Another Ace: In Philanthropy!
Novak Djokovic won the 2021 Wimbledon Tennis Championships on July 11, defeating Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. With this victory, the World No 1 seeded player from Serbia joined Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of Spain as the players with the most number of Grand Slam singles titles (20) in the Open Era. Djokovic is called Joker because of his ability to make others look like clowns in front of him on the tennis court.
Calm, cool headed, determined and stubborn… these adjectives may not be enough to portray the real character of Djokovic. He is silently doing a different job that might stun others. He was born on May 22, 1987 in war-torn Serbia, which is yet to overcome the impact of the Balkan War (1991-99). Hence, underdevelopment, illiteracy, lack of food and shelter still exist in this tiny eastern European nation. Even after becoming one of the most successful tennis players, Djokovic has not forgotten his roots. He had set up the Novak Djokovic Foundation in November 2007 with his earnings. His Global Organisation champions and invests in early childhood education with a special focus on Serbia, a country where only one in two children has access to preschool education. Federer and Nadal, too, have their own organisations for doing social work. However, one has to keep in mind that the situation in Serbia is completely different from that of Switzerland or Spain, as far as economy, infrastructure, education and overall development are concerned. So, Djokovic’s organisation is different from the rest.
Once, Djokovic was heard saying: “Growing up in a war-torn country is not easy on anyone, most of all the children. They don’t have the coping mechanism as adults do and the impact of toxic environments on their life is tremendous. Living with that kind of fear is detrimental for any child’s development.” He added: “And knowing personally how that feels, I promised myself years ago that if I could, I would do anything to help these children. I hope the research in this area will help minimise the trauma these children feel so that they too can grow up mentally strong and healthy individuals.“
Education is the Basic Right of each and every child among others. However, the infrastructure of the pre-school education system is not at all proper in Serbia. The Djokovic Foundation has been striving to upgrade this system for the last 14 years by encouraging children to chase their dreams. It provides them with the opportunity of proper education. The Foundation gives a special emphasis on long-term plans to secure the future of Serbian children. The local administration is also helping the Djokovic Foundation in implementing the long-term policies. Apart from constructing schools, the organisation has also been successful in improving the infrastructure of the education system across the Balkan country.
Catastrophic floods devastated Serbia in 2014, virtually destroying many schools, among other structures. The Djokovic Foundation has rebuilt many of those schools. Bubamara (Ladybird) kindergarten school in Novi Sad is one of them. This preschool institution is unique for its educational work with Roma children and their families. In addition to improving the infrastructure of classrooms, there is a huge playground for children at Bubamara. The Foundation has also arranged a special training course for teachers so that they could provide children with the best education.
In 2014, the Djokovic Foundation took charge of the famous Boško Buha Theatre, the first Serbian professional theatre for the children founded in 1950 by Gita Predić-Nušić and Đurđinka Marković, in Belgrade. It was named by Boško Buha, who was a young Partisan who used to be one of the greatest icons of the Second World War in former Yugoslavia. As The Joker believes that play helps build human character, he encourages children to take part in plays. Djokovic also wants them to showcase their talents outside the classroom. Hence, his Foundation organises Friendship Games every year. It has also built a tennis infrastructure in Priboj. The construction of new courts, and arrangements of lights, drying mats, players’ benches, umpires’ benches, etc. cost around EUR 25,000.
In the last 14 years, the Djokovic Foundation has built 47 schools, helped 7,500 parents, trained 2,200 teachers and taken care of more than 47,000 children! Djokovic’s wife, Jelena, is the Global CEO of the Foundation. Although the star Serbian player is busy with tennis, he has a keen eye on social work.
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