Making sport an engine for change and a tool for combating educational poverty
As part of the Sport for Change programme, Fondazione Milan created “From Milan to the World”, a contest-initiative in partnership with PUMA that saw the participation of six non-profit associations from all continents.
Representing Asia, the Asha Bhavan Centre, active in the suburbs of Kolkata, India, took part in the charity contest. The organisation is committed to offering therapeutic and rehabilitation support to children with disabilities on a daily basis, promoting education and integration in a context of extreme poverty. It is convinced that the practice of sport can concretely promote greater health, well-being and integration. The Centre includes in its offer recreational and competitive sport activities, with a special focus on girls, otherwise excluded from practising any discipline.
The Asha Bhavan Centre operates in the suburbs and slums of Kolkata, and more generally in many places in the rural area of the city and throughout West Bengal. In these contexts, characterised by deep-rooted socio-economic inequalities, many children and young people live in conditions of extreme poverty, not only economic but also educational. The scarce resources available and the general lack of adequate educational programmes lead to inevitable consequences of discrimination, social exclusion and a total lack of future prospects.
Even more worrying are the living conditions of children with disabilities, who often have no access to basic education or medical and rehabilitation support, are completely excluded from any kind of environment, be it real or virtual, and are deprived of tools that can enable them to educate themselves and, once adults, actively participate in the life of their communities. In the case of girls and young women with disabilities, the picture is even more problematic, due to the stigma and discrimination linked to their presumed ‘uselessness’ in the development of the community and, more generally, in view of the roles that women, as such, are required to adopt.
To address these serious shortcomings, the Asha Bhavan Centre, with the support of the Friends of Dominique Lepierre Association and other foreign non-profits, offers treatment and therapeutic support to children with disabilities, promoting rehabilitation, education and social inclusion. In the rehabilitation and social reintegration pathway, sport plays a major role: besides improving the pathologies and health of young athletes, it allows them to break the vicious circle of discrimination and to show young people how everyone can be a protagonist and a winner.
All rehabilitation and educational activities are primarily aimed at children and young people with disabilities, most of whom are between 4 years old and the age of majority. However, in all the Centre’s educational centres throughout West Bengal, children and young people from abusive and painful backgrounds, often orphans or runaways, are not forgotten. In all activities, and especially in sports, special attention is paid to girls, who suffer even more discrimination and exclusion than boys. In Khatila, one of the main ABC centres, 120 girls are hosted, plus about 40 children and young people from the Keoradanga area.