Monday, 9 August 2010

Sport & Fitness for Underpriviledged Children

Sports and exercise should be an important part of every child's life - the benefits of sports and exercise are well known and include better health, enjoyment, and personal development. However, in Cambodian orphanages, many children miss out on these activities. During our visits to orphanages we are saddened to see children with nothing to do or in front of the TV, locked behind high gates for fear of abduction. Surely these children would benefit from educational and recreational opportunities. This prompted the development of CamKids and One-2-One’s sports program in February 2010 - working closely with the Cambodian Gymnastics Federation to introduce an aerobics program in three of the poorest orphanages, including one with only HIV-infected children.

Instructors visited the orphanages twice weekly to teach aerobic exercise classes. This involved senior aerobic athletes and coaches from the Cambodian Gymnastic Federation (overseen by the One-2-One sports coordinator - a former gymnast and coach) going to each orphanage twice a week to provide a one hour recreational aerobics class for all children (to music). From each group of children, those who showed talent and interest in aerobics received some additional training in Aerobic Gymnastics (a sport Cambodia is particularly good at) and learned pre-choreographed aerobic routines. Our goal was for children from each orphanage to take part in the National Championships in May. CamKids sponsored this program, and also paid for the uniforms, the mats and the extra tuition needed in the last 4 weeks leading up to the competition.

The event was a great success, with our proud and hard working children competing against more experienced children from Phnom Penh and 6 provinces. There was jubilation when we were awarded a bronze medal in the Junior Trios and a 4th place in the individual Junior Male category! Because of this programme, all of these children have been given the opportunity to have fun in exercise and feel like a champion. Some of the children could have the opportunity to continue to the top levels of the sport where they may be eligible to receive Government sports scholarships (which provide funds for living expenses and education), and travel to neighbouring countries to compete.

The project also included the training of some disadvantaged youth and young adults as aerobics instructors, so that the program can later be expanded to other orphanages. Unlike artistic gymnastics, aerobics does not require any special equipment at this level - only an area in which the routines can be carried out and this can be inside or outside. The Cambodian Gymnastic Federation is supportive of this project as they wish to grow the sport in Cambodia.

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