A water sports programme for the children at the Education and Training Centre for Children (ETCC) on Maafushi island kicked off on Sunday.
ETCC is an all-boys shelter and a school for children above 10 who are taken under the state care for various reasons such as having no legal guardians or for rehabilitation on parent’s request.
According to the program organiser, NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC), over next three days the children shelter will have the “unique opportunity to learn and enjoy windsurfing, sailing, beach games, wake board, water ski, banana and fun tubes”, thanks to the support from Club Aeolous Waters Sports from the Club Faru Resort.
“Through fun water sports, we are trying to promote a healthy lifestyle. It will also build children’s skill and talents and inspire them to work as a team,” Zeneesha observed.
According to ARC, all 37 children currently housed at the centre are participating in both theory and practical lessons of water sports on the island beaches.
“The children are very happy,” Mohamed Abdullah, Principal of ETCC, told Minivan News over the phone. “We did not tell the kids about it until yesterday. It was a surprise. They were very happy to go into the water.”
“The children stay inside the centre for 24-hours. They don’t have opportunities for fun sports like these. All the kids want to wind surf,” he added.
“I am really glad ARC took the initiative to help the center and its children,” he observed, noting that the centre is facing numerous challenges including staff shortages, poor infrastructure and budget cuts.
Zeneesha said that the NGO believes such sports activities will open new future prospects for the children living at shelters.
ETCC Principal also agreed; “Often, when the children reach legal age and move out from the shelters, they struggle to find jobs and earn a living. They wont even have the same confidence as others. So we are putting great emphasis on helping the children find a way to earn a living when they leave the shelter.”
He noted that the centre has talked with resort operators to open apprentice slots for children who graduate from the shelter: “This year hopefully the first batch of 16 year-olds will be be sent for training.”
Despite several challenges, Zeneesha said the NGO has expanded its support to the three shelters following the ARC’s Stakeholder Conference on Children’s Shelters 2012 focused on ETCC, Kudakudhinge Hiyaa on Villigili providing care for children below nine years and the Correctional Training Centre for Children (CTCC) on Feydhoo Finolhu.
She noted that under its sports program initiative, a total of 27 children from the Villigili shelter participated in a chess programme, which was held every weekend for two months. A similar badminton program is underway.
Meanwhile she added that these centres need a lot of capacity building. “Therefore, we have been providing life-skill and parental skill development workshops to the shelter’s staff,” she says.