Giving Children a Sporting Chance

Living in a Garbage Dump

“It was during a sponsored rugby union visit to Cambodia that I saw children living in squalor on the Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Despite the terrible conditions these children were living in, they still had hope and happiness in their eyes,” says Greening.

Greening was inspired to get involved when he saw the difference sports could make to them. Two boys who had grown up on the dump, and had then been given assistance from a volunteer, were now representing Cambodia on the national rugby team. He quickly realised his expertise could go a long way towards helping these children.

Greening says, “In most cases, sport is last on the list in terms of a charity’s funding and objectives. Knowing that sports have excellent therapeutic value, I also believe that the ethics learnt on a sports field – responsibility, leadership, and teamwork – are transferable to any environment. We established this charity to provide an opportunity for children to gain some therapy through various sports, and gain self-confidence.”

Kick a Ball

Thus came about the Sporting Chance Foundation to improve the lives of underprivileged children – whether they’re inner city kids from London, or child prostitutes in Vietnam. As long as they want to kick a ball, the charity aims to always be there to kick it back. “Sporting Chance Foundation established itself by providing the necessities to make this transformation – food, shelter and clothing,” Greening explains, “and we have endeavoured to provide each child with a set of characteristics that will last them a lifetime.”

Jonny Wilkinson Steps Up

Calling upon high-profile friends, Greening gained support from sport and media personalities, including England rugby World Cup heroes Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Leonard, Joel Stransky, leading musician Heidi Range from the Sugababes, TV and radio presenter Dave Berry, and ESPN STAR Sports presenter Charlie Webster. Each has pledged to dedicate their time and expertise to ensure the charity reaches as many children as possible.

To maximise the impact of the Sporting Chance Foundation, Greening ensures that the charity works alongside existing non-government organisations (NGOs). The charity will help supply funding and sporting equipment to orphanages, and work directly with specific NGOs to improve the lives of the children in their programmes.

Greening says, “The charity presently works with three NGOs. Two are based in Phnom Penh and the third is an international charity, Touraid, based out of the UK. Touraid funds children from less developed countries to travel and play sport abroad. The alliance with Touraid gives children from Sporting Chance Foundation the opportunity to experience new regions of the world and learn about different cultures.”

Down in the Dumps

Funding from Sporting Chance not only supports their own projects; if they see an NGO with a suitable cause, they will also help. On a recent trip to Phnom Penh, Sporting Chance Foundation met up with two other NGOs: Friends and the Sunrise orphanage. Both had shelters set up to help the city’s street children. Friends, an inner city shelter, has been incredibly successful at taking boys and girls off the streets; however, the children had nowhere safe to run around. Sporting Chance Foundation proposed a sports hall and playground within the shelter’s walls.

Sunrise, based just outside the city, has a small soccer field, but the girls at the shelter have no sporting outlet. Sporting Chance Foundation drew up plans to build a multi-purpose playing surface for the children to enjoy tennis, badminton, volleyball and netball. This is just the start of their work in Phnom Penh; they will continue to look for more worthwhile projects in the city.

Developing Coaches

Presently, the foundation uses outside help with its construction projects and coaching, but its aim is to make the charity 100 percent self-sufficient. Greening’s goal is that children coached in his programmes will go on to be coaches for the next generation of young sportsmen and women.

Currently, Sporting Chance Foundation helps 2,000 children a day, ranging from infants with HIV to children orphaned by landmines, dysfunctional families or drug abuse. As funds increase, the charity hopes to sponsor children through the local public school. Ultimately it aims to establish its own centre in Phnom Penh near the school with dorms, a canteen, a sports field and sporting facilities.