March 31, 2010

'Hoops for Health' hoping to make a difference beyond sport

Sport is one of the best ways to unite people together. Whether it was the 2004 Indian cricket team's "Friendship Tour" of Pakistan following years of mistrust of the Kargil war, or the conflict-ridden Palestine hosting its first ever international football game in 2008, sport can provide a way to rehabilitate those in need, find common ground between conflicting cultures, and provide a healthy, competitive alternative to the harsher realities of life.

One such effort has been by the 'Hoops for Health' basketball school that has been making a difference in the lives children under extremely hostile conditions in Kashmir, breaking language, cultural, and national barriers. There is no better way to rehabilitate some of these youngsters who have already been through atrocities in their young lives than through lessons and activities of sport. The project is a collaboration between basketball school jdBasketball and independent, non-profit organization Child Nurture and Relief (CHINAR).

jdBasketball is the brainchild of American basketball coach and entrepreneur JD Walsh, who has spent several years in India coaching basketball as well as using the game as a vehicle for social change.

CHINAR is an organization working for the psychosocial rehabilitation of orphaned and vulnerable children in conflict areas. They operate in the conflicted Kashmir area with a mission to "to provide a stable and nurturing environment for children in need, which encourages and equips them to reach their highest potential and effectively meet challenges in life."

In 2007, CHINAR began working with the jdBasketball to conduct a 3 year basketball programme, 'Hoops for Health'. The event garnered national attention, bringing to light the problem and this new innovation solution for social change. Hoops for Health was awarded the Nike/Ashoka Foundation Changemaker Award for using basketball to affect social change in their community.

This year, 'Hoops for Health' has been entered into nomination for the Beyond Sport awards. Beyond Sport is a global organisation that promotes, develops and funds the use of sport to create positive social change across the world - the awards programme provides support worth $1 million annually to projects across the world that use sport to address issues within their communities.

For their work in Kashmir, 'Hoops for Health' has been entered for awards in two categories: the Sport for Health Award and the UNICEF Sport for Education Award. Please click on these links to comment your support on's efforts.

Other entries from India in the Beyond Sport categories this year are Rural Challengers- an audacious initiative and Project Green Hands

The last date for the 2010 Beyond Sport Awards entries is April 16, 2010. A shortlist of the nominations will be revealed in May, and the winners of the awards will be unveiled at the Beyond Sport Summit from September 27-30 2010 in Chicago.

Dikembe Mutombo, Former NBA Player and Founder, Dikembe Mutomobo Foundation: "Meeting all the inspirational people behind the sport and development projects shortlisted for the Beyond Sport Awards was a truly memorable experience. If we can get more people to follow the lead of these initiatives that we saw first-hand at the Summit then we can create real social impact across the world."

I've closely followed JD Walsh's efforts in India and hope that his work with CHINAR and the children in Kashmir can be boosted with much-needed support if the programme is to win a Beyond Sport Award.

Read about JD Walsh's Slumdog Basketball initiative in the Mumbai slums.

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