May 31, 2019
300 community leaders, residents and youth gathered in Dharavi, Mumbai on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a new ESPN Built to Play multifunctional sports space dedicated to the local community and its residents. This is the second Built to Play project undertaken by ESPN in India, following one in Bangalore in 2017, and its ninth globally.
Raunak Kapoor, ESPN India presenter and RJ Adaa (Priti Jolly), Radio Jockey hosted the event, which was attended by Ramesh Kumar, Vice President - ESPN India and South Asia, Kevin Martinez, Vice President - ESPN Corporate Citizenship, and the employees and community volunteers who helped build the space, residents and their families.
And on the eve of the ICC Cricket World Cup, the audience was thrilled to welcome special guests and former Indian cricketers Ajit Agarkar and Murali Kartik, as well as former West Indian cricketer Daren Ganga.
The day's celebration comprised cultural performances, special recognition of the community leaders who volunteered their time to the space, and sports activities open to all. Refurbished with the help of local residents and employees, the court and surrounding area will provide a safe place to play for the surrounding community, as well as offer programs for young people to develop life-skills -- empowering them to fulfill their potential through the power of sports.
Magic Bus, a non-profit organization with its roots firmly set in India, will deliver the programs, equipping Dharavi youth with the essential life skills and knowledge to be able to break the cycle of poverty, take control of their lives and become active members of their community. These life-skills – ranging from education and gender equality to health and employability – will be taught by youth leaders from within the community, with support and training from Magic Bus’s unique mentorship program.
Speaking on the occasion, Ramesh Kumar said, "Built to Play is designed to utilize sports as a medium to help address challenges faced by youth in under-served communities. Sports transforms lives and builds communities, it offers social benefits to young people and inspires them to learn and grow...In the first year of the program, we hope to touch the lives of 1,500 young people and then expand the reach further in subsequent years. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your passion become someone else’s passion too."
love.fútbol, an award winning non-profit focused on community development through sports around the world, played a key role in selecting Dharavi for the new space based on need, population served and socio-economic status. Spanning two kilometers, Dharavi is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with a population estimated at one million people. The area is plagued with severe public health problems, and the overall standard of education and enrollment numbers are extremely low, with only a few children opting for higher education. Due to safety issues, many parents hesitate to allow their girls to go out and play.
“At ESPN we believe that sports have the ability to transform lives, and we are proud to be able to support and empower communities like Dharavi to unlock the benefits that sports offer,” said Kevin Martinez. “Both love.fútbol and Magic Bus have been outstanding partners on this project, helping build this safe space in a community where there is a need and where it can truly make a difference.”
Matthew Spacie, Founder of Magic Bus said, “Through our program we have seen the impact of sports-based learning on individual behavior. But one of the challenges we face are to provide safe play spaces. With this pitch, ESPN and love.fútbol allow us to reach more children who will benefit from our program, helping them to overcome challenges and enabling a better quality of life. We are very thankful to them.”
ESPN is the International Media Partner of Beyond Sport. Beyond Sport's sister company, thinkBeyond, supports ESPN in the delivery of the Built to Play project