Every morning at Sher-e-Kashmir sports complex, as darkness fades and the Sun rises, young Kashmiris display an immense flow of energy playing Cricket, Badminton, Football, and other sports. For these young players, it’s the busiest time of the day and their lives: They are here to forget their agony. They are here to stay off drugs.
For years, long conflict, hopelessness, lack of jobs, and with nowhere to go and no one to look up to, Kashmiri youth took up to something that would offset their problems, however temporary. They started doing drugs. The trouble is there are a lot of them. The drug epidemic is so high in the valley that some reports say 85% youths between the ages of 18-24 have become addicted to drugs.
Helping them restart their troubled life is Team Red- a J&K-based NGO that has made sports its focus for helping the youth come back to the mainstream.
We started seven months ago and the Chairman of Team Red Foundation – “Saadat Nasir Wani Sogami” believes sports is the way to make a difference in the life of a youth. But why sports?
At Team Red, we believe that sports, if used correctly, will strengthen young people’s ability to shape their own future, become active citizens, forget worries and commit themselves to build their country. Sports can structurally change their behavior by helping them to break the vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and inequality.
Making people believe in the system and law for better Kashmir and Humanity and for sustainable development.
Team Red believes in the power of sports and social media. By this, we mean the long-term, scientifically supported the use of sports and social media as tools for development. Our aim is to enable youth, particularly those affected by drugs to create a better future for themselves, their families and the country.
Team Red envisions a world in which once marginalized young people have become agents of change. By participating in sports activities, they have learned to shape their own future, have strengthened their confidence, have become active citizens, and have committed themselves to build up their communities. They have moved away from the vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and inequality that has kept them and their families on the margin of society.
Team Red supports local drug addicts to get back to the system by continuously and up-to-date, well-designed sports programmes and activities. We conducted a marathon to raise awareness about drug abuse and how bad it can be for us. By using and stimulating sports as a learning tool, we have also created an impact on the lives of young people in two areas: Women Empowerment and Saving Environment.
Kashmiri women have been the most affected due to the conflict here. They have no jobs and they struggle to raise their families. We want to help them come out of this tough life. We have planned various initiatives to get them onboard and train them to be self-sufficient.
The environment is also one of our major focus areas. We have all been witness to the havoc the 2014 floods created causing billions in losses and thousands in lives. We don’t want that to happen again. We are campaigning to ensure that no harm is done to the environment. We want people to understand that we cannot give an environment to our children for which they criticize us. Keeping that in mind we knew how bad floods can be, so when Kerala was affected by floods, we got together to raise help the southern state.
Underlying all that we are doing is an incident that happened earlier this year. A 21-year-old student went into depression after drug addicts harassed her while she was returning home from her college. It took a while for her to get back to normal life.
While this happens all the time and everywhere, we knew if this were to continue, more of our people would fall into depression from abuses they undergo at the hands of drug addicts and alcoholics.
So, with all the insights we have drawn from our experience in these seven months dealing with problems that women and youths are facing, we have been able to draft better social media campaigns to reach out to them and tug at our heartstrings with greater precision. Although we have not raised money so far and don’t intend to and yet managed to pull our work together, it has also yielded a difficult truth: How far can we go to ensure our people live happily.
While we cannot keep all the people happy all the time, what we certainly can do is to help them forget their worries with whatever little we can do. For now what we have done is not on impulse but is driven by emotional motives, rooted in deep impulses, emotions, and even our own generous instinct.
But why are we so selfless? Because it pays off to be selfless. It gives us emotional satisfaction and we ensure that the generation gets to do what they were born for. Of course, it’s one thing that we do it because we are driven by concerns for others but also because it’s largely a way for us to feel happy about our role in this world.