When Teresa Gutiérrez Alemán, the superhero of this story, studied nursing, Sofía Collantes appeared in her class one day. Sofía was a member of the Tantaka Association, an organization that mobilizes staff and students from the University of Navarra to support more than 100 organizations in the city. Tantaka means "drop by drop" in Basque.
That meeting was the origin of it all. When years later Teresa decided she wanted to do something for the children of migrant families, to donate her time to help make a difference, she remembered Sofía and went to see her. Today, along with all the other activities Tantaka offers, is the basketball team for migrant children and mothers, which has been practicing every Saturday for six years under Coach Teresa's watchful eye and whose goal is to support integration through sports.
“We started playing with the kids at an outdoor facility every Saturday. At first, only 6 or 7 showed up. But they would come no matter what the weather was, whether it was cold or raining. Before long, the number increased, and today they are about 70 players”, explains Teresa. About 60% are from the Mahgreb, 20% from Sub-Saharan Africa, and 10% from Latin America.
In addition to coaching this team, Teresa is a basketball referee. Her connection to this sport made her see how playing basketball can contribute to these kids' welfare. “Teamwork among people of different origins. In order to win, we must work together. Respect for the coach. Discipline and commitment. All this encourages integration. Sports are a microcosm of real life” she explains.
Tantaka is a solidarity time bank that makes professionals and students of the University of Navarra available to more than 100 organizations and projects. Every person offers as much time and knowledge and experience as he or she wants. For example, Teresa's father offers his time as well. As an architect, he helps with improving the homes of people with limited resources.
The Tantaka network of volunteers is large and supports diverse projects ranging from helping people with disabilities to international cooperation to caring for the elderly to the social integration of groups at risk of exclusion. Tantaka provides Teresa with invaluable help, in particular, the management of grants and administrative tasks, besides providing her with volunteers.
The case of Merouane Ykhelef is clear proof that integration through sports is possible. He is 20 years old. Merouane acknowledges that playing basketball with Teresa and the support he received from Tantaka helped him become motivated and study. His life changed. In addition to being a referee, he is finishing a degree in transportation and logistics. “When I spoke about overcoming difficulties and the effort, I was referring to people like him”, Teresa explains. “In spite of the difficulties, he's grown. I truly admire him”.