Florian Zech, founder of the international organisation AMANDLA EduFootball, received the Medal of the Order of Merit from Federal President Joachim Gauck in Bellevue Castle, Berlin on June 5, 2015. The only federal decoration awarded in Germany, the Order of Merit is a distinction that recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to social progress. In a ceremony celebrating 23 fellow honorees, Zech was awarded for his ongoing commitment to catalyze social change through AMANDLA EduFootball.
Zech established AMANDLA in Khayelitsha, the largest township in South Africa, in 2007. He had been working and living in a Khayelitsha orphanage for a year as part of his civil service. During this time Florian experienced local youths’ desperate need for education and alternatives to the crime, violence and substance abuse in their environment. With support from a team of international and local volunteers, and together with young people from Khayelitsha, he developed AMANDLA and its signature Safe-Hub Model.
Through its Safe-Hubs, the organisation creates safe spaces that bring together the power of football and learning to empower youth and change lives. Zech’s efforts and leadership have helped AMANDLA become an award-winning organisation, recognized for its evidence-based approach to youth development and use of sport and education to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty, unemployment and inequality. In his remarks to Medal of the Order of Merit recipients, Federal President Gauck said: “You are role models for society. I hope that there will be more people who follow your example…And I thank you for being ambassadors for an active civil society.”