EDINBURGH, United Kingdom — The Numero Foundation offers guidance and mentoring for young athletes and in the process aims to reshape cultural perceptions towards sport and education. The Malawi-based charity began operating in 2020 and The Borgen Project spoke with its founder, Andrew Malisero Numero, who has been playing professional football for Kenyan top-division side Gor Mahia FC since the same year.
Numero Foundation gives insight into the workings of the sports industry, guiding youth through sports and advising athletes on how they can leverage their skill sets to make a living doing what they love.
Guiding Youth Through Sports
Recognizing through his own experience that sport can be an instrument of guidance through life, the charity propounds the value of this, with the hopes of transforming the mentality of youth to center around discipline and the notion of self-improvement. As numerous studies such as Awan et al. 2011 outline, education plays a key role in poverty reduction.
The foundation strives to increase school attendance and community involvement across the southern Malawi region of Ndirande, and Andrew hopes that in doing so it will simultaneously reduce levels of crime and drug use. The foundation is based in Ndirande, where Andrew grew up.
The Malawi national poverty rate stood at 50.7% in 2019/2020. Andrew speaks of the “power of the environment.” Growing up in Ndirande, he recalls stories of peers resorting to crime and comments on how some childhood friends are doing today. “It is very sad to speak in that way about a place I love but it is the truth.” The idea of the foundation is rooted in the belief that a guided direction in life with mentorship can help many avoid falling into destructive habits that often flourish when one’s opportunities are limited.
The initial success of the foundation has attracted more potential athletes and involvement from professionals and Andrew envisions a future where most of the youth across Ndirande are able to set strong examples for future generations.
The Role of Professionals
For many, sports are not considered a viable career path. Andrew mentions the casual dismissal of children’s ambitions that may appear naive. When a child speaks of wanting to become an athlete, they likely envision themselves at that time as the world’s best. The fact of the matter is, if one loves a sport and works toward it, they will likely realize they do not have the talent to go down in history as one of the greats, but that does not bar them from pursuing a career and earning a living from it. Navigating such expectations is a difficult task for the academy and mentors to perform, but it serves as a cornerstone of the charity.
The role of professionals comes in, with the foundation bringing in footballers, psychologists, food nutritionists and sports agents to discuss their knowledge and allow the members of the foundation to build connections. Malawi national players Peter Banda and Robin Ngalande are amongst the brand ambassadors who have joined the organization and play a key role in attracting recognition and talent.
The Numero Method
To join the Numero Foundation one must go to school. The most significant contributor to poverty across Malawi is the lack of literacy and schooling.
As a result, Andrew emphasizes the need to focus on both athletic and academic aspects of one’s life, highlighting the constructiveness of “using sports as a way of keeping kids in school.” Members are not all expected to emerge as professional athletes. The foundation selects Individuals based on talent and commitment and supports them in nurturing these gifts whilst placing an equal emphasis on their academic development. The ethos is: whatever one’s ambition and skill set enables for; it is the work of Numero foundation to extract the most from that.
To ensure this, Andrew keeps track of foundation members’ work in the classroom by arranging meetings with them at the end of semesters to discuss report cards and school progress. Going beyond this, the foundation directly funds school fees for four pupils across the Ndirande region of Malawi.
Therefore, as much as the charity focuses on athletes, it places the emphasis on education reflecting the holistic nature of the methodology, encouraging and enabling those involved to hone diverse skill sets to draw on and create opportunities in life. This dichotomous approach is instrumental to the success and appeal of the charity, helping it expand and enroll more academy members by showing to the parents of the children that it commits to helping them enhance their skills not just on the pitch but to grow as individuals.
Andrew aims for the foundation’s actions and impacts to reshape social perceptions of careers in sports, urging more youth with a wish or curiosity to pursue it and the parents and guardians of these individuals to support these ambitions.
Aside from the guidance and mentorship programs, the charity undertakes broader efforts to give back to the community. It ran food donations across the 2022 Christmas period and Andrew has plans of expanding the charity’s outreach in the future, considering targeting older generations, be it through financial aid via donations or through helping promote healthier lifestyles across the entire community.
Inspired by his time studying in university, Andrew hopes to establish a sports academy in Malawi where the Numero Foundation can implement its dichotomous model of athleticism and education across the board to continue guiding youth through sports with a balance of academia, and “polishing talent” to open as many doors as possible for the individuals enrolled.
Andrew’s wish is to “give back to the community” in more ways than one. Focusing on youth is an effective starting point looking toward the future. As the Numero Foundation grows, its involvement in other sports such as Netball is set to increase, broadening its scope of impact, continuing to guide youth through sports and improving livelihoods across impoverished areas.
– Bojan Ivancic