The Kaifi Azmi Sports Academy is not just a dream project - it is soon to be a reality. I along with an amazing team at Mijwan are determined to achieve this lofty goal.
I first came to Mijwan as a 14 year old in the summer of 2014 as President of the Youth Chapter of Home of Hope (HOH) Inc., to start a sports program. I began by holding a summer camp at the Kaifi Azmi Intermediate school to teach Soccer. I didn't know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by the great response I received. The girls were very quickly able to pick up the sport and had a lot of fun playing even though they had never seen or played the sport before. Their skill level and confidence was impressive and I was very motivated to take this to the next level. It was an experience that completely changed my perspective. The love and warmth I received from the entire team at Mijwan from the cook Gopal Ji, manager Ashutosh Ji, principal Sameena Ji to the founders Shabana Ji and the youth leader Namrata Ji really motivated me to not only build the sports program but also establish a sports academy that will help find and train India's future sports stars.
The trip to Mijwan had a deep impact on my conscience as well. I saw the girls playing soccer without any proper equipment or shoes and they did not complain once to me. Some of them were playing with flip-flops while others were playing bare-footed resulting in cuts on their feet as the field was quite rocky. I felt very guilty and promised them that I would send them shoes once I got back to the US. So, as soon as I got back I setup a fund-raiser and was able to raise money for shoes for the entire school. When I saw the pictures of the girls with their new shoes, I felt really happy and got a great feeling of accomplishment.
This marked the beginning of a journey that I never anticipated. Mijwan gave me purpose and a direction where I could channel my passion for sports into something constructive that could have a positive impact on so many lives. My vision for building the Kaifi Azmi sports Academy was born and beginning to take shape.
I began by raising money for hiring a Sports Director/Coach as well as creating a proper field that could be used for track and field and for playing various sports. This turned out to be more challenging than I had expected but finally my persistence paid off when I was able to hire a Sports Director with international and national level experience. I strongly believe that he is the right person to setup this program and help me realize my vision. Badminton and track training has now begun and we are aiming to achieve district level participation by the fall of 2017 and a sports day in Mijwan by 2018. In addition to forming the Kaifi Azmi girls school team, we will be setting up 3-4 more teams comprised of kids from Mijwan and neighboring villages with focus on finding talented kids that can reach higher levels once provided the proper training.
I am also working simultaneously on building a talent hunt team consisting of sports coaches from the US that will help identify talented players in various sports who will be given a Kaifi Azmi Scholarship for training in the best sports academies so that they can reach their full potential. Additionally, I am looking to build a college student exchange program where students from the US will go to train students in Mijwan during summer/winter breaks for a period of 2-4 weeks as well as having talented students from Mijwan go to the US and and other countries to experience sports at an international level. This will be under the auspices of a cultural immersion program.
My vision is to have a national level sports academy which will have the infrastructure to help identify players in all sports and provide every under-privileged person the opportunity and training to achieve their dreams of becoming national and international level stars. I believe every Indian would agree with me given the poor performance of the Indian team at the last Olympics held recently. We need to start at the grass-roots level to find talent in the villages of India where the majority of the population still lives. My goal is for Mijwan to be the first village to build and establish a sports academy which will become a model for the rest of the country.
To put it in Mr. Azmi's eloquent words, “This will be one of the best things to happen to Mijwan...Sports is a medium through which people come together...it goes beyond all cast and religion”.