Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:07 AM GMT
Using tennis as a force for good

Last week, Ulrika Hogberg, Wimbledon Foundation & Community Manager, travelled to India to visit the Foundation’s international sport-for-development project with Magic Bus.

The joint project, which began in April 2015, uses tennis to help teach children living in marginalised communities in Delhi about the importance of education, hygiene, nutrition and gender equality in creating a sustainable future out of poverty. 

Earlier this year the Wimbledon Foundation committed further funding of £100,000 over two years to enable Magic Bus to continue working with the children involved and expand the project into two neighbouring communities with the aim of helping a further 1,400 young people to move out of poverty.

Ulrika’s first stop was one of Magic Bus’ livelihood centres which works with 18-25 year olds to mentor and prepare them for livelihood options and to find a sustainable employment. The young people attend courses in IT, spoken English, business skills and financial literacy to increase their employability skills, but most importantly receive mentoring, advice and guidance and support through a six month placement which hopefully translates into permanent employment.

Next, Ulrika visited a Magic Bus tennis-for-development session in Tughlaqabad, one of the many slum communities in the south of Delhi where Ulrika met 14-year old Nikki who began her journey with Magic Bus two years ago. Nikki and her family of seven survive on a monthly income of less than £35.  Like any other child of her age, Nikki liked to play, but like all the other girls in her community, her parents forbade her to do this.  With alcoholism, substance abuse and the sexual exploitation of children rife in their neighbourhood, Nikki’s mother was afraid of sending any of her daughters outside and most of Nikki’s time would be spent indoors helping out her mother with household work.

When the joint project with the Wimbledon Foundation began in Tughlaqabad, Magic Bus’ first hurdle to overcome was this entrenched fear among parents. Magic Bus Community Youth Leaders, themselves young people from the local community, started by visiting homes to engage parents and reassure them about the creation of safe spaces in the neighbourhood where children of both genders could participate, interact and learn. Gradually Nikki’s parents felt secure about her attending the weekly sessions; during the project’s first year, the number of girls participating grew from 22% to 39%.

Through a tennis-based curriculum, Nikki has learnt about the importance of education and hygiene in helping create a sustainable livelihood for herself and gained skills that will help her succeed in the years to come. Today, Nikki is a confident girl who speaks out about issues affecting the lives of young girls in her community and her goal is to become a teacher one day.

Ulrika summed up her impressions at the end of a long and inspiring day: “To be able to meet Nikki and other young girls and boys today has been absolutely fantastic, especially to see the positive change and impact on these young people first hand. It’s easy to forget sometimes how creative you can be with sport and tennis not only in teaching life skills but also as a means of increasing confidence, aspirations and resilience. The Wimbledon Foundation is very proud to be able to be part of these young people’s journey from childhood to livelihood.”