For the last ten years, SMDS (Solidarité MARATHON DES SABLES), set up by Patrick Bauer, the founder of the famous MARATHON DES SABLES, has been working in Morocco for the benefit of children and disadvantaged groups. Almayuda supports this association1, which caters for children aged three to twelve and helps them get started in sporting activities, and which also runs complementary charitable projects.
At the entrance to Ouarzazate, near the film studios, the Éveil Académie Sports Centre provides beginner coaching for children in running races, jumping, cycling, etc.
This venture, set in motion by Patrick Bauer, the founder of MARATHON DES SABLES, began in 2010 by renting a simple house. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the association was able to construct its sports centre between 2017 and 2019 on a 5,000 m2 plot made available by Ouarzazate Province.
The children of Isfoutalil and Tamassinte
This simple, practical and comfortable space, cut off from the outside world, welcomes groups of 20 children aged between three and twelve from Isfoutalil and Tamassinte, two neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Ouarzazate. Everything is free, including coaching, classes, sporting and educational equipment and snacks.
Everything starts in September when school begins again after the summer holidays. The children, registered in advance, have a medical check-up, which enables the paediatrician to establish that they are fit enough for sports activities and to identify the young girls and boys who need closer follow-up. Once this is over, the children are divided into groups of 20 by age – three to five and six to twelve years old – and attend the centre once a week in turns and in accordance with their use of time at their local school.
The youngest children attend in the afternoons with their mothers, who make the most of this break lasting a few hours to take literacy classes.
Physical development involves races, jumping over low hurdles, balancing exercises on a beam, etc. Learning how to ride a bicycle improves motor skills. Small competitions make learning more fun, not to mention the colouring-in and Lego-building sessions or the books for young readers available to them.
After which, it’s time for snacks, which are on a par with the efforts the children make. Milk, yogurts, rice pudding, fresh fruit and home-made cakes, all quickly eaten up by the budding athletes.
Athletics and computer skills
The six to twelve-year-olds come on their own or with them mum… and increasingly with dad! After the register is called, they go off to the changing rooms to get into their kit. Then the 20-strong group is divided into two for 50 minutes of intense activity: solo or relay races, long and high jump, throwing weights, etc. Football is popular but athletics reigns supreme at the sports centre!
The most promising runners are placed in the “Seed of Champions’ group, who follow additional training on the track and are put in touch with local representatives of the Royal Moroccan Athletics Federation.
The youngsters are always surprised by the sports training method, as they are used to having an extremely vertical relationship with teachers. Here, they are asked to give their views, which some of them find easy to adjust to but others difficult.
After the sports activities comes the shower, then plentiful snacks, which are very popular! The last mouthful swallowed is the signal for the computer course to start. Mastering the main software programs will make their learning at school easier. Not forgetting, of course, digital drawing, which is a lot of fun!
Solidarité MARATHON DES SABLES has taken sports training as the core to which it has gradually and naturally added other initiatives: a lending library, summer camps by the sea, free literacy courses in Arabic and French language courses for mothers. Twelve of the mums created Beija, a crafts co-operative that makes fashion and home décor accessories. To help Beija get started, the association contributed looms and covers part of its rent.
Mention might also be made of other initiatives in the realm of health: hospital partnership, contribution to financing a free clinic, etc.
For SMDS, solidarity is a marathon that never stops!
(1) Marie José Perec, Jean Galfione, Abdelatif Benazzi, Ghani Yalouz, Stéphane Diagana, international athletics champions, are the association’s godparents.