SiGMA Foundation’s Keith Marshall is no stranger to our audience. Keith is known around the island as an energetic, fun-loving, fund-raising force of nature. Kamil caught up with him to find out what’s been keeping the philanthropic arm of the SiGMA Group busy
Opening up about the grassroots of the SiGMA Foundation, Keith Marshall describes how Eman Pulis, the Founder of SiGMA Group, and himself have almost 20 years of heritage together. Pulis isn’t all about events and climbing the ladder. True to his roots, beyond the growth of SiGMA, Keith describes how Eman pitched the idea of SiGMA Foundation to him – the ikigai way of being able to give back to society.
“I jumped on the chance because it was always something that I wanted in terms of being significant in this world and actually providing a level of legacy, which can be followed on.”
We are all part of the circle of life and this could be seen as something we could pass on. That is where the SiGMA Foundation came to be. It has been around for a good part of three years and hopefully, it will be around for many decades to come.”
SiGMA Foundation’s main involvements? Having always hated the idea of philanthropy being associated with just giving, Marshall explains how the Foundation has created a business model that takes that loosely. “We bring a group of people together, train them for whatever expedition, they are being involved in, and raise money while having fun.”
Keith has a strong desire to help others, as evidenced by his several successful charitable endeavors, including his personal “Kilimanjaro Challenge” which earned an incredible €1 million for various causes in Ethiopia and Kenya. For this challenge, Keith, together with a team of trained people engaged in the challenge of making it to the summit of the highest free-standing mountain, 20,000 feet in the air.
“It was a bit of a challenge as you can’t really simulate mountain conditions, but we’ve done it well enough to hold down the highest record of people to Uhuru peak, which is the Kilimanjaro peak at 7.5 billion people and we take pride in this.”
The Foundation during COVID
COVID-19 has presented many challenges in maintaining communication with those who benefit from the SiGMA Foundation overseas as restrictions and social distancing meant that providing means of donations and hands-on help was out of the question. Knowing how far Keith Marshall’s efforts go, this wasn’t something to stop him.
“Obviously during COVID times, we were hit by a massive wall. Tanzania was a dark red zone, so we had to shift tack. It no longer remained Kilimanjaro, but we came closer to home. We shifted focus to a new challenge, the Camino de Santiago, which is a famous religious pilgrimage in Spain and it has been taking off very well.”
Assuring us that the Kilimanjaro challenge hasn’t been put to bed, but just taken a step on the back burner for now, Marshall says that the new Santiago Challange has 26 expedition members taking part next week. The second one where has almost 30 people confirmed, with another two to follow up in September.
Another interesting project that had to be postponed because of the restrictions, for now, was Mount Toubkal in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. This expedition is a challenging fundraising project formation in Africa which unfortunately had to be shelved since Morocco remained a dark red zone for Malta.
How can I be part of the SiGMA Foundation? How can I contribute?
Keith Marshall says that a very special person close to his heart once told him “If you want people’s attention, you need to lead by example” and this has been an idea that he has lived by ever since. Over the span of 20 years Keith, together with the foundation has built 10 major projects in Ethiopia, costing the organisation more than a million Euros in total as well strained 220 people to engage in the highest freestanding Mount on the planet. He goes on to further explain that if people can look at what is being done and experience, even from a distance experience, what is being said this can come a long way in bringing individuals forward.
Contributing can come at any level he urges our listeners to forget about the typical monetary contributions, “it’s not necessarily money” he says. Having been faced with some amazing ideas Marshall believes that anyone can come forward and contribute to the expedition on any level. Being contributory can take many forms whether it’s within the bounds of a donation, sponsorship, or actually jumping on board and physically being part of the bandwagon.
“Whoever feels like they want to contribute, come forward, reach out through our SiGMA Foundation Facebook page, and that will be the first level of engagement. Where we go from there on, is very much down to the person and possibly to circumstances. Everyone has something to give in this world, and the devil’s playground lies in the fact that you know that there’s this voice speaking to you and you choose to make a cup of tea instead of actually saying, listen, let me give value to this voice. Let me see what if I can in any way, form or manner bring this to a higher level.”
Just being contributory and being there for the next person is already precious. When you get the symbiotic effect of many people coming together for a common goal or cause is something very beautiful.”
Keith also believes that that’s the whole point behind creating different expeditions, as different people have different aptitudes. In terms of challenges, different people set their bars at different heights.
“We’ve been doing this for years, now so we know what challenge fits the individual. Last year we had the 68-year-old joining the Camino de Santiago. I wouldn’t possibly pitch for Kilimanjaro because it might be an ocean too far to swim, but with just a few months of training engaging in 115 kilometers in five days, it’s a massive deal.”
So I encourage whoever wants to contribute to come by our office where we can sit down and discuss the best way forward.”
Where does Keith’s Marshall inspiration come from?
20 years ago Keith had the opportunity to meet a priest from Brazil. Being shot twice trying to break up a child prostitution racket Marshall recognised his efforts and found it extremely inspiring for someone to put his fate on the line by going there and being proactive towards the situation. This priest explained his actions by saying that one has to lead by example. Offering the now founder of SiGMA Foundation paintings in return for donations, Keith met up with him once more giving him the cash and thinking that his obligation towards the deed is done.
When confronted with the question of if the money will actually save the lives of 200 children, the priest hands Keith back the money and offers him the experience of a lifetime: to visit Ethiopia with him. Saying that there was no spirituality behind the move Keith takes on this experience as a challenge. He describes this moving involvment as life-changing.
“I was mortified by what I saw and experienced there, how can we live in peace within the safety of our houses knowing that other people are living in hell? When I came back from Ethiopia, I was really not handling it well.”
I became really bitter toward our society and knew that I needed to be meaningful. I needed to create a structured way in which we can actually contribute to this chasm and in life. Knowing that we were living within the bounds of safety and insularity and these kids are just living day to day, struggling to survive was completely unacceptable in my eyes.”
“There are 99 excuses slapping me in the face every day, not to engage, but there’s always that one decent reason urging me to move forward as these kids deserve it.”
His passion for the subject is evident, stressing the fact that there are no excuses. Keith is confident that there is a future for these kids he’s trying to help and getting lost in all the reasons and excuses not to take it further is not the way to go about it. Imagine a deck of 52 cards being dealt out, with the outcome of your life being completely dependent on what card has been dished out he says, “how is this fair?”. A child’s future can never be determined but the fact that that child was born in the 3rd world country is not an excuse to give up on them.
Keith tells our listeners tuning in that the least we can do is provide the basics in life: dignity, shelter, protection, food, and education. Every child on this planet deserves at least the basics in life. ” If we keep this ethos, this mantra close to our heart, the 99 excuses, which keep on whacking us on the ankles will never take us down because our aim is noble, it’s humane.”
Is anything lined up for the future of the SiGMA Foundation?
There’s a really interesting project that SiGMA Foundation has been pitched within Sri Lanka. Having just came back from there, Marshall believes there’s potential for the SiGMA Foundation to go forward with this.
“If there’s something really important you want to do in life, please don’t wait until you’re 60, try to do it now. The road to hell is lined with tiles of good intent.”
You can do it today, next week, next month, possibly next year, who knows? We never know what’s around the corner. So grab that moment and run with it. Carpe diem, sieze the day.”
For more fun discussions in relation to anything gaming, check out the entire SiGMA podcast here.
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