Wednesday, 26 June 2013

EYC Sports Programme

With help from CamKids, Empowering Youth in Cambodia (EYC) has introduced and involved its students living in slum communities to various sports and exercise programs. While the benefits of sports on the development of young people is clear, so too is the undeniable joy that sports and the time outside their home communities have provided the students of EYC. Compared to the cost of funding the schools, CamKids’ funding for EYC’s sports programme is quite modest – but the pleasure generated is immense! 
EYC is currently providing sports opportunities to students at each of its schools in football, yoga, cycling, aerobics/dancing, as well as other clubs using the gym, swimming and an annual Frisbee camp! All sport activities are organized by the older students who now volunteer for EYC as Team Leaders. As with many of the activities of EYC, one of its strengths is the ability to organize large groups of young people who enthusiastically sign up to participate in any number of activities. 
EYC’s biggest program is football and each school has a boys’ team of under-14 year old boys playing in a local league, as well as in any opportunity to play. There is also a girls’ team which made their debut in later 2012 and had a great season. Involving girls in sports in Cambodia is still very new, but the idea is much better received now than even a few years ago and EYC has an increasing level of female participation in all sports activities. 
The football leagues, as well as clinics, tournaments and practice means that the students are practicing 3 times per week, with games on weekends. While Cambodians love football and can organize themselves quite capably, in Phnom Penh everyone needs to pay to use a pitch. The people in poor communities where EYC works would typically only play on a street with a wicker ball (if at all) and never with a coach or supervision. The leagues provide another level of organization, understanding of the game and teamwork as well as life lessons in morality from trained coaches. 
EYC’s next biggest fitness initiative is yoga and EYC is lucky to have great partnerships with the local yoga groups Nata Raj and Kundlaini who teach students in the schools through 6 different weekly classes. EYC receives the instruction at a subsidized rate and it is free for its students. EYC’s students have shown great interest in these classes and have stated that they feel an improvement in their sense of well-being after starting yoga. Students are now asked to commit to a weekly class for a 6 week session and have been staying with it. 
One of the yoga teachers at EYC’s Lakeside School is Seng Sela, who is an EYC alumni and was trained extensively to be a Kundalini yoga teacher after taking classes. Sela is also a part time yoga teacher for the organization at the yoga studio and is able to partly support his university studies with this work. Six other students from EYC have been selected to receive intensive training in yoga and all have had positive experiences as a result. Sela reports “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to study and teach yoga since I got to know myself better, it improves my health, and my focus at university is improved.” Sela is studying in his 2 year in Environmental Science at university and is in the top of his class. He receives a partial scholarship from EYC as well. 
EYC’s cycling team, EYCyling, has become so popular that it may become a semi-independent organization with hopes of attracting corporate sponsors. Over the last 3 years the level of competition has risen dramatically and EYC has had students repeatedly taking the podium at mountain bike races across all categories. Again, EYC has had the good fortune of assistance to get its students racing, training, donations of gear, etc. from a number of sources. In May 2013 EYC joined with a great partner/donor who has raised money to start a women’s cycling team which she will lead on weekly rides through the countryside outside of Phnom Penh.

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