November 20, 2015

Game On: a basketball collaboration between USA and India to assist Dalit girls in Hyderabad

One of the worst things to afflict India - through its history and continuing into the present day - is the caste system. For centuries, the fate of certain human beings has been decided by society from birth simply because of the caste they were born into. In India, the caste system has been used to oppress certain sections of society or for political gain by creating further fissures between different castes. One of the most oppressed castes historically in India has been the Dalits: and over 200 million of them in the country oscillate between the extremes of unequal treatment and vote banks.

Fortunately, there are many in India and abroad who are fighting for Dalit rights. One of these organizations is the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), created in 2001 by Indians of all different castes with a mission to "end atrocities against the Dalit people through a foundation of education, healthcare, and economic empowerment." Recently, the DFN joined hands with former American athlete Cassandra Irving to support their movement with an unexpected vehicle: basketball.

Irving played basketball in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where she was 1995 Western Slope League Player of the Year, and then went on to play NCAA basketball for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. In 2013, a trip to India with her son Cooper Irving gave her life a new mission. She learnt about the unfair treatment of Dalits and decided to take action: Irving started the Game On Youth Basketball Camps in Glenwood Springs to teach basketball to young players from ages 5-13. The proceeds from her camp will be used to support 40 Dalit girls in Hyderabad, India, all of whom were rescued from slums by the DFN.

Next year, Irving plans to bring the Game On camps to India itself, in partnership with the DFN. Their first basketball camp is scheduled from February 15-19 at OM Campus in Hyderabad.

Further report via Post Independent

Although this will be the first camp of its kind for girls and sports, Irving sees it as more than just a camp to teach the girls about sports, nutrition and fitness.
“It is life-changing,” Irving said. “Sports gives kids a team around them, a coach behind them and the courage, confidence and competitive mindset inside them to dream bigger, dig deeper and work harder to overcome the challenges that they face in life, both on and off the court. It is also incredibly fun, which is something Dalit kids rarely get to have.”

The first official Game On camp was held this past summer in Glenwood.

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