Serge Mudogo, 23, has established a basketball club and sports academy in his hometown Bukavu, East of Congo, to help develop the youth and his community.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Images courtesy of Serge Mudogo
Sports is known to be a vehicle for change. Not only does it teach us important life skills, but it also plays a vital role in the unification of people. In a continent like Africa, which is plagued with wars and political turmoils, sports have often played a part in helping us look beyond our troubles and differences and come together as one – a dream of many fallen freedom fighters.
Serge also has a dream to reignite the fire in the young people and spark change in his community. With his newly established Chauxsport Basketball, he hopes to lay a foundation for disadvantaged youth to rise above obscurity and dream beyond their confines.
“I chose basketball because I am a die-hard supporter of the sport,” he tells Blacklight during a virtual conversation. “The sport has been a part of my life for a long time; I have played and studied the sport. And my dream was always to start my own club.”
Serge is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he is doing his final year in business at the Hult International Business School. He says he contemplated starting the basketball club in South Africa, but the sport is already well structured than in Congo.
“Congo has produced some of the biggest talents in basketball that we have seen in the past 2—3 decades, like Dikembe Mutombo, D.J. Mbenga, and Bismack Biyombo, but the problem is the lack of resources, infrastructure and programs for the youth to develop their talent,” he explains.
“Starting my club and having the right facilities, programs, and education would go a long way in helping to uplift the youth, especially within the sports field.”
In establishing the club and academy, the young visionary says he worked with family, friends and community members who are well-versed in sports and youth development. He also enlisted American coaches willing to donate their time and visit Congo to help run a sports clinic.
“We have already set up a structure for basketball that will help the youth of today and future generations. I am excited about the change this will bring to the community.
Like anyone trying to start a social development project, Serge shares that he faced a mountain of challenges before the launch. But with sheer resilience and determination, he was able to launch the club late last year.
“The foundation phase was hard because we needed to raise funds to get the project off the ground. I was fortunate enough to have friends, associates, and family members invest in the project. Every month I receive donations from them to help keep the club operational.
“All the funds we collect are allocated in different areas of the club, according to a specif need. Currently, we are building basketball courts with professional hoops. This is something that people in my country have not been exposed to before, and I am excited about bringing down the right equipment from the US to Congo.
“I am also creating a program, a basketball academy, for kids from the ages of eleven to eighteen/nineteen years. I will have teachers coming to teach them English regularly because I know the language can be a huge barrier for people who hope to venture out into the international arena. This program would be highly beneficial for them to make the transition into other countries smoother.”
Having lived in various countries at certain points in his life, like Uganda, South Africa, and the US, Serge’s cosmopolitan lifestyle has helped him dream bigger and impart the lessons he learnt in his travels back to his community, Bukavu.
“I was fortunate enough to live in several countries, and the sport [Basketball] is different in every country. As a player myself, I understand the players – I know what they want. I have a certain level of understanding of the sport, the different levels, thanks to travelling. Therefore, I know what kind of infrastructure and training that is needed to take players to the next level.”
Serge has also maintained a great relationship with his high school sports coaches and benefits a lot from their wisdom. As a former player, he has also spent some time around professional basketball players, who have given him insight into the sports business. “I take all that I have learnt through my journey, and I apply it to this club. Basketball is quite an underdeveloped sport in Congo and needs a great deal of support, not just from the inside, but outside as well.”
After completing his studies this year, Serge will be moving back to Bukavu. While he is in the US, an elected committee ensures the project runs efficiently, even in his absence. In the meantime, he maintains contact with the committee daily.
Starting a project of this magnitude in a country like Congo comes with countless hurdles. Serge notes that their geographical location in Congo poses a great threat to the growth of the project.
“Eastern Congo is infamous for atrocities and wars, and that could prevent us from attracting talent from other regions in the country. The parents might have a problem with sending their kids to the darkest part of Congo to access our facilities,” he explains.
“I could have started this project in the capital city, Kinshasa, but I specifically wanted it to be in Eastern Congo because that’s my community, and I have to start at home before spreading my wings. Eventually, we hope to move to other parts of Congo that have been abandoned due to the wars and other social issues.”
Serge says he is not holding his breath for government funding but hopes that the state can introduce and implement policies that can help social developmental projects run efficiently and prosper. However, they are open to donors who are willing to donate whatever they can, which can assist the project.
“We have invested a lot of time and money into this project, and therefore it is our dream to make this a lifetime project that will also benefit future generations,” he shares. “I have many plans for the club, and I have a dream of making it a very successful basketball club and academy in Central; within the next ten years.
“My team is in Eastern Congo, but eventually, I want it to travel around the continent for games, starting with the countries around us. I want this team to make it into the Basketball Africa League. I want the academy to be known all around Africa. I want to have basketball scouts from all over the world come and recruit our players.”
However, his biggest dream is to use the sport to spark social change in his community and surrounding areas. He believes that sport can help unite voices and bring people together for a common purpose.
“I want this club to contribute towards social change and to help bring change in our communities. Of course, all of us have to contribute and fight social injustices because they are everyone’s problem,” he says.
“As Africans, we know the struggle because we have faced so many political challenges and also overcame colonisation, so it’s important to use our voices to create awareness and also be part of the change we seek.”
Chauxsport Basketball: @chauxsportbasketball