David Marchesseault, Gainline Africa
For David Marchesseault, 27, and his closest buddies, rugby isn't just a sport, it's a way to save lives in post-conflict communities, beginning with Gulu, a city in northern Uganda. Through his Waterloo, Ont.-based organization, Gainline Africa, Mr. Marchesseault is working to unite the 24,000-strong Canadian rugby community to invest in African children – many of whom are former child soldiers – by putting in place rugby programs that have spinoffs such as access to education, confidence-building and social skills.
"When I was 11 years old, my parents sent me to summer camp in Brazil. I saw firsthand how kids struggle and how we can all play a part in making the lives of others better."
"It sounds geeky, but I literally woke up one night [in July, 2010]and wrote an eight-page call to action. I e-mailed it out to a couple dozen friends, family and influential rugby people, and the enthusiasm for it came back strong, and from there, Gainline Africa was born."
"My father Daniel. He is a fighter pilot who exposed my brother Justin [Gainline Africa's vice-president of finance]and me to different opportunities and has unwavering support for me and my brother in anything we do."
Fifty dollars will help train a school rugby club for a month; $100 will provide a school with five rugby balls; $120 will provide five players with jerseys for the season; $150 will provide a school rugby club with mouthguards; $600 will provide a school club with kits for all players (boots, mouthguards, socks, four balls); $1,500 will send one child to the University of Gulu for a year (book, classes, accommodation); gainlineafrica.org.
What keeps you going?
"The 300 kids I met in Uganda that are part of our programming. I know they are benefiting from having mentors and rugby coaches around."
"I love proving people wrong; doubters are my fuel."
"My aha moment came after I sent out that e-mail last July. About 12 hours after I sent that out, I had about 30 e-mails in my inbox from friends, family and many people I only knew by name [in the Canadian rugby scene]who sent me beautiful letters of support and asking to be involved. When that happened, I knew I had something special that people seemed passionate about."
"We are crossing our fingers and toes for our Canada Revenue Agency application [for charitable status]to come through soon and seeking out coaches, students and individuals who would like to come to our projects in Uganda during our annual capacity-building trip next June-July. [Individuals pay their own way.]
Star sponsor you'd like?
"International rugby star Jonah Lomu. He is an ambassador for our sport and it would be just amazing to really get people talking about using rugby as a tool to create change."
"Plan, plan, plan. It's not enough to be passionate. You need to be strategic and you need to be transparent."
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. Send suggestions for the Action Figure to Livebetter@globeandmail.com.