The week before the New Year is a special time. It's not just the spirit of Christmas, but also the hope that the turn of the year fills us with.
It was on one such day in 2008 that an idea that was playing in the mind of former Olympian and Indian hockey star Jude Felix took shape, and became the Jude Felix Hockey Academy, a volunteer-based organisation that conducts hockey training for under-privileged children.
“My plan was far-fetched, but I went to St. Mary’s church for Christmas dinner and spoke to father John about teaching hockey to the kids in the orphanage. It got me all excited and it just took off from there,” recalls Felix.
“I come from a humble background. So, I always have been, and always will be, affectionate towards the less privileged. And the best way I knew to give back to society was through the game,” says the Arjuna awardee.
Now just over six years later, the Academy has become a beacon of hope for hundreds of children who come from orphanages or are differently-abled or were born to HIV-positive parents. Run on donations and under the watchful and nurturing care of Felix and former hockey player Shanmugham P, the JFHA trains the children free of cost.
While it's an established organisation now, the rise was not smooth, and Felix is conscious that there’s still a long way to go.
“We have taken baby steps. I have never gone and begged for funds because I’m doing something where my credibility is on the line. It is also very transparent, just to show our authenticity. So, we don’t have any big sponsors yet,” he remarks.
“It’s not easy because we need coaches, and the problem in India is that we don’t have coaches. It's a problem at all levels. So, it is difficult to expand, but we have plans to do so. We are looking to help out at an orphanage for girls, we will start on that soon,” he says.
While the hockey legend says there is still much to do, a glance over his shoulder fills him with pride.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’m giving back in a positive way. I have put my money where my mouth is, so it is very satisfying. What we have done so far is, we have established the Academy well. Lots of people call us to help now. We are giving them the best and using hockey to make them feel important.”
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