Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
As the nation celebrated Heroes Day yesterday, swimming icon Kirsty Coventry took some time to interact with children from different communities under the Kirsty Coventry Academy HEROES programme.
The HEROES programme is a Kirsty Coventry Academy initiative that provides free lessons to children in underprivileged areas of Zimbabwe.
It is a community-based programme that leverages the power of sport as an effective method for tackling critical issues in these areas.
The programme utilises existing facilities, schools, sports centres, fields and volunteer coaches to create a safe and fun environment where children can participate in sport.
The programme is currently running in three locations — Chitungwiza, Dzivarasekwa and Kambuzuma.
HEROES, which is an acronym for health through physical activities, education from skills development, respect, opportunities and equality through sport, is about developing a well-rounded person.
Yesterday, the three locations were a hive of activity with children from within the communities participating in basketball, volleyball, soccer and rugby as they celebrated the past and present heroes as well as the first anniversary of the programme launched towards end of July last year.
Coventry, together with her husband Tyrone Seward, took time to mix and mingle with the children yesterday at the three centres and said the initiative has been a success.
“It’s been a huge success, we have been running for a year now and we have impacted 6 000 children.
“We are starting to get back really good positive feedback from parents, from the community, from the kids and from coaches just from watching and seeing our sort of data we keep in terms of numbers and in terms of age of the kids. “Just to see the passion from the kids, the dedication to see them wanting to get better it tells me then that hopefully that has also given them a different mindset in their other forms of life.
“So, whether it’s at school or when they are home with their parents they want to be better, they want to do good things and I think that is the enormous positive we have seen,” said Coventry.
The seven-time Olympic medallist said they are hoping to spread the programme across the country.
“So the future plan is to take the programme nationally. Right now we are talking with UNHCR to go and possibly launch the programme in Tongogara Refugee Camp. That will be kind of our first national programme.
“But we are looking already at other grounds in communities outside Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo and once we sit down and we identify as a team where are the best locations we start national and hopefully in the next year we will be in 10 locations across the country,” said Coventry. Team leader for Kambuzuma, Maita Nyarota, said the HEROES programme has made a difference with their community and are grateful for the support they have been receiving.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s something that we had been waiting for, for so long as a community. We had been doing these things alone but when Kirsty and Tyrone came everything changed it became a reality because they gave us balls, bibs, the equipment that we are now using at the community.
“And now as you can see most of these children are here if it wasn’t for this programme they could be in streets doing nothing. “Now we can identify, nurture and develop some athlete that will represent Zimbabwe in the future,” said Nyarota.