High 5, Inc. tennis instructor and Brandon resident Paul Segodo’s life was changed because of the sport of tennis. He received tennis scholarships that led him to the U.S. from his home country of Benin, one of the poorest countries in West Africa. After college, Segodo started his foundation, Tennis For a Better Life (TFBL), to help kids from his country get the same opportunities that he was fortunate enough to get as a kid.
Segodo picked up a tennis racket and was taught the sport by his father, who was a tennis instructor. He laughs about how his family is entrenched in tennis, despite soccer being the more popular sport in his country.
At just 9 years old, Segodo was offered a tennis and education scholarship to train at the International Tennis Academy in the U.S. He later received a full tennis scholarship to Palm Beach Atlantic University and earned his BS degree, changing his life for the better. Segodo remarks how tennis was his way out of poverty because his parents didn’t have much and couldn’t afford to send him to school.
In 2010, Segodo made a trip back to his home country and was astonished by the condition of the courts that the children were playing on. They were playing on the same court that he played on as a 6-year-old. The kids didn’t have the proper equipment to play tennis, the courts were cracked and the nets had holes in them. This inspired him to give back to the children of his home country.
“That really touched my heart and really inspired me to do something about it,” said Segodo. “When I came back to the United States, I partnered with my wife and some friends and we started Tennis For a Better Life.”
According to the website, Tennis for a Better Life is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that’s mission is to help children in the United States and Africa reach their full potential in life through the game of tennis while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They provide shoes and tennis rackets, host tournaments and feed the children at the events.
TFBL, which funded a court resurfacing in Benin three years ago, has purchased land and has goals of raising $50,000 for its project of building four new courts, purchasing new nets and replacing old ones, building a water fountain by the courts, running weekly clinics, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing hot meals to 210 children who will participate in Benin. Contributions are tax-deductible. Another goal of TFBL is to provide tennis and education scholarships to the children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.
In April, TFBL held a Kids Helping Kids tournament at High 5, Inc. (formerly Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center) and raised $10,000 for the project. It plans to have another Kids Helping Kids tournament in August to raise more money. Segodo, along with TFBL volunteers, plans on going to Africa from Wednesday to Friday, September 1-24 to accomplish their mission.
“We want to teach these kids how to fish instead of giving them a fish,” said Segodo. “Tennis has done so much for me. With tennis, I was able to travel the world and get a scholarship. Tennis teaches so many life lessons—Tennis for a Better Life wants to give that same opportunity that I had to other children, where one day they will be able to provide for themselves.”