Children and teenagers living in poverty don’t often get the chance to participate in organized sports. Participation fees and equipment costs add up, making sports a low priority for families struggling to afford basic necessities. So when Unbound staff in Hyderabad, India, organized the Bob Hentzen Memorial Sports Day, more than 1,500 kids sponsored through Unbound showed up for the event.
For Sarita Mendanha, program coordinator for Unbound in Hyderabad, the sports day is “extremely important to the India program because it builds team spirit, … [a] winning attitude [and] pride to carry away specially designed awards.” She also views the sports day as a way to build rapport between Unbound staff and the families they serve.
The day consisted of 15 different track and field events, such as tug of war, sack races, the traditional Indian game kho kho, shot put, discus throw and 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter dashes. Unbound staff had help from scholars and the participants’ mothers, and sports professionals were on hand to referee.
For many of the children and youth, this was the first time they had attended an organized sporting event, much less participated in one. Though some attend schools where organized sports are offered, the high cost of uniforms and equipment restricts their ability to participate.
“In the Unbound sports day, we have no such restrictions on dress code, footwear, equipment, etc.,” Mendanha said. “We provided the T-shirts so [the children] all feel equal and organized all accessories required for the games.”
The chance to participate in the sports day let the sponsored children and teens experience the joy of testing their physical skills and being part of a team. All of them returned home excited about their experiences.
Bob Hentzen, one of Unbound’s founders, had a passion for helping the world’s marginalized. He was very physically active, and found creative ways to use his activity to help the poor, including an 8,000 mile walk.
“We are walking with you,” Hentzen once said. “You are not alone.”
“Bob was a vibrant spirit with an active body,” said Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound. “Many sponsored children have limited opportunity to express their athletic talents in organized competition, so it is great to see them expressing their gifts and having a good time in his memory.”
The Bob Hentzen Memorial Sports Day was organized by Unbound staff in Hyderabad to honor Hentzen and his contributions to India’s families, and they plan to make it an annual event.
“I believe the Bob Hentzen Memorial Sports Day [showcased] all the qualities of Bob himself,” Mendanha said. “Cheerful, friendly, agile, win them all attitude, sportive and all this happened with a very humble spirit.
“I am sure we made Bob very proud that his dear sponsored children and teams were playing so well in the same spirit that he himself would have shown in such an event.
“There was dancing, singing and smiles everywhere, even amongst those who did not win. This is something to look forward to in the coming year!”
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