Monday, November 19, 2007

After school - keeps crime down?

A recent news article about the after-school program that teaches school kids football, and now gives them a change in their lifestyles - is quite touching, given the circumstances in todays news.

There are many after-school programs - that essentially work to keep the kids busy - and give them something to look forward to - either to learn music, or to study. Giving them a medium to express themselves- artistically or otherwise, does in turn reduce crime rates. Essentially since kids are off the streets.

Chennai: A group of young footballers from the slums of Chennai are gearing up to play football with the Manchester United team. The children from the slums of Vyasarpadi in Chennai- an area known for its extreme poverty and high crime rates - now have a chance to meet their football idols from the Manchester United team and train under them. The training schedule has been made possible due to the efforts of a local football enthusiast and the NGO CRY. A chance to meet their idols has the youngsters excited. When asked about his idol Dhileepan, one of the youngsters, says, "Ronaldo." Another youngster A Raj says Cristiano Ronaldo is his idol. The young players are practicing for the finals of the Manchester United League selections to be held from November 24-27. If selected, four of them will fly to Manchester to get trained by their heroes. And they owe this to Umapathi, an Income Tax department employee, who was also born in the slums. He is teaching the young protégés the power of dreams through football. After training them for free for the last 10 years he says he can see the difference. "The crime rate has gone down in Vyasarpadi. These kids now realise they have a chance to make it big. So they don't go loitering around and stealing. They play football instead," Umapathi, the football coach, says

And this is what a little hope can do to a human being. "We're all going to school now because in London they speak only English. So to be able to communicate, we need to know the language," one of the youngster Ramkumar, says. "We used to loiter around earlier chewing tobacco and playing with marbles. Now we come to train. We have hope now," Hridayaraj adds. And even all of them can't make it to Manchester the journey so far has surely been dream-like.

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