Nurturing tomorrow's champions

Every morning, just after dawn, you’ll find a dedicated group of children on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad stretching, jumping and sprinting their way to a better future.

With the support of World Vision child sponsors, children living in the Banjara community are gaining the chance to pursue their sporting dreams.

Currently, 45 children with a passion for sport participate in the program, where they receive specialised coaching and support with shoes, uniforms, equipment and transport to competitions. The children have participated in track and field events at district, state and national levels, already bringing home a swag of medals.   

World Vision is actively encouraging and supporting sports participation in slum communities where many of the most vulnerable children miss out on opportunities like this because of poverty. It’s common for children living in the slums to be working to bring in family income instead of going to school.

“Sports can be a method for promoting a safe and protective environment for children,” says World Vision’s Thabitha Vani.

“It is a good entry-point for the promotion of life skill-based education and healthy lifestyles, including the values of physical fitness, proper nutrition. Sports enhance child development and learning and encourage better academic performance.” 



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Coach Vinod (left) teaches start techniques to sponsored child Nitin, aged 12. "Before I start my run I just look at the finish line and tell myself to be bold and strong," says Nitin, state-level bronze medallist for 100 metres. 

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"Being an athlete is hard work. We have to do rigorous training and keep our body fit,” says Sai, aged 13, state-level bronze medallist for 100 metres. “Physical fitness also involves eating right food. Milk with Horlicks and egg is a must.” 

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Training lasts for 2-3 hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. "We start training and working out at 5am … After we have warmed up then we focus on our running techniques and improving our running speed," says Sai.

Passion overcomes challenges

The children have an impressive role model working with them every step of the way. Their coach Vinod, aged 19, is a state-level gold medallist for the 800-metres track event.

Vinod had to drop out of school at age 13 and start working when his father passed away. But World Vision staff provided his family with counselling and support so he was able to resume his studies and pursue his athletics dream.

Impressed by his pace and stamina, the district athletics coach selected Vinod for his track and field team. He now aspires to represent his state, Telangana, at the national level and someday represent India internationally. Vinod is also the first in his family to finish school and enter college. 

"Sports create a discipline in you,” says Vinod. “It equips you to face extreme challenges and channels your energy in the right direction.

“But at the same time there are challenges children from low income backgrounds face which hinders them from excelling in sports … Some children run barefoot because they don’t have proper running shoes, which shows their passion and love for the sport ...

“One of the reasons why I was able to reach state level was because I had the support and encouragement from World Vision." 

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Savita, 7, and Monukia and Maheshwari, both 10, have participated in district and state level athletics competitions. "When I cross the finish line and I hear the crowd cheer and clap for us it is a great feeling," says Monukia. 

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Arvind, aged 12, trains barefoot. "The sport teaches you to respect your coach and peers. There are many things a sportsperson has to remember and apply. Having a disciplined routine is one of them," he says. 

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Young athletes from the Banjara community with their coach Vinod. At state level, 10 children supported through World Vision have won medals, including five golds. 

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