Climbing has definitely changed some individuals of our community. Interview with Felipe Rissi Silva
Hi Felipe. I knew about Fundația Noi Orizonturi from the past, when they become one of the first pioneers in adventure education in Romania. I wasn’t aware of the scale of your work in Lupeni until recently when I was impressed with the Comexim Lupeni Climbing Team.
It is hard to imagine all this results without “Fara Limite” Climbing Gym, yours and your wife’s project. It is time to talk more about how you manage to put Lupeni on Romanian climbing map and how climbing is changing the local community.
But first things first. Let’s talk a little about yourself and your family. You are originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but you did your studies in Ontario, Canada, where you discover climbing and your wife.
Alex Codreanu (A.C.): Why New Horizons Foundation? Why Romania?
Felipe Rissi Silva (F.R.S.): We were invited to run a Study Abroad Program for the FOundation for 3 years and help in the Foundation in ways that we saw they would fit. Our College in the US had a partnership with the FOundation, and that is how everything started.
A.C.: How was climbing in Lupeni when you arrived?
F.R.S.: When I arrived in Lupeni climbing already existed, there were some climbers that occasionally went climbing and some craggs that were there but needed some work. Most of the climbers were older. I do remember participating in one competition in Petrila in my first year in Romania. It was fun, but not a lot of climbers from the area.
A.C.: How did you start working on “Fara Limite” Climbing Gym? Did you get support from local community?
F.R.S.: Fara Limite started as an idea to provide a safe place for kids and teens to grow and have good role models in their lives. Initially we didn’t have a place to build the gym so we started going outdoors every Saturday. We called it „Sambata la Stanca”. After looking hard for a place to build the gym in Lupeni, and not being successful, we decided to try in Vulcan. That is where we found our current place. The Mayor helped us to find and rent that place.
That was initially the support I received from the local community, on the other hand there were some climbers in Romania that knew what I wanted to do and gave me a lot of tips and ideas. Financially, it all came from abroad, US, Canada and Brazil.
A.C.: Once the gym was ready how started to climb? How easy was to put together a local professional climbing team? What was the biggest challenge in building this team?
F.R.S.: Putting the team together was never the hardest thing, but more like a rewarding thing for all of us. They all saw competitions as an encouragement. I always tried to remind them that the results didn’t really matter initially, but just the fact that they were participating was important. What we did we would bring most of the climbers interested and that were a little more talented. Then with time we started selecting a little more and having more specific trainings with the team. We are always looking for new kids that come to our gym and are talented. Not that we treat them different, but we prepare them for comps. Every kid in our gym enjoy competitions, and they all hope they can participate in one at some point.
A.C.: When and how did the local climbing team start to get your first good results?
F.R.S.: It really started two years ago, especially with two of our kids. Raul Muntean (8 at the time). Raul started winning everything in his category, including the TIC comp at Carpatic. After that we started winning more and more, at least always making podiums. After that some of our climbers got really motivated to train and climb harder in our gym.
A.C.: What climbing means now for local community? Are things different now from the moment you started the project? Can we talk about a sustainable development in climbing in Lupeni?
F.R.S.: I can’t say that climbing has changed the community yet, and we are far from it. But climbing has definitely changed some individuals of our community. Some with specific skills and others with more hope for the future. Although the image of climbing has definitely changed in the community since I barely existed before. Now the parents are seeing our gym as a good place for their kids to be, where it will keep them out of trouble.
We are definitely not there yet for reaching sustainable development in climbing in the valley. All our kids depend mostly on us to climb, but some of our teens are starting to act on their own. Climbing by themselves, going to different gyms and to different cities. Most of the teens training with us have taken climbing as a huge part of their lives and a sport that they would not want to let go of. We hope to reach a point where our teens will take care of our kids and so on. Honestly, they already do in their way, but there is a lot to be improved.
A.C.: When you first came to Romania you were planning to stay for only 3 years. Now, 6 years later, you are still here, and you have 2 wonderful babies. What are your plans?
F.R.S.: Well, 2 kids and a baby on the way :). We had a plan to stay here, the idea initially was 3 years, but my wife and I were never really set on that. We knew we wanted to do something that matters here, and if that would take longer, that is that. But now we are pretty set here, and I believe we will be here a little longer. We have a lot of plans for growing the gym not just in size, but as well in quality. We have learned with from our mistakes and we believe a lot in the education as part of our project. We believe that the sport climbing can help with better engagement in the community and in their education. So I believe we are heading towards this direction.
But, we really enjoy our life style in the valley and the kids that we work with. Which is definitely what keeps us here.
More information about Jiului Valley climbing in the present you can find on ”Fara Limite” Climbing Gym website.
More information about Jiului Valley climbing in the past you can find here (in Romanian).Felipe Rissi Silva, Vulcan