The Dribbling Dreams Of Lower Income Girls In Uttar Pradesh - Homegrown

The Dribbling Dreams Of Lower Income Girls In Uttar Pradesh

In the confines of a small government school in an obscure village in Uttar Pradesh is a basketball court. On this court, over 300 children from underprivileged backgrounds are taught essential life skills through sport. They learn the significance of teamwork, diligence, focus, ambition, and friendship. Perhaps most importantly, they find a way to escape the stifling and toxic home environment that is prevalent throughout India’s poorest districts. The first of it’s kind basketball training program, Dribble Academy aims to arm these kids with all the tools for a better, self sustainable future.

Pradyut Voleti, a clinical psychology graduate from Amity University, Noida, first started playing basketball while studying at Mayo College, Ajmer. While clinical psychology was his day job, he started coaching children in his colony which soon garnered enough attention to make him concentrate on basketball full time and quit his job. He went to the United States to further develop his skills, and upon his return, founded the the Dribble Academy in Gejha, a small village in Noida that falls under the National Capital Region.

Their initiative captured the imagination of Varun Tandon, a National Award winning Director who has always been an advocate for integration of sports with academics in rural education. “I have always believed that sports can be a major influence on child’s life. A sport can give a child a feeling of self worth and self esteem at quite an early age. Hence I always wanted to do something on sports and try and capture its impact on an individual and as well as the society,” says Tandon. He set out to do exactly that when he contacted Pradyut Voleti - a longtime friend - asking to turn the Dribble Academy’s story into a short feature.

The story of the Gejha Project is a poignant and inspiring real life tale of how an entire village of children, over 300 of which at least 130 are girls, found solace in a sport. More than just solace, they found success and hope for a better future. The children come from impoverished homes that are more often than not plagued with problems like drug abuse, hunger, and violence. Kids, as young as 10, witness the cruelty of their fathers beating their mothers night after fateful night. It’s a stark reality, one that these children, through no fault of their own, have to live through day in and day out. There’s something inherently wrong with the system when it cannot protect its children from such social evils. This sentiment, and the need to do something about it, drove Pradyut Voleti to start the Dribble Academy in 2014.

Tandon documents this journey, and its impact on the children of the Gejha Village in the seven-and-a-half minute film Dribbling Dreams. He explains he was “fascinated by how through basketball these children were getting an escape from their troubled reality and were trying to transform their lives. What also stuck me was that the project was not just trying to turn these children into pro athletes, but was also teaching these children other life skills like speech, music, art and dance. Through basketball, it was also breaking down gender and caste boundaries in the Gejha Village. I wanted to capture all these elements and impacts in a short documentary.” Dribbling Dreams went on to garner considerable critical acclaim and won numerous awards and laurels including the Best Short Documentary award at both the International Children’s Film Festival (ICFF) and Frames film festival 2017.

Tandon has time and again proved his ability to touch lives with his films and documentaries, and Dribbling Dreams is no exception. His desire to make an impact on the world is reflected in his work. “I hope that more people realise the power of sports and how it is as important as academics at a young age. Also I hope that more amounts are invested in building a rural sporting infrastructure in the country, where children hardly have any sporting facilities and opportunities.”

You can watch the full short documentary Dribbling Dreams here.

You can also sponsor a child at the Dribble Academy for as little as Rs. 2,000. To donate to their crowdfunding campaign, click here.

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