November 21, 2012
Recent weeks have seen one of the real highlights of the Laureus calendar: the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Global Summit.
The Summit brings leaders from the worldwide family of Laureus projects together to learn about how they all use sport for social change.
And Laureus.com took the opportunity at the event to talk to a group based as far apart as South Africa to India to learn what their main challenges, hopes and goals are by using sport for social change.
Answering the questions were Lewis from the Johannesburg Cubs project, Sneh from India’s IMAGE project, Anton from PoloAfrica and Dallas from Cape Town’s Indigo Youth Movement project.
So what is your project all about?
Lewis: Johannesburg Cubs is a cricket project, working in the townships of Jo’burg. We work with a lot of orphans: Aids orphans, children of murdered parents, and we try to better their lives.
Anton: PoloAfrica is a new project. What we try to do is offer polo to young people from rural areas, most of whose parents are unemployed. We work with 20 kids at the moment and also offer education funding.
Sneh: IMAGE brings able bodied kids and partners them with kids with disabilities through that allows then to bond through sport.
Dallas: At Indigo we use skateboarding, originally focussing on social integration too, bringing children who could afford skateboarding together to interact with underprivileged children who would never have had the chance to skateboard otherwise. We now also branch out into English classes and cultural activities to develop the other skills of the children.
Why sport? Why your particular sport?
Lewis: Our project is based on taking kids from the townships and integrating them with kids from more affluent areas through cricket. They spend the weekends together, and play together. Not all of them are the best cricketers, but through cricket they learn to better understand each other.
Anton: Not many black South Africans play polo. It just looks like a white man’s sport, but we are trying to break that view. We are trying to teach that anyone can play this sport and that these young black people are just like anyone else.
Sneh: Through sport these disabled kids learn that they do have strengths and capabilities within them, which helps make them confident and independent. We had kids come in for their first time with no self-esteem, no confidence, they were battered, broken children, but very soon, before anything else, what moves them on is new confidence, and that comes from the sport.
Dallas: Skateboarding is our hook. It has a unique identity. Everything we do is around skateboarding, but the nice thing is how multipurpose it is. So the skateboard ramp can double as our stage for traditional dance shows for example.
What Challenges do you face?
Lewis: A main aim of ours is to help secure scholarships and bursaries for our participants from the townships. But people who had tried to do this before us fell short. They gave the kids scholarships to top schools but these youngsters from the townships would find it difficult to integrate with the kids there and felt as though they stuck out. What we do is help them socialise with kids from more affluent backgrounds and so when our kids get into top schools, they already understand other kids from different backgrounds.
Sneh: The adult mindset [in India] is that the disabled are just worthless and these perceptions need to change. If we want kids to take part we need the support of the community and parents. But in the past we have had a number of schools pull out when parents discover their kids are spending time with disabled kids.
Dallas: The needs of rural and city children are quite diverse. So we really have to work to stand back and look at the relevancy of each group for the things we do.
How does this help people and the community?
Lewis: Sport is so important to these kids. They are faced with many obstacles: alcohol abuse, drugs, crime in the townships, gangsterism. But through sport it is a way of helping them keep occupied. Instead of getting into mischief, they are playing sport.
Anton: Absolutely, if you don’t have sport in the area, then there’s nothing to take youngsters off the streets. Sport helps promote responsibility because sport is responsibility.
And finally, how does being part of the Laureus family help your project?
Lewis: I started Jo’burg Cubs by myself and it just grew and grew and it became too big for me to support alone. With Laureus support, we have really managed to grow further in terms of trainers, coaches and the numbers we can now help not to mention feed, clothe and transport the kids whilst taking part with us.
Anton: With Laureus support we can take on permanent employees and this really helps. Without it we would fail. We can move forward now to include English classes and life-skills classes that weren’t taking place before. This couldn’t happen without Laureus support.
Sneh: IMAGE wouldn’t exist if it weren’t Laureus support. When we initially started, some donors were upset we were running this kind of project [with kids with disabilities] and there was pressure to shut it down, so without Laureus, it wouldn’t have existed.