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Greek Freak For the past several seasons in the NBA, there has been a bright, blinding and rising star who has continued to awe and engage hearts across the world year after year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. But what makes the “Greek Freak” so incredible is not only what he has been able to do on the court, but also his experience and devotion to those off the court and back in his home country of Greece through the AntetokounBros Academy.

The Antetokounmpos’ History

In 2019, Antetokounmpo and his brothers began this basketball academy to support young adults and children from underprivileged socioeconomic groups. The academy provides its participants with the opportunities to get involved with sports and to sometimes just get a hot meal and some rest. As of 2021, the AntetokounBros Academy has helped several hundred kids get onto the basketball court and impacted many more lives through community outreach.

The Antetokounmpos grew up in difficult circumstances as “stateless” Nigerian immigrants in Greece. Since they were young, Giannis and his older brother Thanassis began hawking things like sunglasses on the streets to help their parents pay for living expenses. The family would often go without meals for several days.

These circumstances are not uncommon in Athens and in Greece as a whole. Since the financial crises of the late 2010s, Greece has struggled to bounce back after major economic hits. This has resulted in Greece experiencing the third-highest poverty rate in the European Union. In 2015, the European Parliament reported 45% of children in Greece were living without basic goods and services.

Addressing the Problems

In the light of this hardship, the brothers have stated that they believe basketball brought them where they are today. The community it gave them and the time they spent at basketball camps –which provided paid meals or free clothes– were incredibly helpful for them as they grew up.

Athens is the largest metropolitan area with the densest concentration of people in Greece. It is also the hometown of the Antetokounmpo brothers. As such, the AntetokounBros Academy is a program that promotes community involvement for the youth of Athens to get involved with sports, specifically basketball. A Eurostat study found that “4 in 10” under the age of 17 are at risk of “poverty or social exclusion,” and the situation for the people of Athens specifically is extremely dire.

Over the years, the academy has also come to serve as a community center and help center; it takes in and develops young players and coaching staff from all around Greece, with a particular interest in people from communities that are struggling socioeconomically.

Considering the Impact

The AntetokounBros Academy has set out to inspire charitable work through basketball and outreach in the local community. The academy does everything from hosting food drives to collecting donations worldwide — with help from the Greek Freak himself of course. It hosts tournaments, provides mentoring workshops and scouts talent.

The AntetokounBros Academy has partnered with the Onassis Foundation, Nike, EuroHoops and the NBA to bring about awareness. The organizations also work to show the world the results that such a program can bring to the members of a community while combatting some of the symptoms of poverty.

As Konstantinos Papaloukas, Managing Partner of EuroHoops, an integral partner and benefactor of the academy, said in a statement, “With the Initiative of AntetokounmBros Academy we give opportunities to children to change their lives and fight for their dreams.”

From sharing a pair of basketball shoes with all four of his brothers to becoming a champion and Finals MVP just this last NBA season, the Greek Freak, together with his brothers, understands more than most about the burdens of circumstance and the incredible impact of help in every person’s life.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

Social Skateboarding Organizations Provide Students With Needed Programs and SkateboardsWith its addition to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding has become increasingly popular and recognized in the mainstream. However, underdeveloped countries typically do not have access to high-quality or even necessary equipment to get involved in the sport. Therefore, social skateboarding organizations work to ensure everyone has access to this healthy and beneficial sport.

Social Skateboarding

Skateboarding and social inclusion are what comprise social skateboarding. It promotes the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to skate, including traditionally marginalized groups. Aspects such as conflict, costs and social norms prevent many from becoming involved with the sport. These aspects affect girls, those with disabilities, refugees and more. On a global scale, this also includes those affected by global poverty.

Skateistan

Skateistan is a global skate organization made up of one hundred staff and volunteers from around the world. It runs five unique programs in its Skate Schools around the globe, benefiting underprivileged children from the ages of five to seventeen. Currently, it has Skate School locations in Cambodia, South Africa and Jordan.

Skateistan’s Programs

One of Skateistan’s main focuses is Outreach in which it provides Skateistan’s educators to children with limited resources. By doing this, it introduces new communities to skateboarding, providing families with critical social services. This program offers weekly opportunities for economically developing communities to engage in creative activities.

Another project from the organization is Skate and Create. This project aims to provide an inclusive space for young learners to develop healthy social relationships and learn essential life skills. Skateistan’s educators provide four annual curriculums focusing on wellness, equality, creative expression and natural science. The program offers a valuable experience for children regardless of their gender, literacy or current ability.

Skateistan’s Educational Programs

Skateistan also runs a Back-to-School program. The organization partners with schools and services to ensure students have access to quality public education. Using its partnerships, it works to align students with their national curriculums. In Afghanistan, Skateistan offers an accelerated program for students; students join the Skate School for five days a week, covering three grades of public education within eleven months. Once students complete this program, they enroll in their country’s public school system.

In addition, Skateistan’s Dropping In program gives students access to safe and accommodating learning spaces. Here, young learners can develop goals and get a better understanding of themselves. Students have the opportunity to utilize the Skate School’s facilities. Students can participate in skateboarding and sports events, read in one of the organization’s libraries, participate in weekly book clubs and study groups and use the Skate School’s quiet studying areas. This program continues throughout the year, providing children with a safe space even on school vacations.

Skateistan’s Youth Leadership Program

Finally, the social skateboarding organization provides students with a Youth Leadership program. This program allows students to facilitate and lead their communities. In this program, students collaborate each week, working on media training, event planning, international cultural exchanges and foundational safety skills to assist educators in class. This program provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership skills from Skateistan’s educators and a chance for involvement in their communities.

Goodpush Alliance

In addition to Skateistan’s own programs, the organization developed an initiative, the Goodpush Alliance. This initiative focuses on providing inclusive skating spaces to children around the world, providing support and knowledge between social skateboarding projects worldwide. It also offers grassroots and established global skate organizations training through, workshops, support calls, awards and online resources. These resources cover topics ranging from developing quality skate lessons to providing an inclusive space for children.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co. is one of the leading suppliers of skateboards. Besides selling skateboards, the brand has a philanthropic stance on skateboarding, partnering with social skateboarding organizations to support their causes. For example, one of its most recent projects was with Make Life Skate Life. Rolling Thunder has promised to build two skateparks in 2021 and 2022 and support underdeveloped communities in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Make Life Skate Life has previously built skateparks in 20 economically developing communities across India.

The Heart Supply

Another social skateboarding organization is The Heart Supply. This is an organization that donates skateboards to underprivileged youth around the world. The organization uses a part of its proceeds from its skate decks sold online and in major stores like Target to provide quality skateboards to children in low and middle-income countries. So far, it has donated hundreds of skateboards in over 51 countries. This program offers impoverished communities a chance to experience creative and physical activity with high-quality equipment.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Playing sports can foster development for developing countries
The implementation of sports programs provides children with the opportunity to learn teamwork, participation and leadership qualities. Physical activity also stimulates health improvements and offers children equal opportunities to engage in activities. Large, sports associations also spread awareness of global poverty and extend campaigns to a much greater audience. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

World Health Organization (WHO)

In 2018, the World Health Organization published a global action plan to increase the amount of physical activity worldwide. WHO plans to create a healthier world by 2030. Their strategy is to deliver various selections of physical activity including sports, recreational activities and walking. WHO specifically wants to create opportunities for women, middle-aged adults and individuals with debilities. Currently, 75% of children and 25% of adults do not satisfy the global standard for physical activity. Exercise is essential for healthcare and the development of a nation. Physical activity has also been confirmed to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health illnesses. Physical activity is important for child development, teaching children numerous lessons and qualities. Therefore, WHO targets to increase the amount of regular physical activity to reduce the amount of premature mortality. The WHO’s physical activity plan will also further aide in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also designed sports programs to protect children from violence, disrupt inequality norms and eliminate limits on participation based on physical capabilities. The nonprofit organization strives for “inclusive sport.” UNICEF believes that sports will bring communities together in a positive setting. Sports also provide children with disabilities the opportunity to recognize their potential.  From 2010 to 2013, the Montenegro government and UNICEF ran an “It’s about ability” campaign. The campaign’s primary goal was to create a more accepting society. At the end of the campaign, Montenegro’s citizens recorded more than a 40% increase in citizen approval of their children being in the same class as a child with disabilities. This newfound acceptance will further benefit Montenegro’s government and economy. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

NFL Athlete Josh Doctson

Over the past couple of months, the coronavirus has dictated several shutdowns across the globe. The rise in the uncertainty of the virus has influenced several U.S. athletes to skip on this year’s upcoming season. One NFL star, Josh Doctson, has decided to sit-out this season and advocate for the world’s poor. Mr. Doctson plans on visiting several African countries, including Rwanda, in hope that he will raise awareness for the underprivileged. The NFL player’s decision to conduct a humanitarian campaign has attracted a lot of attention thus far and therefore already raised attentiveness for the cause.

Sports Events

Local sports events have the potential to generate employment and incentivize the production of goods and services related to the event. Sportanddev.org reports that marathon events hosted by local communities in Peru create a host of economic opportunities. One race, in particular, generated a manufacturing demand and a surge in tourism activities.

Sports programs have been proven to create safe environments, disrupt societal norms and teach children valuable lessons. If implemented appropriately, sports can foster development in developing nations. Nonprofit organizations, international sports teams and professional players also spread global awareness for poverty and inequality. As sports products become widely available globally, sports programs will begin to be implemented at an increasing rate and further contribute to the health, development and success of a nation’s upcoming generation and their economy.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Sports have always been integral in society. They serve as an outlet for many to escape their daily troubles and exist as a way to unify groups of people. Athletes in modern times are lauded for their skill and their lavish lifestyles. However, the truth of the matter is that many of these competitors did not grow up with the privileges they have earned today. These are five athletes that rose from poverty.

5 Athletes Who Rose From Poverty

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo: Hailed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldo did not have an easy upbringing. Ronaldo was born in a poor neighborhood in Fungal, Portugal in 1985. His father was an equipment manager at a local soccer club while his mother was a cook and a housekeeper. Ronaldo did not grow up with much but grew fond of soccer because of his father’s profession. After being recruited by a local boys’ soccer club, Ronaldo left his family to go to Lisbon at the age of 12. Despite being frequently ostracized due to his thick accent, Ronaldo kept surging forward. At age 16, Manchester United signed Ronaldo to a more than $14 million contract. This was the largest ever given to a player his age. Ronaldo went on to win a plethora of awards and accolades for his feats in soccer. Outside of soccer, Ronaldo has been extremely charitable. In 2015, Ronaldo donated more than $6 million to help those impacted by the earthquake in Nepal. Ronaldo also worked to improve medical facilities in Portugal. His net worth currently sits at $460 million, making Ronaldo the wealthiest of these five athletes who rose from poverty.
  2. Jose Aldo: A renowned UFC fighter, Aldo is another athlete that vanquished the detrimental effects of poverty. Aldo was born into a poor household in the city of Manaus in Brazil. Aldo’s father was a bricklayer while his mother was a housewife. Love tied the family of six together, but that took a turn when his mother and father split when Aldo was young. Aldo stayed with his father. Frequent street fights prompted Aldo to learn capoeira. Despite being talented, capoeira classes were draining his finances, so he moved on to pursue jiu-jitsu with his mentor, Marcio Pontes. At age 17, Aldo went to Rio de Janeiro without a dime to his name. There were days when he had little to no food, but this did not disrupt his resolve. Aldo currently holds the most wins in UFC and WEC featherweight history. He is a two-time UFC Featherweight Champion and one-time WEC Featherweight Champion. Outside of the ring, Aldo also routinely performs charity work and donates funds to help those in need. In 2015, Aldo played in a charity soccer match in his home country to raise food for people in need; it was immensely successful.
  3. Kassim Ouma: A former professional boxer, Kassim Ouma has, perhaps, the most appalling story out of these five athletes who rose from poverty. Born into extreme poverty in Uganda in 1978, Ouma’s life was already very difficult. At the age of five, he was kidnapped from his family and forced to join the National Resistance Army. Ouma was trained to do horrific things that no child should have to bear. Ouma did not see his family for three years. In 1998, Ouma was considered to have deserted the Ugandan army because of his venture to the U.S. to compete in a boxing tournament. Ouma pursued boxing to make money and ensure that his family never has to share his experiences. Ouma went on to win the IBF world junior middleweight title in 2004. He serves as an activist for global issues surrounding poverty despite being unable to physically return to Uganda. Furthermore, in 2006, Ouma started a charity called Natabonic Incorporated to help the needy in Uganda.
  4. Yasiel Puig: Surrounded by poverty and suboptimal living conditions, Yasiel Puig had longed to go to the United States and play baseball from an early age. Puig was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Puig played baseball for Cuba, but he only earned $17 per month due to the impoverished conditions as a product of the Castro dictatorship. As a result, Puig became desperate to go to the U.S. and play baseball there. In June 2012, when he was successfully smuggled to Mexico by an illicit group with ties to the drug cartel, Los Zetas. Through negotiations with the president of two Miami companies, Raul Pacheco, Puig was released and went on to play for the Dodgers. In the field, Puig founded the Wild Horse Children Foundation to inspire children in less affluent communities and ensure that they do not struggle with the same things that he did.
  5. Bibiano Fernandes: The last of these five athletes who rose from poverty is Bibiano Fernandes. His resilience can be attributed to his early life struggles. Like Jose Aldo, Fernandes was born in Manaus, Brazil. His mother died when Fernandes was seven years old and his father left his five kids because he could not provide for them. After scavenging and begging on the streets, Fernandes went hunting for food in the Amazon forest. He and his siblings stayed there for several years. Fernandes returned to the city after contracting an illness that nearly killed him. He discovered jiu-jitsu while washing car windows at a streetlight near a dojo. After some assistance from a friend, Fernandes was able to partake in lessons at the dojo and soon became a top student. He evolved into one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in the world, winning three championships. He has since taken up MMA fighting with a Canadian mentor.

Sports are an avenue for athletes to get their stories heard. These five athletes who rose from poverty are a small sample of athletes who have endured a significant amount to attain success. As acclaimed Olympian, Emil Zatopek once said, “An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head”.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty
Sports are not an easy ticket out of poverty, but sports programs for impoverished youth can provide skills, support and guidance that can strengthen individuals and communities. Developing physical, social and emotional health are just a few of the benefits that children can reap from participation in quality sports programs. Below are five youth sports programs alleviating poverty worldwide.

Five Youth Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Tiempo de Juego: Tiempo de Juego in Colombia considers the game of soccer to be a tool capable of transforming communities, developing the skills of boys and girls and inspiring them to become agents of change. Tiempo de Juego takes an academic approach to the game of soccer, identifying three areas of development: technical skills, psychosocial development and a pedagogical foundation. Through the common bond of soccer, Tiempo de Juego allies with seven local schools as well as families to bring positive social opportunities to the lives of community members. It even supports small business endeavors of families who provide goods and services such as screen-printed t-shirts and vending for soccer events.
  2. Line Up, Live Up: Line Up, Live Up is a life skill curriculum with various sports from martial arts to volleyball. The Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative sprang from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declarative and is taking roots in Palestine and Central Asia. In addition to physical exercise and teamwork, Line Up, Live Up helps kids learn life skills for resisting social pressures of drug use and delinquency. It also helps students with issues such as anxiety and communication with peers. Line Up, Live Up forms its basis from empirical research from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and also the understanding that risk factors in the lives of youth can be reduced through meaningful intervention. The belief that actual changes in attitudes and behaviors can take place drives the organization.
  3. Love Fútbol:  Love Fútbol emerged in 2006 after Drew Chafetz founded it on the platform that community-driven energy toward social change could happen on a universal passion for soccer. An avid soccer player who traveled widely, Drew noticed the unsafe and unsupervised conditions in which impoverished kids often played. Drew developed the philosophy that every child has the right to play soccer and he built that dream into fruition in a collaborative way.The first program started in Guatemala before expanding to Brazil. Each place Love Fútbol goes, the community plays a vital role in building the field and creating the program, thereby instilling their ownership in the process. Partnering with global sponsors, Love Fútbol provides funding for raw materials. In Colombia, Love Fútbol partnered with Tiempo de Juego that had the experience and the vision of implementing soccer programs in its own community but lacked the budget. Love Fútbol was able to help make its dreams a reality. The whole community built the field with the help of over 100 volunteers and 1,500 hours of labor. In another location in Mexico, the organization constructed a soccer field on the former site of a factory, bringing revitalization to the community. With well-maintained fields and supervised programs, impoverished participants can build healthier and more productive lives. Love Fútbol programs are growing throughout Latin America and these sports programs are alleviating poverty successfully.
  4. Waves for Change: Waves for Change is a unique program on this list, as it does not involve a ball game. Waves for Change is a surfing program for youth that face poor infrastructure, violence and poverty in Capetown, South Africa. Tim Conibear founded it in 2009 because he recognized that surfing was a great way to reach at-risk youth who would not otherwise have access to such activities. Primarily a mental health foundation, the program addresses the psychological and emotional well-being of kids who often experience trauma. Waves for Change teams with mental health professionals to address the issues of child mental health. Program leaders note an improvement in self-care and participation in school for those who take part in the program. Kids who grow up in gang culture are looking for risk and surfing can fulfill that need in a positive way. The organization is able to employ over 40 coaches who are former participants in the program. The activity instills pride, personal responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
  5. Cricket Program: Daniel Juarez, an accomplished cricket player in Argentina, founded Cricket Program. He established this program for the youth living in the most dangerous and impoverished slums of Argentina. Caacupe Community Center offers the cricket program. Pope Francis, formerly cardinal to Buenos Aires, is a benefactor as well as Rev. Pepe Di Paola who people know for his anti-crime work in area slums. Through the sport, kids receive an education and learn values. Some participants have developed their skills to such a high level as to qualify for national-level youth cricket teams. The organizers believe cricket provides a foundation that participants can carry with them throughout life. It even received a Best Spirit Award from the International Cricket Council.

Children worldwide have a natural drive and passion to play sports and these five sports programs are alleviating poverty worldwide. Poverty can inhibit access to good equipment, safe fields and quality instruction, but through innovative programs that engage community members and provide structure and funding, kids can experience the joy of play as well as build valuable life skills. The confidence gained can nurture lives and empower families in their rise from poverty.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

Refugee AthletesPreceding the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced that a team of 10 refugee athletes would be allowed to compete in the games and carry the Olympic flag. The team was called Team Refugee Olympic Athletes and was treated just like any other Olympic team.

By allowing the refugee athletes to be a part of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the IOC is hoping to give hope to refugees everywhere.

“Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a news release. “They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”

While these athletes now have a chance to be a part of a team in uncertain times, Visa, the world’s largest payments network, saw that there was an even bigger opportunity for comradery. Team Visa is a network of Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are sponsored by Visa.

In July 2016, all 10 refugee Olympic athletes signed on to become a part of Team Visa. Through the partnership, the refugee athletes are supported in their athletic journey’s and in turn, help Visa to promote a culture of acceptance.

According to Chris Curtin, Visa’s Chief Marketing Innovation and Brand Officer, the perseverance the refugee Olympic athletes is inspiring not only Visa, but the world. The bravery that allowed the athletes to get to the Olympic games and march with the Olympic flag directly embodies Visa’s belief in acceptance for everyone, everywhere.

While the Rio Games proved a success for the refugee athletes and Team Visa overall, neither party shows sign of stopping there. On July 9, 2017, the IOC confirmed that a Refugee Olympic Team will compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Team Visa’s involvement with the athletes has not yet been confirmed, but a source says they are looking to extend relationships.

“We are committed to sustaining our message of acceptance worldwide and are exploring longer term partnership opportunities with the IOC on their Olympic Solidarity Initiatives, and with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on their refugee development programs,” a spokesperson told The Wrap. “We are also exploring contract renewals for select Team Visa athletes in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

Madeline Boeding
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Poverty
The United Nations Development Programme has recently collaborated with the top Turkish soccer club, Galatasaray Sports Club, to help promote the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s leading poverty eradication initiative.

After winning the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2000, the Turkish soccer club has kept worldwide support for its athletic ventures. With stars like Wesley Sneijder representing the team, fans of international competitions have taken their enthusiasm to the club scene. Galatasaray is able to add on an impressive domestic following with over 20 local league cup wins, and in addition, has established bases in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul.

Four of the iconic Galatasaray players, “captain Selçuk İnan of Turkey, goalkeeper Fernando Muslera of Uruguay, Aurélien Chedjou of Cameroon, and the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder,” starred in a video promoting the new partnership between the football club and the UNDP. In the video, the players stress the idea of “leave no one behind” in a world where many are forgotten in poverty.

Outside of the film room, the club continues to make its mark. Along with the UNDP, “Galatasaray will raise funds for a diversity of programmes to tackle poverty, inequalities and exclusion across the world,” according to a UNDP article.  Even so, this isn’t the first Turkish soccer club that has set humanitarian goals. In 2014 and 2015, the organization assisted with the relief of flooded communities and victims of mining disasters.

Soccer unites people despite language, geographic and political barriers. The World Cup is the single most watched sporting event in the world, with over 700 million viewers watching the 2010 final. Millions of children, and even adults, admire the stars that play on their favorite teams. It’s only natural that these spotlighted individuals should take the lead in the fight against global poverty.

France’s Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo are two iconic examples of soccer stars joining the fight against poverty. Last year the duo, along with many other stars such as van de Sar and Seedorf, put together the 12th annual Match Against Poverty, in conjunction with the UNDP and EUFA, the European soccer authority. The money from the tickets which cost “from €8 to €12” went to “aid specific projects in different countries dealing with difficult challenges.”

With power and wealth on the line, soccer’s role models quickly become the hopes and dreams of children all around the world. Youth most affected by poverty in countries with glorified soccer stars use the potential for glory and riches as motivation to conquer their own situations. Sometimes, the stories of players they watch are not unlike their own.

In Brazil, Adriano and Ronaldo are just two of those kids that have climbed out of poverty with their skills on the ball. A talent scout for Flamengo, a local professional club, says, “For Brazilian kids growing up in some of the world’s roughest neighborhoods, soccer is a ray of hope amid violence and poverty.” Around 800 Brazilian kids are able to escape the country and poverty with professional soccer careers, which is not many when the population size is considered.

Professional soccer careers are not the logical solution to poverty, but the sport is promoting poverty’s eradication in ways like Galatasaray’s public service announcement, which is in association with the Sustainable Development Goals. Soccer’s far-reaching scope and enthusiastic following can increase awareness and support for the goals of ending poverty.

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

Team Africa Rising: The Opportunity For Unity
This month, five Rwandan cyclists from Team Africa Rising are set to compete in the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. The international competition is set to take place from Sept. 19 – 27.

Team Africa Rising, formally called Team Rwanda, is comprised of professional cyclists who often serve as the world’s informal ambassadors to Rwanda and other conflict-stricken nations. Team Rwanda was founded in 2006 by American cyclist Jock Boyer in order to spread the sport of cycling and unify countries under its name.

Team Africa Rising is now comprised of over 25 of the best cyclists from Rwanda, Ethiopia and Eritrea. For these athletes, cycling can serve as a form of therapy to deal with their difficult pasts.

The team has also given African athletes the chance to compete at an international level, therefore granting them additional opportunities for sponsorship, equipment and more. One of the cyclists, Nathan Byukusenge, has qualified to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The cyclists have captured attention from the international community, as the subjects of a documentary entitled “Rising From Ashes” and the book “Land of Second Chances.”

Cycling teams provide a common, positive cause for members of the host countries to support. Team Africa Rising’s participation in the world championship provides a collective source of pride and excitement, particularly for the citizens of Rwanda.

According to Kimberly Coats, director of logistics for Team Africa Rising, the team represents unity for the country.

“The team is made up of people from both sides [of the 1994 genocide,]” she was quoted in the Richmond Times Dispatch. “But today we’re all Rwandans and it’s really started to develop this national unity, this national pride. This team is a thing for the country to rally around.”

For the past 21 years, Rwanda has focused on healing itself from the historic genocide and growing together as one Rwandan society. One of the major struggles in developing in the wake of such a mass atrocity has been in providing the international community another way to look at the country.

“You say Rwanda, you think genocide. They want you to say Rwanda (and) think cycling,” Coats said. “It’s going to take time, but it’s definitely there. We do a lot of bike tours, a lot of people come visit the team and the team has been goodwill ambassadors to show the world that Rwanda is a safe place, that the country has reconciled and that there’s peace.”

Arin Kerstein

Sources: The Guardian, Richmond Times Dispatch, Team Africa Rising, World Bicycle Relief
Photo: Google Images

Charity_Challenge
Charity Challenge is a fundraising organization that operates in a different and peculiar way than many other organizations. They raise funds for different charities through various sports events or challenges around the world.

According to their website, Charity Challenge launches more than 100 sports events or challenges each year. These events vary from mountain climbs, bike rides, sky diving, dog sledding, skiing, among others.

The organization operates in more than 30 countries, which include places like Cuba, Morocco, Italy, Peru, Bolivia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Nepal, Ecuador, France, UK, and others.

Moreover, Charity Challenge supports various charities around the world that vary from different categories such as children, education, environment, animals, human rights, hunger relief, international aid, and many others. The participants of the Charity Challenge events can choose the charity they want to support with their donation.

Here are 6 Charity Challenge events for different disciplines:

Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek

This is an Himalayan trekking event where participants visit India’s exiled Tibetan community. The event includes visiting the Dharamsala, where the Tibetan community and the Dalai Lama are located, Uhl River, Taragarh Palace, the Taj Mahal, the Keoladeo National Park, and Fatephur Sikri.

This trekking event is in aid of any charity the participant wants to support.

Icelandic Lava Trek

This trekking challenge is about crossing the Landmannalaugar route through a very active volcanic area in Iceland. Participants are expected walk across snowfields, set up camp, and walk on rough ground. This event includes visiting the Blue Lagoon.

This trekking event is in aid of any charity the participant wants to give his support to.

Cuban Revolution Cycle

This is a 10 day cycling challenge that consist of an expedition from the Cuban capital, Havana to Trinidad. During this 350 km ride, participants have the chance to see the Che Guevara monument in Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, and Sierra del Escambray.

This biking event is in aid of any charity the participant wants to support.

Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon

This challenge counts with a visit to Cusco and the Machu Picchu ruins. The cycling challenge starts in the ruins of Ollantaytambo following the length of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and then to the market of Pisac. From the market, the journey continues to the Andes, the village of Paucartambo, Tres Cruces, and the Amazon rainforest.

This cycling event is in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, Nicola Murray Foundation, Challenge Cancer UK, or any charity chosen by the participant.

Great Ethiopian Run

In this 10 km running event, the participants run with more than 40 thousand runners in Africa’s highest city. The challenge gives participants a chance to visit Womankind Worldwide’s project in Addis Ababa.

This running challenge is in aid of Womankind Worldwide.

Dog Sledding Challenge

This is a dog sledding event in Sweden. Participants have the opportunity to witness the Northern Lights and the local wildlife from the Swedish mountains. Finally, the participants arrive into Kiruna, a northern Swedish city that is home of the Sami, a European indigenous group.

This dog sledding challenge is in aid of any charity the participant wants to support.

There are many ways to support charities and good causes, and Charity Challenge is an adventurous and sporty way for participants to support thousands of causes around the world.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Charity Challenge 1, Charity Challenge 2, Charity Challenge 3
Photo: Bath Cats and Dogs Home

dreambig
With somewhere between 20.3 million and 25.4 million viewers and fans, there is no better stage to raise awareness and funds for an organization than the World Cup. And that is exactly what World Cup Champion Christen Press and her teammates set out to do during the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Prior to the Women’s World Cup, Christen Press partnered with Grassroot Soccer’s campaign DreamBIG. The entire US women’s national team supported the campaign that works with youth in Africa to improve health services, build leadership and empower a stronger tomorrow.

The organization, Grassroot Soccer, uses the power of soccer to reach people in developing countries and fight against HIV. Their mission is simple: “educate, inspire and mobilize young people to stop the spread of HIV.”

By using a tool such as soccer, offer considered a universal language in its own way, Grassroot Soccer has the ability to influence countless youth and adults in developing countries that need both the education over HIV and the leadership development to put a stop to it.

Since 2002, when Grassroot Soccer was founded, they are reached over one point two million people in 40 countries. Each year the organization continues to impact approximately 100,000 people in HIV stricken areas.

Fittingly, Press and the rest of the US Women’s World Cup took it upon themselves to support the organizations movement DreamBIG; a campaign that was created for the World Cup. This specific campaign will provide funding for mentors and health services to be sent to southern Africa, thus allowing them to “live healthier lives so that they can DreamBIG.”

Over the duration of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, DreamBIG raised $87,500 thanks to the support from the U.S. women’s team. The money raised from the tournament alone will provide training, education and the chance to build leadership skills through soccer for 3,500 youth between the ages of 15 and 18.

The organization is obviously doing good work, but of all the sports, why soccer? Why a sport at all? The answer is quite simple. Soccer has and does bring people together unlike any other sport. As the largest sport in the world, it is something every nation can connect to.

Soccer fosters skills in youth that help them later lead a better, healthier life. On top of that, for youth living in large cities with high crime, drug and violence rates, sports like soccer, and organizations like Grassroot Soccer encourage youth to keep off the streets and active in healthy choices.

The world of soccer is making even larger impacts than that though.

As foreign aid for education dropped, the United Nations asked the International Association Football Federation, otherwise known as FIFA, to “institute a 0.4 percent educational tax on broadcasting and sponsorship revenues” for the 2010 Men’s World cup and the five European leagues until 2015.

Within those five years, the point four percent educational tax generated over $200 million that will be used to provide basic education to two million children.

Building personal skills and improving education through soccer is tremendous, but the power of soccer is on the verge of growing even more. A new soccer ball that utilizes the energy of kick is in the process of being tested and made available.

That sounds great, but what does it mean? It means that the energy of impact when kicking the ball would be saved within the ball. That energy could later be used to power a variety of objects anywhere from a light bulb to an appliance.

Between skills, education and energy, Grassroot Soccer is onto a new type of aid work that will bring people from all nations together to create a prosperous future. With the help of donations, volunteers and groups like the US Women’s National soccer team, Grassroots Soccer will continue to improve the lives of millions of youth.

Katherine Wyant

Sources: SB Nation, World Bank, Grassroot Soccer
Photo: World Bank