With the Olympics dominating our TV screens for the last fortnight or so, we’ve been witness to some of the most skilled sportsmen in action. Whether it’s the record breaking super-human Mr.Bolt, the jaw droppingly beautiful Russian gymnast Kanaeva or India’s darling boxer Mary Kom; they have all amazed us with their prowess in their chosen games.
It’s easy to forget, that behind all this dedication, training, records and medals, what we watched were but games. Highly evolved and with high stakes, but ultimately just games. The Olympics are a reminder that we all have a basic need to play.
While the skill and excellence of a few high ranking athletes is perpetually on the rise it is very easy to forget that more and more children today actually do not have the resources to spend their evening playing a game. Especially in Mumbai, with its reducing playgrounds, increasing poverty and growing population, to play is a luxury that many don’t have.
Perhaps one of the first organizations to recognize this urban problem was The Magic Bus, that began delivering sports based education to children in Mumbai slums way back in 1999. Over the years this organization has adopted playgrounds and ensured that children under their wing get a chance to play for about 9 to 12 hours a week. This brings a huge change to their life considering some of them didn’t even has access to a ball before coming aboard the Magic Bus. Most importantly the children begin to acknowledge their right to play.
A testament to their ability to change lives is the case of Gulafsha, a young girl from Dharavi who plays on the Magic Bus girls football team. Her passion for the sport and hard work, ultimately lead her to the FIFA Football for Hope event in 2010. Since then she continues to travel, grow and inspire young girls around her. Another girl, Parvati who is a daughter of two construction workers, found her calling as football coach, an opportunity that would be totally out of reach for a girl in her situation. May many more follow suit!
Remember being attached to that one basketball you received as a Christmas gift or that pretty pink jump-rope that was your companion on many an evening? Project Play recognizes this sentiment and aims to give underprivileged children the chance to experience it. They collect old sports equipment and give it to children in need. Their plea is simple “If you own it, and don’t need it, somebody surely does.”
Project play also has an interesting ‘Help a Hero’ programme, where you can help a particular child fulfill their sporting dreams by giving them the equipment they require to fulfill it. This way one can get involved in slightly deeper way and understand an individual child’s needs.
From the Independence Day of 2004 Toybank has been, in their words, acting as a leveler, taking toys from those who can give and sharing them with those who are in need. Their project gained momentum and Toybanks have now been opened in Bangalore and Pune as well. They collect toys, sort through them, gift wrap them and present them to lil’ kids. Their aim: to make sure that every kid in the country has a toy. Simple, yet so meaningful.
I’m sure tucked away in the loft or under the bed all of us have at least one old bat, badminton racket or hoola-hoop covered in dust and cobwebs. Now you know what to do with it.