Alternative Pursuits Program
Teenagers are full of energy – it is a time when young people begin to assert their independence and form their first deep attachments outside the family. It is also a time when they take risks and explore new experiences. Which is why we need to introduce a range of experiences that will make them better human beings and give them “highs” – believe it or not, music, dance, theatre, art, sports, farming and so on are capable of providing a better high than any drug can. All we need to do is make one or more of these an essential part of growing up – and make children aware of these healthy highs.
The Venda Cup
Why Football? Football requires both physical and mental energies, thus helping the child to develop a more focused and goal-oriented behaviour. Football being a multidimensional sport with mental, physical and social benefits, has proved to be an effective tool and serves as a healthy ‘alternative high’. Therefore it has been very effective in keeping the teens away from high risk behaviour.
Project VENDA emulated the Republic of Iceland’s Alternative High Model to successfully create the Venda Cup Football tournament that has seen hundreds of football loving teenagers from the schools in and around the district of Ernakulam playing in a professional and competitive manner, in the true spirit of sportsmanship.
This also produced unexpected results. Football training enabled kids to be more open and willing to continue their education rather than drop out of school. This initiative opened up playgrounds and sports facilities for these children. Our partnership with Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan – Dept of Education ensured that these children got access to good football fields to practice. We also brought in football enthusiasts, established players and coaches to train as well as provide professional football gear for these children. We piloted a ‘values through football’ program, which brought in FIFA coaches who continue to work with us on the project.
The sports quota in schools and colleges ensured that these children got admission which we are certain will help them find the right career in the years to come.
We got hundreds of children from across the district of Ernakulam to play football. Across the three editions of Venda Cup Football, we had a total of 1020 players participating – 48 boys teams and 12 girls teams.
“I was the victim of a broken home – I found refuge in things I should have avoided like the plague – so much so that even after I got a job, it was a struggle to stay clean. It was my friend who understood my deep-seated desire to clean up my life that introduced me to Project VENDA. I loved the non-judgemental open conversation I had with them. And I willingly worked with real, rooted, no-nonsense people to overcome my weaknesses. The best part was that Project VENDA was willing to hire me to do something I am really good at – be a motivational trainer and football coach. Something which I have been doing with great pride and success now for three years.”
Tijoo Sebastian | 27-year old football coach from Koch