Whether it is to deliver the ball to the opponent’s goal post or touch the finish line, participating in a sport not only makes you feel alive, but also boosts your confidence and energy levels.
We all have heard about the proverb – all the time, work alone is not good. This is often emphasized and children and adolescents are encouraged to take an interest in sports and athletics. While many students in India have access to sports infrastructure and facilities, a large section of them are deprived of it.
Aditya with some students in the playground.
Located in Delhi Umoya Sports Has launched the initiative to help children with special needs, which foster the ability to bridge this gap and equip them to develop the necessary skills. Founded by Aditya KV in the year 2017, the NGO is providing curated sports programs for students with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Aditya KV, the founder of Umoya Sports, told YourStory,
“Children with disabilities are often viewed through a negative lens and subjected to discrimination. They are constantly denied opportunities, not only on the academic front, but also in terms of other non-scholarly activities and sports opportunities. The idea behind launching Umoya Sports is to enable these children to develop their physical, emotional and social faculties to play beyond the obstacles, and enjoy the game like anyone else.”
Over the last three years, Umoya Sports has helped more than 1250 students from eight different schools and organizations including Khushboo Welfare Society, Action for Autism, Amar Jyoti School, Eka Education Trust and Ashish Center.
Umoya Sports helps children become intellectually and physically disabled.
Laying building blocks
After completing his degree from Amrita School of Engineering, Aditya worked as a systems engineer with Tata Consultancy Services. Three years later in 2012, he resigned from his job and signed up for the Teach for India Fellowship.
“Over a period of time, I realized that I had not been in a corporate job between 9 am and 5 pm. There was a lot of monotony and restlessness attached to it. I wanted to be involved in an activity that could bring positive change in the community around me. It was then that I decided to step down and join the fellowship.”
Aditya KV, Founder, Umoy Sports
Once Aditya successfully completed the course, he started educating low-income children at Powai Municipal School in Mumbai. During his tenure as a teacher, he saw the challenges children with disabilities face. They were raised by peers, denied opportunities, and demoralized.
“There were four students with special needs in my class. And, I noticed that the targeted bias towards children started taking a toll on them mentally, socially and educationally. With the aim of creating a sense of inclusiveness, I participated in a football tournament for all. Playing the game brought all the students together and led to a significant improvement in the confidence level of the disabled.”
Students are doing some physical activities with their coaches.
Being a sports enthusiast himself, 34-year-old Aditya was able to perfectly echo and understand the change that the program brought to the children’s outlook. Aditya suffered a major injury while playing football during his college days. He was suffering from a ligament, meniscus and cartilage tear that left him for bedrest for almost a year. The experience of being disabled made him sensitive from day to day.
Both these things inspired her to work for the progress and inclusion of children with disabilities. Aditya founded Umoya Sports in 2017 and directed his efforts towards designing sports curricula and organizing sports for schools.
“In the initial phase, I volunteered with some non-governmental organizations working in the field of physical education, so that they could get better insights into the curriculum and pedagogy. In addition, I also took time to interact with parents, special teachers and sports teachers. A few months later, I created a one-year sports program with the help of my team and launched it as a pilot project at a special school in Gurgaon.”
Following the positive response to the pilot project, Umaya Sports designed its flagship sports program for students with intellectual disabilities and special needs. Popularly known as’ Joy of Play ‘, it is integrated with the schools’ educational curriculum.
Aditya won an award for his efforts as part of Umaya Sports.
The NGO collaborates with schools teaching disabled children and implements programs to train them in various sports such as basketball, football, cricket, badminton, athletics and yoga. The organization has also appointed coaches who conduct sessions at the school and prepare children to improve their physical skills.
“The entire program has been designed keeping in mind the needs and limitations of students with special needs. As part of the Play of Joy, each child undergoes 108 hours of training in multiple sports over a period of one year, for which we charge a nominal fee from the school.”
In addition, the NGO organizes several inter-school sports competitions and events. Mission XI million includes some of the key people in a football competition on the lines of the FIFA U17 World Cup, and a football workshop with Delhi Dynamos FC at VISHWAS Vidyalaya in Gurgaon.
Children playing customized wheelchair basketball.
In view of the restrictions regarding exit from home due to the coronavirus epidemic, Umoya Sports has launched a digital education initiative called ‘Ability Spark’ for all children. It incorporates fun online fitness sessions, which are available for parents, carers, family members and friends completely free of charge. So far 500 people have subscribed for these classes.
So far, the NGO has received grants and donations from Teach for India Innovated, Social Incubator Unlimited India as well as Indian multinational Wipro.
Khushboo Welfare Society, a school that provides education to children and adolescents with disabilities, embraced the joy of the play program and saw tremendous improvement in the personality development of its students. The school principal Vijay Pal said,
“Once the children started getting engaged in sports and games, they were able to work in a team and developed the ability to gain mental strength. His cognitive skills also improved a lot. “