Zafitinahy, 13.

Mélanie has only been playing rugby for five months, she discovered it by coming to training with a friend.  She candidly explains: "This is my first time leaving Madagascar, I'm a little scared because it's all so new. My family is happy for me and gave me advice, such as to be careful, and make new friends." She's getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

The Japan adventure

Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan is a once in a lifetime experience for all the players, the fans around the world and the supporters who travelled there. In Yokohama, it is also a life-changing adventure for over 200 children attending the Rugby Spirit Festival.

Among them are boys and girls aged 11-14 from Societe Generale supported charities* across Asia Pacific and Madagascar. Most of them are travelling outside of their country for the very first time. They all left for Japan with a large smile, looking forward to the 3-day festival from 24-26 October. Developed as a cultural exchange program by Societe Generale and ChildFund, World Rugby's charity partner for RWC 2019, the Festival includes educational workshops as well as a tag rugby tournament.

As part of the programme, all 250 children also attend the first semi-final of RWC 2019 on Saturday 26 October (the exciting England v New Zealand match) and they have the opportunity to meet with Societe Generale rugby ambassadors such as Jonny Wilkinson, Thierry Dusautoir, Ayumu Goromaru and Vahbiz Barucha.

The Festival was mainly funded by Societe Generale's staff fundraising efforts. In Asia, they took part in a charity touch rugby tournament which happened in Hong Kong in the past summer. In France, staff members were involved in the Headquarters' Citizen Commitment Time.  

ChildFund CEO Nigel Spence said, "Societe Generale staff are showing enormous energy, enthusiasm and dedication to their chosen charities. Like ChildFund, they too believe in the importance of giving children the chance to play, learn and grow. We look forward to giving these young people three days they will never forget!"


* Invited charities:

Australia: National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy
China: Adream Charitable Foundation
Hong Kong SAR: HKRU Community Foundation
Hong Kong SAR: Hans Andersen Club
India: Aseema Charitable Trust
India: Get into Rugby (Indian Rugby Union)
India: Magic Bus Foundation
Japan: Kids Door
Singapore: Children's Wishing Well
Taiwan: Taiwan Fund for Children & Families
Madagascar: Terres en Melees, sponsored by Societe Generale Fondation
Vietnam: ChildFund