'Real Heroes' in the heart of sports

Through its 'Real Heroes' campaign, Laureus showcases a series of stories in which sport has elevated vulnerable commuities.

“Sport has the power to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela at the first Laureus World Sports Award.   -  Laureus

Sixteen years after Laureus’ founding patron Nelson Mandela said “Sport has the power to change the world” at the first Laureus World Sports Awards, his words continue to ring true in some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.

Through its 'Real Heroes' campaign, Laureus showcases a series of stories in which sport has elevated vulnerable communities. Here are a few:-

BOWLING FOR A CHANGE





Sneh Gupta was blown away by what she saw at SKSN, a boarding school for the physically challenged in Jodhpur. Most children were affected by polio and there were single and some double amputees.

She visited the school in 1996 to work on a documentary on life in India. Led by Narayan Singh Manaklao, the school used sport as a replacement for physiotherapy for the children there.

The activities included Malkhamb (in which a gymnast performs feats with a vertical wooden pole or rope) and a 100m-handstand race. After what she saw, Sneh decided to stay and volunteer.

“There was this one kid who was a double‑amputee, just below his bottom,” Sneh recalls. “He was flying through the air, just moving on his bottom using his hands. They were so happy, there was no reason to pity them because they were so full of life and happy.”

Sneh’s involvement and the creation of IMAGE, a group of disabled and able-bodied youngsters in partnership with Laureus in 2005, brought about further integration and education around disability. Able-bodied youngsters would visit the disabled at school and play with them.

Recently, the IMAGE India team beat a group of bus conductors in Rajasthan in a cricket match.



SKATING ON THE RIGHT TRACK





“When you set foot on a skateboard you want to do something,” 28-year-old Charl Jensel enthuses. “You see an amazing trick and you want to do it yourself. That creates goals in you, man. You get addicted to it and there’s no going back to your old life.”

The old life Charl speaks about was tough. He grew up in Cape Flats in South Africa’s Western Cape, and like many of the youngsters around him; staying in school was a struggle. After dropping out of school, he started mixing with the "wrong crowd."

“In my community today, kids drop out of school like nothing you could imagine,” he says.

But skateboarding saved him. Today, he oversees the work of the Indigo Youth Movement in the Western Cape, a programme which teaches life skills through the sport of skateboarding in both Durban and Western Cape.

Although he dropped out of high school, Charl had a vision in life to be the best skateboarder he could be. Working at a local skate park, Charl was living his dream, skating every day. “I thought I was going to work there for the rest of my life. The fact I am sitting where I am today is a testament to the power sport has to change.”

Top South African skateboarder Dallas Oberholzer, who ran the Indigo Youth Movement in Durban got in touch and asked him to start something positive in his own community.

At first, he declined. “I had a closed mindset; I didn’t think skateboarding was a sport, I didn’t realise the power it had.” But he changed his decision afte meeting Dallas.

Charl, then, returned to education. “I felt like there was something missing,” he recalls. After speaking with his parents, he received the support he needed and returned to college to complete his studies, two years after setting foot on a skateboard.

Although he’s in charge of a sports programme, Charl’s role reaches further than the half-pipes of skate parks. “Yesterday one of the kids asked me to help get him back in school. I missed 70 days of school when I was younger and now I’m telling everyone in the project to stay in education, all because of skateboarding.”

Charl is optimistic about his aspirations for the young people in the communities he works with. “I’m just stoked that I can change these kids’ lives. They learn things every day and that’s very important, that’s how you grow.”



A FIGHTING CHANCE





The Bronx is an area in the US with most people living below the poverty line. The community is trodden with complex issues like youth violence and obesity.

Laureus-supported Fight Back uses martial arts to boost confidence and self-esteem of young people in The Bronx.

This programme has caught the eye of many high-profile sporting celebrities including boxing icon Wladimir Klitschko, athletics legend Edwin Moses, tennis hall-of-famers Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles, and football superstar Raúl Gonzalez.

“I was very impressed with the discipline that these kids have which you need for martial arts. This really is the way to change lives and make a difference. It was a very emotional day for me,” said former Real Madrid star Raúl.