The Rafa Nadal Foundation was founded by the Mallorcan tennis ace, Rafa Nadal and his mother Ana María Parera in 2008.
Their aim from the very beginning was to empower kids and help them to become the best that they can be through sports and education.
Rafa’s wife, María Francisca Perelló joined the Foundation as a Project Manager in 2012 and she loves her job, but admits it took a while to find the right fit.
“When Rafa began to stand out as a tennis player, he received a lot of offers and proposals to participate in charity events and there came a time when he was asked to create a Foundation through which we could make a difference with our own projects,” María explains.
Their first project was in Anantapur in India, working with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and it’s something that María was extremely proud to become a part of.
“They had been working in the Anantapur area and other districts for 50 years and we were so excited to be a part of it,” she recalls. “That was 10 years ago and it’s been such a great experience. The results have been very positive and the impact on the kids and their families is just so incredibly important.”
María had never been to India before the project began and admits that the level of poverty she encountered was a bit of a shock, but says that it just underlined the desperate need for help.
“The impact is what it is, there are stark differences between Europe and Asia, and specifically India, but the truth is I always just try to stay with the positive. I was part of a project that was helping and I was very thankful to be able to do my bit,” she confides. “We began with about 50 boys and girls and now we have 200-250, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and the aim is to attend to each and every need that these children may have.”
María is also quick to point out that the Foundation gives the kids a lot more than just sport.
“It’s about opening doors to things that they can’t and working through sport, physically, emotionally and socially,” she says. “The children also get an education; we teach Computer Science and English which gives them access to Universities, but the most important thing is that we offer them the tools they need to continue their studies so that they will have a bright future.”
Rafa’s heart will always belong to Spain and once the India project was up and running he took a long, hard look at his homeland, which also had needs.
“We started the 'More than Tennis' project in collaboration with the Special Olympics and now we have 22 'More than Tennis,’ schools for kids with disabilities all over the country,” says María. “We wanted to normalise disability and with this project I think we achieved that. It’s been running for 9 years now and we’re very happy with the results.”
The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the Foundation’s projects and María says they've had to adapt to accommodate the changes that were necessary.
“We continued working as much as we could, but obviously some projects had to stop,” she admits. “The important thing was to maintain contact with the families, share doubts and talk about situations that were being generated at home and to adapt emotional education and training for children with a methodology based on challenges and videos. We also gave financial aid for basic necessities,” she adds.
“Throughout the months of confinement we saw how the situation affected the families and the children and the consequences of that, at a psychological and social level and we reinforced our services to help deal with that.”
Rafa’s generosity is legendary in Mallorca so it will come as no surprise to learn that he has his finger in numerous pies and is constantly helping other Associations and Charities.
“The Foundation is a part of Rafa, so whenever an opportunity to collaborate falls into his hands he doesn’t hesitate to get involved,” she says. "He's always happy to participate in events and that helps to draw more interest to the Foundation which is private and we receive funds from various sources, including collaborators, sponsors, anonymous donors and charitable events."
This year the Rafa Nadal Foundation is concentrating on developing the projects that are already up and running and María says they want to start doing events in 2022; hopefully the coronavirus pandemic will be consigned to history by then.
María admits that the Rafal Nadal Foundation is a big responsibility, particularly because so many children depend on it, but she says the Foundation’s criteria is crystal clear.
“Behind each child there is a story and when we start a project it is with the aim of maintaining in the long term.”