In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.
“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.
Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.
Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”
Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.
The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.
In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.
“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.
To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.
– Vicente Vera