December started on an exciting note when our Hi 5 USA board member Ravi Padmanabhan instituted for the first time a scholarship fund for 10th grade board exam toppers from municipal schools in memory of his wife Radhika, who loved the Hi 5 children during her visit to many centers in Mumbai a few years back. Year on year on December 17th, we will be spreading the joy of funding 2 boys and 2 girls from Hi 5 who tops the school board exam. The 2020 toppers were Nikat Ali, Ayushi Pandey, Abhishek Pal, Taslim Sheikh, Meraj Shah who were given Rs. 10000 towards first year junior college fees. Parents were very touched and are definitely dreaming big for their children in the years to come. Abhishek Pal and Meraj shah were toppers of their respective schools with more than 90% marks. The children who topped the exams are very successful basketball players who played 20+ tournaments in the past years, hence breaking theories of academic excellence vs sports excellence.
On another note, Hi 5 senior coaches returned back to training after an 8 month hiatus due to Covid19 lock down. Senior coaches Kevin Francis and Vignesh Iyer developed training materials and on the field training began with other senior coaches of Hi 5 following all SOPs as per Covid guidelines. A 10 day intense training program both on and off the field set the standards back in Hi 5, in hope of schools reopening and students returning back. We are hoping to see a major kick off of restarting the “hope thru hoops” program in the new year! Every coach at Hi 5 will be trained and certified before the students return.
We thank our associate partner Connecting NGO who came forward to help us at the right hour to discuss the emotional distress in children during the covid time, where many had significant changes in their lives due to lockdown. Few had emotional outbursts, some had suicidal thoughts and many had no one to turn to address their issues. Schools had stopped, income drained out, no work in the vicinity and many kinds of family issues brewing from all fronts. Life was tough for the tribal children in their hamlets till they could come back to Hi 5’s new tutoring centre to study and look for place to bond and learn together. One girl said “It feels like life is back when I see my peers”.
Connecting NGO conducted 5 ninety minute week long session for both boys and girls in our Jawhar centre for tribal students. This interactive zoom session helped the children identify their own stresses, develop their own internal and external coping strategies to tackle the distress while being confined to their homes. This also helped them to open up issues with the counsellors and got much needed help with mental health.
One fine Sunday morning we received a call from a founder of an American school. This call changed the lives of 7 extremely talented high school basketball players of Hi 5 Youth Foundation. These children (4 girls & 3 boys) who were studying in a municipal corporation school in Mumbai - the low end free school for the underprivileged, suddenly had the opportunity to enrol themselves via tuition assistance. They were also granted the opportunity to play basketball at a very high end school called Corvuss American Academy, an international boarding school in Karjat, Maharashtra https://corvuss.in/ (first of its kind in India for student athletes).
All along our lives, we have heard many rags to riches stories and Hi 5 children were presented with this exact same opportunity. 7 children were upgraded to 7 star facilities from their current urban slums. They could finally study, learn and grow at their dream school. This opportunity ignited our children’s never-say-die spirit and inspired them to become all that they could be.
After completing their high school, if the children play well and maintain sufficient grades, then there is even a possibility of them attending universities in the United States. We would like to thank Corvuss American Academy and its founders to identify such talent and uplift these children through sports. Our mission at Hi 5 is “changing young lives through play” and it aptly stands in line with our vision. In early October 2020, our children moved to the boarding school and the joy of seeing these children bloom was beyond amazing.
The Pathways team at Hi 5 worked around the clock to complete the admissions for 50 tribal children. Everything from uploading documents online to college fees paid by Hi 5, the whole process was completed successfully without a glitch. Our first year college students got settled in their undergraduate program and the others in Junior colleges. But we still had to deal with one more obstacle, the pandemic! As an immediate measure to stem the spread of Covid-19, most educational institutions shut down by the end of March. It is still difficult to predict when schools, colleges and universities will reopen. There were few options other than to shift to digital platforms from the traditional face-to-face mode of classroom learning. However, in the absence of physical classrooms and proper digital infrastructure, both teachers and students are facing unprecedented challenges.
Learning now demanded a conducive environment for study. Nevertheless, not all students have a quiet space for learning at home. Amidst all this chaos how do you expect these tribal children to continue their education without connectivity or even smart devices? Unfortunately, there are millions of youth in our country in a similar situation. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed how rooted structural imbalances are between rural and urban, male and female, rich and poor, even in the digital world.
The Hi 5 Youth Foundation’s founders and pathways team acted quickly and leased an apartment in a town called Jawhar in Palghar, Maharashtra. The apartment was chosen in a way that it surrounded these hamlets. We set up a tutoring centre with high speed internet connectivity, recruited tutors and children poured into the tutoring centre thanking us for this move. They walk for miles, sometimes hitch a ride, maybe a bus - just to reach the centre and learn. Hi 5 follows all Covid 19 protocols strictly like the use of sanitizers and masks in the classroom, we also ensure a limited number of students in the classroom at given point.
Early August 2020, Maharashtra State Board’s 12th grade results were declared followed by the 10th grade results. Passing an examination is a great deal for students. Our team at Hi 5 Youth Foundation would like to congratulate all our children who did extremely well in their exams and graduated with flying colors.
This year a total of 44 (boys and girls) 10th grade SSC board students including tribal children from Vajreshwari, a village situated near the Tansa River in Thane district, Maharashtra set a remarkable trend for all Hi 5 players.
2 of our students were school toppers from their respective schools, this made us realize that our children can ace in both; sports and in academics.
We are truly thrilled with this achievement. With as much of an emphasis placed on academics and college placement as on athletic development, Hi 5 children-athletes have access to a support team inclusive of teachers, college placement advisors, and more to ensure that they’re pursing their passions both on and off the court. Many of our children from urban slums studying in municipal schools in Mumbai secured very high grades and this was a very proud moment for all of us at Hi 5 Youth Foundation. They have now become role models for our other students which has made them believe that if ‘few can’ then, ‘all can’. Students are young and are still learning about life. They are impressionable and will copy things that attract and impress them. Therefore, they need to have good role models in life so they can emulate them. Their youth is the right time for them to be set on a good path which will lead to success and lifelong happiness. And what better than finding their role models in their peers and best friends.
Furthermore, we believe that balancing a sport like basketball and academics is not an easy job but our children have not only achieved this but also imbibed a level of confidence in other children to be able to excel in both.
We are extremely proud to share that 16 of our tribal students after graduating from the 12th grade secured admission into CKT college in Panvel for BA, BSc & Bcom. We have trained these children as our own for the last 5 years since they were in the 8th grade.
Our successful "pathways program" has helped Hi5 children to continue their education beyond school and it has helped them to redefine and aspire for themselves beyond basketball. We have 44 Hi 5 children this year in 2020 who are graduating the 10th grade (awaiting board results) both from city municipal schools and the tribal school in vajreshwari. The Tribal children will be transferred to residential facilities for Junior college and hostel in Panvel just like the previous years. For our city children, we are pursuing admission in a nearby junior college so that they continue higher education and play basketball as a team.
Seventeen 12th grade children (awaiting board results) who are from tribal areas (previously from tribal school in vajreshwari) are aspiring to further their education to an undergraduate level. They are going to pursue bachelors degrees in science, commerce or arts and for them staying in the Hi 5 program has motivated them to higher education.
They will be the first generation of students pursuing bachelor's degrees from their entire tribal hamlets. "Educating an impoverished child helps educate a whole generation" and for Hi 5 - this philosophy is close to the heart.
June has been a very productive month for the coaches and social workers at Hi 5. Courses were identified based on the need and levels of each individual. Some of the online courses were Beginner and Advanced level English classes, rigorous google sheet courses which helps our coaches train in data validation and pivot tables. Courses like these help coaches and coordinators to keep complete track of children’s overall progress in a center right from academic grades to basketball progress and tournament analysis in the program. Also, courses like “Sports coaching and Psychology” are popular among coaches - a need of the hour to guide children towards success and life through sports.
When the lockdown extended beyond 4 weeks, the parents of the children were in distress not able to feed their children. There were times when parents and children wandered on the streets just in search of food. Hi 5 took it up to feed the Hi 5 families in the best possible way. With the help of senior management staff at Hi5, processes and methods were laid out to help the families. A 4 step process was adopted (Link to covid page) and financial assistance was given to the families. The funds were disbursed directly into the parents bank account to 500+ families so as to keep the families afloat in getting groceries and essentials for the families. The covid relief financial relief will continue for families through December 2020
With the Covid lockdown announced in mid-March, for the athletic children in Hi 5 - life has not been easy. Most children in the Hi 5 program stay in the slums or in a very remote tribal village. The children live in poverty with extended families in a cramped space with many people around. Social distancing and using sanitizers were insisted upon by coaches on video calls. They were given physical fitness regiment and many children followed diligently. However, many were coping with art and it is evident how these young children’s perspectives of new lifestyle changes are apparent