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Making a Difference through Sports in the Valley

The Khel Khel Mein Foundation has introduced a comprehensive sports-based programme to a school in the valley and it's bearing fruits.

The impact that sports have on the development of children is an aspect that is often overlooked in most of the education programmes in our country. To bring the joy of learning through competitive sports, the Khel Khel Mein Foundation – started by a group of passionate former Teach for India fellows – has been trying to make sports an integral part of the curriculum, and to take the initiative a step ahead, they organise competitive games in a league format for the kids to test their mettle against competitors from other schools. The league system has so far been limited only to schools in Delhi.

However, the foundation has been spreading its wings across the nation and an initiative close to its heart is the work it is doing through its rural project under the Sports for Development initiative at the Himalayan Cultural School in Kishtawar, Jammu, with support from Education Access.

The students in the Himalayan Cultural School were not exposed to sports in a structured format until the intervention of the Khel Khel Mein Foundation. And they were introduced to coaching and guidance in football, kho-kho, surr (a traditional Indian sport) and athletics among other sports through the foundation’s implementation of their sports curriculum during a visit to the school last summer.

As volunteers of Khel Khel Mein Foundation paid a second visit to the school last month to check upon the progress and introduce them to newer things, they were delighted to see the progress made by the children and the enthusiasm both the students and their teachers have shown towards the initiative.

In this small village, some 150kms from Jammu, around 150 students from grade 1 to 8 have displayed outstanding enthusiasm for sports.

KKM member, Prayas Sutar, recollected his experience of visiting the school and its scenic surroundings: "Gulabgarh was like a town in the wild west. A single main road. Dilapidated buildings on both sides. You tend to notice the heavenly beauty around in the most unexpected places - the view of mountains from the car, the sight of the incredible spread of the river from the rooftop of some nondescript building.

“But I saw dreams and hope in the most expected place – school. There are a lot of memories from the Himalayan Cultural School. The culture of sports introduced by KKM is not only sustaining but flourishing. The amazing athletic ability of the kids is refreshingly different from their counterparts cities. The values of teamwork, trust and responsibility is exemplified by the children.

“However, what I cherish the most is the joy I felt being a kid with the kids - playing with them, winning and losing with them. The joy of hitting the rubber ball with a broken bat for a six, the struggle for a single and the disappointment when the ball hit the stumps before you reach the crease.

“I remember on the last day after all the exhaustion from playing when I noticed the blissful distant snow-capped mountains, I sighed and said to myself:’ I am blessed to be here; I am blessed because I am still PLAYING.’"

Ankit Kapoor, another core KKM member, is excited with the positive impact being made by the initiative: "It was immense joy and pleasure visiting Himalayan cultural school.

“I was really excited to witness the structure and processes being implemented and continued in a small span of time. We hope the enthusiasm and dedication of all the stakeholders will pave the way towards creating a self sustaining sports culture and structure in the school.”

The vision of this project is to drive investment, integrity and awareness through sports, and if the positives from the Himalayan Cultural School are anything to go by then the Khel Khel Mein Foundation is meeting its objectives.

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