Happy International Chess Day from The Gift of Chess!

Happy International Chess Day from The Gift of Chess! | ChessBase


by ChessBase

7/22/2023 – The game of chess can be used as an incredible tool for empowerment and opportunity globally. Unfortunately, due to a lack of chess sets, the communities that could benefit the most from chess do not have access to the game. That is why the organisation Gift of Chess celebrated International Chess Day, sharing their commitment to distribute 1,000,000 chess sets globally by 2030. Susan Namangale, the global head of the organisation, tells us about herself and about the plan.

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My name is Susan Namangale, and today I address you as the Global Head of The Gift of Chess. Those receiving this letter are supporters, volunteers, friends, and partners. Some of you have been affiliated with The Gift of Chess from the beginning, when we launched with the donation of 10,000 chess sets to 10,000 New York City public school students during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to now being a truly global humanitarian project using chess to change lives around the world. Under the leadership of Russell Makofsky and with the support of an incredible dedicated team of ambassadors and volunteers, we have donated over 75,000 chess sets the past three years across our key initiatives of Prison, Education and Refuge outreach. Our goal is to distribute 1,000,000 chess sets globally by 2030. Last month, I was asked by the Board of Directors to lead this important and ambitious project, and I eagerly accepted. Here is my story…

I come from a humble background, raised in a little-known Chombo village in Nkhotakota, central Malawi – the warm heart of Africa. Chess has played a significant role in my own life, transforming me from a village-raised girl who lacked confidence into the empowered leader of a global organization. My chess journey began with my sister bringing a single chess set from a Peace Corps volunteer to our home over 30 years ago. After learning the game, I felt motivated to join a chess Club during my secondary school days. Slowly, I realized that chess had the power to change my life as my test scores started improving with my chess training, taking me from an average student to being accepted to a selective university. I recall sacrificing my meager pocket money to buy one chess set for my school to keep the chess club going. Progressing through university, I won a number of prizes in chess competitions that helped me build the strategic and critical thinking skills that would position me well for my career. I vowed that I would spend my life, in some way, ensuring that others could benefit from chess in the same way that I did and to spread the game as a powerful educational tool.

I managed to become the first female chess president in Malawi and the only female president in Africa during my tenure. My time as president opened up the world for me as my social network expanded from my village to university to the globe. Despite winning multiple awards for my leadership during my presidency, I still felt that I had not done enough to share the benefits of chess with others. I knew that, with a single chess set, students across thousands of schools could start their own chess journeys. Unfortunately, I did not have the capacity to provide access to chess sets for those people. In the course of my leadership and engaging with many friends in the global chess community, I realized that the problem of access was the primary constraint for many around the world who could benefit tremendously from the game.

I first connected with The Gift of Chess founder Russell Makofsky and his team in Chicago at a Chess for Prison outreach conference where I was introduced to the work of The Gift of Chess. Soon after, I was appointed as Ambassador to Malawi and embarked on a journey to distribute chess sets. The Gift of Chess finally provided me with the opportunity to make chess sets accessible to many. I recruited many volunteers who believed in our mission, and it quickly became clear to me that there was great interest from people around the country not only in receiving sets but becoming part of the global Gift of Chess community. The momentum and excitement around our distribution and the game of chess was amazing. And it was at this point that I was appointed as the global head of The Gift of Chess, a position I accepted with great humility and with anticipation, as I believe our organization has only scratched the surface of what we can ultimately achieve. 

We currently have over 50,000 chess sets in Africa that are being distributed to East, West, and Central African countries such as Malawi, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Benin, Senegal, and more. As we expand our outreach to other continents including Latin America and Asia, we realize that the global scale of our operation requires a significant amount of resources. Our distribution efforts not only cover the cost of the chess sets themselves, but also the shipping costs, logistics and coordination for distribution, and more. 

By giving schools chess sets, we are providing them with a platform to unlock their true potential. In a world facing many challenges marked by rapid technological advancements and geopolitical tensions, we truly believe chess is a universal language and great equalizer. Tackling global issues ranging from poverty, climate change, pandemic preparation and response, healthcare access, child labor and human trafficking, gender equality, corruption, disinformation, refugee rights, and food insecurity all require equipping the next generation with important life skills like critical thinking, conflict resolution, resilience, problem solving and decision-making. I believe that chess is one of the most, if not the most, effective low-cost and high impact tool to foster these skills that is easily accessible to many institutions of learning, including those with modest means.  

The Gift of Chess has made inroads in introducing chess in prisons across the world, improving the quality of life for inmates, assisting with their rehabilitation, and supporting them to not only reintegrate into but positively contribute to society. We have myriad examples of this within our own Gift of Chess community. Our own Director of Prison Outreach, Tony Ballard, is an amazing example of how chess can transform lives. We hope that, this year, through our prison outreach, many prisoners across the world will have the means to participate in the FIDE Chess for Freedom Intercontinental Online Chess Championship. Through our outreach, we will continue to provide educational and rehabilitative resources, guiding those incarcerated on their journey to becoming productive citizens again. I, personally, went to form a chess club at a juvenile prison and witnessed firsthand the positive impact of chess on the young men there, who have made some mistakes but still have a lifetime of potential ahead of them.

For the past week, I have visited orphanages where the most vulnerable children in my community live and receive education and counseling services. Forming chess clubs in these orphanages provided hope to these young people, pulling many of them out of deep depression and granting them a belief in themselves again. Our team of ambassadors and volunteers have been amazing over the past few months, passionately and diligently spreading the game of chess and its many benefits.

To continue this incredible work, we need your help.We need your help to enable as many people as possible around the world to experience the wonders of the game of chess. We need your help so we can build a better world using chess as a low-cost, high-impact tool to unlock opportunity. Your generosity can help us sustain and grow our impact across the globe. 

We launched the “Become a Builder campaign” last week asking 1,000 people globally to become BUILDERS and make a monthly commitment in support of The Gift of Chess. Each day, new builders are joining us, and we thank all of you that have already supported the campaign. Today, I personally ask each of you to consider ‘becoming a builder’ to donate, share our stories, and further our mission of using chess to help everyone we reach realize their full potential.

There are three levels of support:

  • You can choose to build a chess set: With a $10 monthly donation, you can support the delivery of one chess set to a deserving individual, fostering opportunities for learning and growth.

  • You can choose to build a chess program: With a $50 monthly donation, you can support the distribution of five chess sets, expanding access to chess education and its accompanying benefits.

  • You can choose to build a chess community: With a $150 monthly donation, you can empower the development of three chess communities, fostering a network of enthusiasts, educators, and players who can share their passion for chess and drive positive change.

While we have already made significant progress, our work is just beginning. Your support can shape our efforts and help us to advance our agenda for years to come. 

The Gift of Chess is a global community of builders. Building opportunities with a single chess set. Join us as a builder. Together, let’s make some moves to make something out of nothing.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we greatly appreciate your support and are excited to partner with you all to build a brighter future for millions around the globe through chess, the game we all love.

Happy International Chess Day!

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