Empowering Kids through Sports

Posted By: Akshai Abraham|Dated: April 10, 2013

“My boarding school education had a lot of focus on sports and extra-curricular activities. Sports played a big role in shaping my character and help me deal with many problems and difficulties including the early demise of my father. Since then, sports has stayed with me throughout my life. Though never a real competitive sportsman, I played all sports whenever there was a chance and it helped me make friends, relieve stress, connect to colleagues and peers in a unique manner.”

Project K.H.E.L. (Kids Holistic Education and Life-skills) is among the few initiatives in India that use sports as a medium for empowerment. We caught up with Akshai Abraham, the Founder and Volunteer CEO of the organisation to know more about his idea and Project KHEL.

Empowering Kids through Sports

Project KHEL: The Model

KHEL is a synergistic mix of “Sports for Development” and “Life-skills Education” approaches. A unique program which helps children from disadvantaged backgrounds grow into responsible and contributing members of society.

We partner with organisations working with orphans, street children, slum children, village children, children in shelters and children of migrant and domestic labour. Working with these children does not mean a one-time or short duration interaction. We ensure that it is a bi-weekly interaction, over at least a 4 month period so that children get the full benefit of the programme.

The sessions are based on experiential and activity-based learning models where the children are encouraged to discover and express the learning from the session on their own through a discussion at the end of each session.

Sessions of Khel Project

The sessions help children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, build their sense of personal worth and agency, and teach them to interact with others constructively and effectively. In addition, we also conduct special thematic sessions on issues such as health, sanitation, substance abuse, personal hygiene, civic sense, and sexual abuse.

Project KHEL: The vision

Since July 2012, we have worked with over 400 children with 6 partner organisations in Lucknow and nearby villages. The vision is to expand operations across Uttar Pradesh (initially) moving into rural areas and then across India. This would give us a huge network of beneficiaries and KHEL can then become a platform for various development messages targeted for children and youth.

I believe in the power of collaboration and working with the strengths of others. Already, Project KHEL works with partners for its programme instead of duplicating efforts. After scaling the programme we would have a huge number of children enrolled and interacting with us regularly so if, for example, an organization wants to reach out to adolescent girls for awareness on personal hygiene – we would be able to provide that platform of target beneficiaries.

Project KHEL thus goes beyond sports to achieve goals in health, education, gender equality, child protection, vocational training and life skills.

Volunteering at Project KHEL

I have been a volunteer for varied causes and believe that it really adds value to one’s growth and life experiences. At KHEL, we have only 2 full time employees but several part-time and volunteer coordinators, coaches and founder members.

For a young organisation, we get quite a few requests for volunteering. An important part of KHEL is establishing a relationship between coordinators and children. Our volunteers are part of the KHEL family – they are featured on our website, we do events together, we go out for movies, meals etc.

As Franziska Litwinski (or Franky didi as she is fondly called by the children), a German student who volunteered with us for 5 months says “we shared moments of uncontrolled laughter, of long conversations, of comfortable silences, but also faced difficulties, misunderstandings, bad moods, uncertainty – only to make up again. I learnt a lot, especially crucial things about myself, mostly things I am yet to implement and work on.”

You can read our volunteer’s blog posts at projectkhel.com/blog.

Anyone looking for an extremely fun and fulfilling volunteering opportunity (just a few hours per week but long term commitment – at least 4-6 months) is most welcome. Our volunteers learn a lot about themselves while interacting with children in a totally fun manner.


Crowdfunding for Khel Project As a start-up with less than one year of operations, we are constantly struggling for funds. However, in the absence of institutional funding, our work seems to speak for itself and we have a lot of support from individuals who identify with what we do. Crowdfunding is a concept which we have embraced not just as a medium to raise funds but also as a means to involve more people in our cause and make us accountable to them. We have also found that many think that their small contributions will not be enough, but in fact, people have donated amounts as small as Rs.100 or 200 and we are appreciative of all the small contributions as they all add up. At present, we are coming to the end of a campaign on an Indian crowdfunding platform (www.wishberry.in/Join-the-KHEL-15933). With just about 10 days left, we are hopeful to achieve our target as it is in the last few days of the campaign that people see their contributions making the gap between “amount raised” and “target” smaller.

If you are in Lucknow, we recommend you visit Project KHEL and the amazing work they are doing; but remotely you can also help by spreading awareness about their work; engaging on their facebook page and raising funds through their crowd-funding campaign at Wishberry. 

Akshai Abraham

Akshai AbrahamAkshai is an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal. He has over 7 years of experience including 6 years in the social sector in the areas of research, program development, project management and organization building and also a year’s international experience as a cultural exchange intern in Austria. Akshai has also worked as a Consultant with AMS Consulting, where he was primarily involved with social sector studies commissioned by international agencies such as the World Bank, USAID, UNICEF, etc. and also with Aide-et-Action, an international NGO where he worked in fund-raising and education development programmes. A keen sportsman and enthusiast, and a committed non-profit professional, Akshai’s vision is to impact the lives of underprivileged children and youth of India through KHEL.

The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.

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