The Jude Felix Hockey Academy is changing the lives of orphan and abandoned children on the hockey grounds of Bangalore. Started by former Olympian Jude Felix, this academy is much more than an exercise in sports training and physical fitness. Read more.
Children with troubled pasts, children who have lost their parents, and children who are undisciplined — Jude Felix takes them all on and gives them direction and life goals through his unique hockey academy. This is the kind of impact hockey is creating on many orphans and abandoned children in the city of Bangalore.
Former Indian international and national hockey players of repute form the core of the Jude Felix Hockey Academy (JFHA).
Besides Jude, who was named one of the seven best hockey players in the world by the Federation of International Hockey in 1995, the Academy now boasts of several other national level names like Sabu Varkey, Khalid Md Modi, Dominic Savio, and others.
Yes, hockey can change lives. And JFHA has proved it.
In 2009, JFHA took on its first project in partnership with St. Mary’s Orphanage. The goal was to offer professional hockey coaching to orphan and abandoned children. The idea came to Jude while visiting the orphanage on Christmas day in 2008.
“He just asked the administrator of that orphanage if he could teach hockey to the kids and he agreed. It was like a miracle as he did not expect his idea to take shape so quickly,” says Josephine, Program Consultant, JFHA.
That one idea has now become a movement. Jude and his team train 90-100 kids from the orphanage and local communities in hockey every day.
The children are grouped according to age and get nutritious food and uniforms.
“For kids who have seen so many troubles in their lives, this is a big deal. They are excited to be part of something where they are given so much importance,” says Josephine.
Apart from training the kids in hockey, Jude’s coaches engage the kids in various team building exercises. The JFHA team wants to inculcate life skills through sports among these students and wants to bridge the gap between the orphans and the outside world.
“We also train and guide children to avail the benefits of various sports schemes like educational scholarships and sports quota jobs offered in various government institutions. We also focus on preparing the children to get admission in state-sponsored sports schools and sports hostels,” Josephine adds.
Earlier, when it was time to put the children’s hockey training to the test, the kids did not get a chance to prove their calibre as they were not invited to any of the tournaments organised by various schools. So JFHA came up with its own hockey tournament and invited students from other schools and academies to compete with these students.
Today, many of JFHA’s students have participated in district and taluk level tournaments and even won several trophies.
Though JFHA has gradually managed to engage hundreds of kids, it continues to be a challenge to retain them.
“As the orphanage keeps students only till they complete Class 10, it is hard to keep track of them after they leave the orphanage. Some of them live very far away and can’t manage to come everyday to practice. Financial constraints prevent us from arranging transport for them,” says Josephine.
Despite these challenges, JFHA has managed to retain some good players and dedicated students. A 10-year-old child named Samuel is one of these passionate ones. He does not have a right arm but he still comes to the playground everyday to practice without fail.
“We have never publicized the academy. It is all word of mouth and when kids see the change in themselves they are willing to stay on. They are very different kids. They are school dropouts, come from poor and traumatic backgrounds. Training give them direction and not just physical fitness but mental fitness too,” she adds.
JFHA wants to train many of these children to be hockey coaches in the future.
“We want to build a strong coaching community. We also want to get our own infrastructure, get land and start our own sporting facility from scratch,” she says.
JFHA is now looking to get a turf ground for the children, instead of having them practice on the usual mud ground.
“The happiness you see when the children score goals or travel to different cities for tournaments is unmatched. No matter how many challenges they face, but when they are on the hockey ground, they are different personalities. And this change is amazing,” smiles Josephine.
To know more about the amazing work and success stories of JFHA, check out their website.