For the last month, children in conflict with the law residing at the Umerkhadi Children’s Home in Dongri, Mumbai, have been busy honing their sporting skills.
Nail-biting games of chess and carrom, and rigorous volleyball training sessions interspersed with loud cheers or crashing sighs have broken the mundane routine of their lives. They start their day looking forward to the daily games and are learning about sportsmanship, character-building, and camaraderie in the process.
Giving them a chance to spread their wings, the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), as part of its ‘Nayi Disha – Smile for Juvenile’ programme has ensured that young residents get a platform to pursue sports.
Since March, professional coaches have been teaching the nitty-gritty of sports to the residents from Monday to Friday.
“Playing chess has brought about a change in their approach and mindset. It helps them calm their mind. Every day, about 10 to 15 kids turn up to play chess, and slowly, we have taught them the basics of the game,” said Surendra Gawde, a chess coach.
The month-long training culminated in an in-house tournament, with the residents getting a chance to showcase their athletic abilities in all three sporting disciplines. The competition was followed by a prize distribution ceremony on Monday, which was graced by the IOCL chairman Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, Krishna Prakash - IPS officer and Special Inspector General, VIP Security and Coastal Security, Maharashtra - and other dignitaries.
Addressing the young residents, Vaidya said, “We will try to do everything for the kids at the correction centre to teach them new sports. We are committed to doing that. I hope you make use of the sports training we are imparting and make a change in your life…”
Launched in January this year, the ‘Nayi Disha’ programme aims to reach over 2500 young residents at three Juvenile Correction Centres in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. In the future, IOCL plans to take the programme beyond sports.
“In case the children are doing any good paintings, we will give them a space to sell their paintings at Indian Oil petrol pumps. Also, we can give a chance to those above 18 years of age to work as customer attendants at Indian oil petrol pumps,” Vaidya said.
Prakash, who completed the Ironman Triathlon, one of the toughest sporting events in the world in France in 2017, lauded the initiative and welcomed more youngsters to chase their dreams by pursuing sports.
As the youngsters celebrated their moment of glory in presence of carrom ace Kajal Kumari and chess Grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan, the coaches were happy to see their wards come a long way.
Sandeep Dive - a World Carrom Championship title-winner in 2022 - recalled how he warmed up to the residents gradually. “At first, I was apprehensive at the thought of coaching at a correction centre, but when I met these kids, I realised that they are a really talented bunch. Some of them are even all-rounders, excelling in multiple sports,” Dive said. “Most importantly, the kids have been extremely respectful and always address the coaches as ‘Sirs’. Over the last one month, they have developed a fondness for carrom and are glued to the sport…”
And those who have seen the kids from close quarters reveal that these days, most of their conversations revolve around chess, carrom or volleyball as sports have taken a centre stage in their lives.
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