Sport is a near universal language. For young people adapting to a new country, with all the challenges of language, culture and customs, it can be a huge relief just to grab a ball and play, with no words required.
Gregor Brownlee has always loved basketball so when his mate from university days asked him to volunteer for free weekly basketball organisation Helping Hoops, it was easy to say yes.
“It seemed like the right fit and I have an interest in social issues,” Gregor said. “It was the right thing to do.”
“I’ve been formally involved for a year and informally for 18 months,” Gregor said. “I love it, I think it’s great.”
The CCAF, a joint initiative of Coca-Cola Amatil and Coca-Cola South Pacific, is a $750,000 fund designed to inspire moments of happiness and possibilities for young Australians.
The application was successful and Helping Hoops secured $23,000, a much-needed injection that will go to funding the organisation for 12 months. The program is tailor-made for 14- to 18-year-olds, and many of the attendees were originally refugees, particularly from Sudan.
The aim is to not just give kids a physical outlet but improve self-esteem and social skills, instil values and foster discipline – all through the joy of basketball, according to Helping Hoops founder and executive director Adam McKay.
“Basketball is a great vehicle, it’s something everyone can play, no matter what their situation or ability level is,” Adam said.
The CCAF grant is essential, he added, given that all of the work Helping Hoops does is free of charge.
“Helping Hoops makes zero money from it services” Adam said. “So the Coke funding will help us continue the basketball program and expand it to reach even more kids. I can’t overstate just how significant it is for a small grassroots organisation like us. It’s huge.”