Fostering Friendship and bonding beyond the Sports field

 “I remember seeing ‘Kaif Bhaiya’ in the lift at the National Youth Summit held in 2019 in the Amity University UP Campus. Later I saw him leading a session at the Summit, we also played volleyball together”.- Shivam Verma, Athlete leader from New Delhi. Although Mohammad Kaif, a Youth leader and student of Biotechnology at the Amity University UP (NOIDA) and also a National YAC member at the time, had often crossed paths with Shivam but the Summit sparked a deeper bond. They did not need an occasion to meet or to talk with each other. They planned awareness activities and participated in SO activities like the Asian Football Week held in Delhi in July 2019. They went on to discuss concepts, events and activities, even day to day issues like, if Shivam would get stuck in English, he would call up Kaif. Siblings of both , Kaif and Shivam, have met and engaged in SO activities. In January 2020 while preparing for a Youth event, they realised that they share a common passion for ‘RAP’.

“There are so many changes that I have seen in myself since this bonding.” Says Kaif. “The most important one is to know that this is not something unusual. A friendship between two people is very natural. I began with an understanding that I will be Shivam’s support and the ‘guiding light’ so to say. But it turns out, he has been my pillar of support.”

Shivam, 19 yrs, faced medical complications at the age of 2 yrs and remained in coma for about a month. He miraculously survived, but broke into seizures after recovering , which too have ceased to occur over a period of time. However, this phase may have led to a learning disbility along with weak limbs. Through regular Physiotherapy his limbs strengthened , reinforcing his otherwise weak grip and ball-catch.  Simultaneously Special Olympics sports at his school MBCN, NOIDA turned him into an Athlete playing Football, Softball and Floor hockey under the mentorship of his Coach, Mr Rohit Manchanda. Shivam joined the School in 2008 and Special Olympics in 2012. He is very fond of his Coach who he says has counselled him and made him a confident sportsperson. Coah Rohit remembers vividly how Shivam refused to go for a National level Camp and even wept profusely to insist that he won’t. He finally did not go for it. Since 2013 with Rohit gradually mentoring and counselling him and winning him over, Shivam now joins the cadre of the closest Athletes to the Coach, who assist him in organising various fitness and sporting activities in school. “Shivam, shows no signs of what he was when he entered this program. The transformation is unbelievable”.

Shivam recalls his visits to the park near his house where he was bullied by the rest of the children. Very often, he was told to bring his (Cricket) bat and ball but while they played, he was told to sit and watch. His sibling, Jessica Verma, intervened a few times to support her brother , and to an extent that did work. The neighbourhood is the same but the perspective towards Shivam has changed.

Kaif was the marketing head for two editions of Pratishtha (2.0 & 3.0), a community outreach program to promote inclusion in the society through sports. He was also chosen as the member of National Youth Council along with Shivam in National Youth Summit, 2019. “ Shivam has taught me to dream big and focus on actually accomplishing them rather than just watching them in sleep”- Kaif

 “There has been a tremendous change in Shivam’s Social behavior. From a shy and underconfident person he has changed into someone who looks forward to meeting new people. For him there are no differences that people often talk about like- caste, creed, language”- Jessica Verma , Sibling of Shivam

“ I have learnt to never quit and go forward with whatever resources you have. Shivam has taught me that with hard work you can achieve anything. My greatest learning of Inclusion has been to understand that everybody is different in their own way and we should not discriminate based on those differences. The differences are what make us human and they need to be appreciated. In SO Bharat I never encountered any form of prejudice, but when I came out of my bubble and looked around me I realized that the discrimination is real and happening at a great extent. We need to educate and motivate almost every person who is with us and only then can we empower people with special needs and move towards true inclusion”- Mohammad Kaif, Unified Buddy of Shivam Verma