Steve Jobs once once concluded a short speech on the value of dreamers with the line, “…the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who do!”
Pradyut Voleti, founder of Dribble Academy in Gejha village, India is one such dreamer. He started Dribble Academy with 2 bamboo sticks, a ring for a rim, and 5 children. Today, he has over 150 kids enrolled in the basketball program.
Basketball in India’s Slums
Most children living in the slums of India don’t have access to clean water, food or clothes. Education, self-worth, sports, and the belief that they have a future, all remain a distant dream. Through Dribble Academy, Pradyut hopes to provide underprivileged children quality basketball training, and the life lessons that come from it, to keep them away from petty crimes and substance abuse which is prevalent in villages across India. He’s trying to provide hope, and it’s working.
“Sports teaches kids a lot, and by that, I mean a lot of things which you can never learn in a class,” note Pradyut.
Pradyut can tell you about all of the kids in his program. Each has their own story; here are a few:
- A girl, who comes from poverty with an alcoholic father, where basketball has given her an outlet to express her emotions and help see a more meaningful life.
- A small boy whose father is a vegetable vendor, but can’t afford even a pair of shoes for his child. Still, his son has become one of the top players in his town and has now had an opportunity to play in several basketball tournaments.
- A 10 year old boy, whose father makes a living by riding a three wheeler cycle rickshaw, has become one of the top scoring guards in the village. The boy feels basketball has given him everything, and he hopes to represent the country some day.
- A girl, one of the first to join Dribble Academy, has secured a 5 year, 100 percent scholarship at a leading school in Noida and will represent the Uttar Pradesh team at the sub Junior nationals. She has become a source of inspiration for the other 50 girls in the program.
One of Pradyut’s biggest concerns are the kids he’s not reaching because of lack of financing, coaching, equipment, etc. According to a recent study, India may have already surpassed China as the most populous country on earth (the original projection was for this to happen in 2022). Kids are waiting to be coached, but the money simply isn’t there.
How You Can Help
Here’s how you can help. A Dribble Academy Fundraiser has been set up in hopes of securing $25,000 in funding. Pradyut could use a lot more.
The funds raised will go to:
- Meals: Nutrition is key with these kids, and Dribble Academy hopes to give participants at least one complete nutritious meal everyday.
- Shoes: These kids’ families can’t afford a pair of shoes, and with a concrete court, their shoes don’t last more than 6 months. Footwear is vital, and Pradyut wants to make sure all of them have comfortable shoes to prevent injuries.
- Medical Insurance.
- Exposure to tournaments.
- Coaches’ compensation – Pradyut needs to pay additional coaches to expand the program.
Dribble Academy Video
Pradyut would love to explore the possibility of American coaches coming to India on a pro bono basis, and helping out with these kids.
“One thing which I can assure any coach who is interested,” notes Pradyut, “Is that these kids are hungry to learn and they do what is asked of them. It would be a lifetime experience for any coach to have committed kids as these.”
So, if you know of any basketball organization, shoe manufacturer or potential donor who could make a difference, please direct them to the Dribble Academy Fundraiser (or contact me directly via the contact page, and I’ll arrange a conversation with Pradyut).
Even dreamers can’t do it alone.