Travels

 

Sponsor me in the Richmond Marathon
and help a Guinean athlete make a dream come true


____________

Greetings, friends, family, colleagues and campadres,

Today, I write you with a special request. As many of you know, I have been working to help my dear friend Saroudja find a way out of Guinea to pursue a career as a boxer. Saroudja and I met while I was training with Guinea’s national boxing team, of which he was captain. I was impressed from the moment I met him -- not only because of his superior boxing skills, but also his maturity, generosity, honesty and kindness. In a place where nepotism is common practice at all levels, the team director had chosen Saroudja to be the team captain over his own son, giving an indication of both his skills and leadership abilities. His demeanor certainly had something to do with the fact Saroudja was orphaned as a teenager, and had been forced to take care of himself from a young age.

The more I learned more about Saroudja’s life, the more I was moved to help him. As I got involved with him more personally, there was some jealousy within the team, leading to a complicated string of events that ended with him being shunned by the team director.

Meanwhile, the boxing federation held Saroudja’s passport, one that had visa stamps from Canada, Mali and other places he had competed as a boxer (normally it is 1,000% easier to get a visa to another country like the US if you already have traveled, particularly outside the third world). We fought with the federation, writing letters, making endless phone calls, talking to people in various positions to try to get back this very basic personal document that had been paid for with Saroudja’s own money, Eventually, we were told that his passport was lost and to forget about it.

I conceded, as Saroudja wanted to just forget it, as he was afraid of repercussions, especially once I left the country. The president of the boxing federation was a colonel who wielded his power heavily.

The situation left Saroudja rather despondent. Though Saroudja had won three gold medals at the regional level in the name of Guinea, he would never be able to box again under his country’s flag. I was determined to help at least give him a shot. This led us on a wild journey through Morocco and attempts to send him to live with another Guinean boxer in France, all to no avail.

When I had finally left Guinea after two and a half years, I pledged that I would try to help him come over. Once back in the States, I circulated a promo I had done of his work, without much response. (click here for a souped-up, over-the-top version of Saroudja in the ring – thanks Cee! :)

Just when I was about to give up on the idea, the former DC Boxing Commissioner put me in touch with a boxing manager eager to bring over a foreign fighter. He had brought over a Nigerian heavyweight, and although it ended up backfiring (the fighter for unknown reasons turned down a 24-fight contract that included HBO and ESPN coverage and a spot on the undercard for Tyson’s final fight), he was still keen to work with another – if I could take on the task of getting him here.

We have worked together over the past few months to line up an experienced immigration lawyer (who has agreed to do the work for $1,500, less than half the going rate), get trainers on board and secure housing for when Saroudja gets here. We have potential investors who are interested in helping sponsor his living expenses. There is talk of eventually bringing over other boxers from the team if all goes well with Saroudja. Now all we need to get the ball rolling is roughly $3,000 for the legal fees plus his eventual plane ticket.

So this is where you -- and the Richmond marathon -- come in. As many of you know, I have been training for the past six months to run the Richmond Marathon this November 12. It has been a tough but rewarding journey, treading that exhilarating line between pleasure and pain, clocking hundreds of miles of training runs in two foreign countries, five states and counting!

I have decided to run this marathon for Saroudja (who was one of my main running partners in Guinea, so the fit is à propos). People are accustomed to sponsoring runners and walkers for various causes at a per-mile rate. If just 150 people who rasd this can find a way to part with just $20, we will have enough to cover the expenses we need to bring him here. (At 26.2 miles, this works out to 76 cents a mile… quite a bargain!) If $20 is too much for your budget, I would be grateful for anything you can sacrifice. Of course, if you want to give more, that is welcome too!
Thank you in advance for your support and for being a part of this exciting project.

....................................

PS – In case you are still not persuaded, here’s a testimony!

From : Laura Lartigue
Sent : Monday, October 24, 2005 2:28 AM

Hi April! For your contacts, I'd just add that I know Serouja as a sincerely good and earnest fighter, as my son's boxing coach in Guinea, and--when he takes off his boxing gloves as one of the kindest people you'd ever hope to meet. Count me in for sponsorship, and good luck with your run! I hope all will contribute and help Serouja realize his true potential.



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