Even very close to some of the more affluent areas in Australia today, there are people living hand to mouth, with little education, direction or hope. Poverty does not discriminate and cuts across all generations and is invariably ongoing. It means that the children of such extreme disadvantaged communities are likely to live the same unfulfilled lives as their parents and grandparents.
A little over 10 years ago, elite tennis coach Roger Rasheed was at an upmarket charity tennis bash in America.
Outside were a dozen local kids. They were up against a fence says Roger, there was a boundary.
He paid for them to get in and while they thoroughly enjoyed the day, they made it very clear they were not from that part of town and would not get such an opportunity again.
It brought home that such inequality happens everywhere. Roger decided to try and help children live healthier and happier lives through access to sports facilities. To give them a chance through the medicine of sport.
Sport can be a really positive driver for children and even life saving he says. It changes their vision of what life is all about.
“Eight-five per cent per cent of children in extreme disadvantaged communities don’t play sport ever. It’s almost un Australian.”
The Roger Rasheed Sports Foundation has since built three major sports facilities in South Australia, with the most recent hub, a $3.5 million site in Onkaparinga, opening in October 2021. The facilities allow the kids to play footy or tennis or basketball or soccer for free. Hip hop is even on the agenda now, as is parental yoga. The aim is not to build a world beating athlete but to show kids that a better life can be had through sport. It’s about taking part and finding your potential.
So how do we do it? Largely, by revitalising dilapidated or forgotten sports facilities or building entirely new ones, always with a focus on children.
We target run down tennis courts, empty community or church halls, BMX tracks or skate ramps. Anywhere sport can be played. And then we build.
Because the projects are huge, they involve many stakeholders, from local councils to state government and private donors and more. And when they’re complete, the Foundation doesn’t up and leave. Keeping things going is as important as getting them up and running.
It all takes time and imagination and, of course, money. But it is changing the lives of young people and will continue to do so.
Take a look around. Sadly, extreme disadvantaged communities are still everywhere. But with your input we can build and maintain sports facilities for everyone. Never underestimate the medicine of sport.