‘Sports’ is a great development tool and also an emotion which brings people together. Sometimes it becomes religion & sometimes it becomes a war. Well, we have seen it all in sports.
We jump off from our chair, throw air punches, shout with anger while watching nail biting football matches or a high intense tennis match or those India-Pakistan cricket matches, don’t we?
But these emotions turned into frustration for Aditya during his college days when he suffered a major sports injury forcing him to be bedridden for a long time. He was unable to play any sport & was denied opportunities to participate in tournaments. He was labelled as ‘Langda’ or ‘Handicapped’ not only on but also off the field. The most frustrating part he says was to be dependent on others for his daily chores.
“These experiences made me realize the challenges faced by People with Disabilities (PWD) they might face on a daily basis. It is fair to say that these experiences chiseled my desire to promote disability inclusion.” says Aditya.
Aditya says his belief in using sports as a tool for development got reinforced during his Teach for India fellowship. “I observed that majority of my students experience domestic violence and various challenges at home resulting in them emulating violence in classroom, low self-confidence and poor attitude. Among the multitude of challenges I faced in class, there were 4 kids with special needs. They were often picked on by other kids, performed poorly academically, remained to themselves and had major behavior issues.” says Aditya.
With the aim to motivate all these kids and build their character, he started a football club in the community & created a culture of trust and as a team they not only practiced but also discussed their personal challenges, motivated each other to set goals and vision. By the end of the year he noticed a significant improvement in not only the academic results of the kids but also their personalities. They became more disciplined, mature and displayed leadership skills. And surprisingly other kids too became more open and friendly with these special kids. Sports created an environment of inclusion and built friendships.
“Post my fellowship with the aim to develop sports at the grass root level, I started working at an International sports organization. We collaborated with an International football club and started an academy. During this time we received lot of inquiries from parents of kids with special needs & developmental delays, but unfortunately I had to deny participation to them. This disturbed me and I realized the lack of opportunities available for these kids to participate in sports.” says Aditya remembering those days.
Reflecting on his personal challenges and learning, the combination of all his experiences fueled this burning desire to promote disability inclusion. “I was inspired to combine my love, experience of sports and my desire to create an inclusive sports platform.” he adds.
The belief that sports benefits all equally gave rise to UMOYA Sports. UMOYA – which means ‘Spirit’ in Zulu language, aims to provide holistic development and break the barriers by bringing the joy of ‘Sports’ in the lives of people with disabilities. During their first program they curated a progressive, structured, year-long physical education program for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and special needs. “We aim to spread awareness about disability by enabling PWD and able bodied individuals to participate in sports programs together. UMOYA Sports combines learning and best practices of structured sports programs and methodologies used for special needs.” says Aditya.
UMOYA Sports is currently working with close to 350 kids on a year long basis and has collaborated with 2 NGOs – Vishwas and Jan Madhyam based out of Delhi NCR.
Aditya strongly believe the program will provide holistic development to the participants by improving:
- Physical skills such as gross motor skills, fine motor skills, coordination, body management
- Social skills and life skills – such as teamwork, patience, discipline
- Health benefits – By being physically active and channeling the energy of uniquely able kids
- Sports skills
UMOYA Sports has also developed a strong relationship with Special Olympics Bharat, the Nodal agency accredited by Special Olympics International to conduct Special Olympics programs in India, and provide consultation to ameliorate their grass root impact. Aditya & his team is working towards creating pathways of opportunities for participants in various internal and external sports tournaments & competitions and hope to see the young uniquely abled kids wear Indian colors and make us proud.
Thank you Aditya for making this effort towards making not only a better world for the children, but also making better children for this world. People like you & your journey inspire us to do better in life.
To know more about their work, please follow UMOYA Sports Facebook Page