How these 16 years olds raised 2.7 lakhs for 9 underprivileged athletes across India

Grassroots form a critical aspect in the development of any sport. When the base lacks strength, the structure fumbles. Regardless of how a grassroots system functions, in a country like India there is always going to be countless lot of talented athletes with no financial support to pursue their sport.

In this world of commerce, hope is the one thing they can hold on to.

ESM brings you an interview with one such student-run organization – Baton of Hope that aims to fulfill that hope!

Meet the team of Baton of Hope:

Adya Bhargava Baton of Hope Sports NGO

1. Adya Bhargava, Founder, CEO: She’s a 12th grade student at The Shri Ram School Aravali Former India Rank 19 in India and 7 times Gurgaon Badminton Champion. has been playing badminton for over 10 years now. Very passionate about sports, and wants to study economics and sociology. 

2. Ira Lath Gupta, Core Team Member: Ira is an 11th grade student at The Shri Ram School Aravali, and is a state level football player and basketball player. She loves to watch sports and is especially passionate about women’s sports. She is a science student and wants to pursue a career in the field of Computer Science.

Tanvi Jain Baton of Hope Sports NGO

3.Tanvi Jain, Core team member: Tanvi is an 11th grade student at The Shri Ram School Aravali and a national level basketball player. She has been playing sports since a young age and met many athletes who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. She wants to pursue a career in psychology.

4. Sidhant Rai, Core team member: Sidhant is an 11th grade student at The Shri Ram School and a national level athlete. He plays football and badminton as well and is studying commerce in school.

5. Arnav Sharma (media designer) : Arnav is a 12th grade student at The Shri Ram School Aravali, and is an award-winning filmmaker. He is responsible for media designing at Baton of Hope and would like to pursue a career in filmmaking.

6. Dhwani Kitchlue, Advisor: Dhwani is a Columbia University alumnus, and was most recently the Head of Marketing at Padukone Sports Management. She plays football at the national level.

Q1. About Baton of Hope. What are the works you have done so far?

Baton of Hope is a student-run organization that is trying to further develop grassroots sports in the country. 

Baton of Hope’s mission is to educate, aid and uplift. We aim to bring economic, social and youth development through the medium of sports. 

The organization was started in April 2019 by Adya Bhargava, and since then they have expanded their team to 5 members and successfully launched numerous ventures.

The work we have done so far includes: 

  1.  Financially supported 9 underprivileged athletes from across the country for Rs. 2.7 lakhs. We tied up with Hero MotoCorp, the largest 2-wheeler company in the world for this!.

Most of these athletes have a monthly family income of Rs. 15000, and out of the 9 athletes, 2 of them are specially abled and 3 are women. 

  1. We shot a 3-part series on successful athletes that came from disadvantaged backgrounds. It has 7000+ views on all platforms. Our content has been liked and shared by huge athletes like Saina Nehwal, Aditi Chauhan, Ashwini Ponappa, Arjuna Awardee Chirag Shetty, and more.
  2. Part of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY)
  3. Launching an anti-sexism in sports campaign, “Baton of Equality” and are campaigning to get training academies to sign a pledge against sexism. 
  4. Interviewed numerous international and national level athletes that came from disadvantaged backgrounds to identify the optimal stage of intervention, and other rubrics of developing grassroots sports. 

Q2. What inspired you to start such an organization? How did the idea come up?

The organization was founded by Adya Bhargava in 2019 when she was in the 11th grade.

One of her closest friends comes from an underprivileged background, and they used to struggle with the expenses of buying equipment, shoes, and paying coaching fees. Despite being extremely talented, there came a point where they were almost forced to give up playing their sport because they could no longer afford it, and they were unable to find a sponsor due to a lack of knowledge and awareness at both ends. 

The idea for this organization sprouted from her anger and frustration at their situation, and the situation of thousands of equally talented athletes across the country. Baton Of Hope is now run by a team of 5 student athletes.

The idea for this organization sprouted from her anger and frustration at their situation, and the situation of thousands of equally talented athletes across the country. Baton Of Hope is now run by a team of 5 student athletes.

All 5 athletes have come across such athletes who are incredibly talented but do not have the means to pursue their dreams. They are all extremely passionate about this cause and are glad for the chance to give back to the community.

Q3. Do you also pursue any sport professionally ? How do you manage time between playing sports, the organization and keeping up with academics?

All of us are national level athletes. Adya was formerly ranked 19 in badminton, and plays badminton for almost 3-4 hours a day. She is sponsored by the company Victor Badminton. Sidhant, Ira and Tanvi play sports competitively too and put in many hours of their week into sports. 

All of them have an ICSE board aggregate of 96+.

Adya: For me, managing time between all the things I do has never really been a challenge. In fact, I get ample free time to pursue numerous other things. 

I think the key is to be honest with yourself, and REALLY use all the time you get. I remember sitting at badminton tournaments and studying Merchant of Venice, and eating meals in the car to save time. But I never really had a problem with that; in fact, I enjoyed it. By saving at that time, I would get plenty of stress-free time to be on 7 hour long zoom calls with my friends. 

I’m not the kind of person who studies for an exam 3-months in advance. In fact, I’m the person who’ll have 23 chapters left the day before an exam. 

Another tip would be to use your nights wisely. I’m more of a night person, and that really works to my advantage. 

Ira: I’ve been playing sports competitively since I was in the 2nd grade, and so balancing academics along with sports is second nature to me at this point. In my opinion, if you care enough about something, you can make time for it. Academics have always been one of my biggest priorities, and I’ve been able to manage my time between the two fairly well until now. 

I’m not a very social person either, so my life has revolved heavily around school and sports for the last 8-9 years, and I’ve been able to strike a healthy balance between them.

I’ve done math homework in Ahmedabad where we’d gone for a basketball tournament, and have studied for physics tests in dusty fields waiting for our football game, but if that’s what’s needed for me to keep up my academics then I’m fine with doing it.

Sidhant: Yes, I do pursue sports professionally. I am a national level football player as well as an athlete. I am hoping that someday I will be able to take the level of football in India to the international level.

Playing sports, helping in the organization and keeping up with studies can be an extremely strenuous task and hence I feel the key to achieve all three is managing your time extremely well. Giving yourself one and a half hours of training everyday helps in releasing stress. Moreover, keeping your phone away during studies helps in better concentration. It is sometimes difficult but it is all about your willpower which helps you be persistent.

Tanvi: I play basketball competitively and it is an integral part of my life. I played the CISCE nationals last year and have played basketball at 3 state-level tournaments along with many district and inter school tournaments.

Striking a balance between everything I do is very important to me and an ability I do possess. To manage between sports, Baton of Hope and my academics, I just divide my time smartly and focus on whatever is priority to make sure I’m efficient in each sphere.

Q4. What are the biggest challenges you have come across throughout your journey so far?

Finding a direction, and finding avenues to approach for the same. 

It took us a long time to research and deliberate about what direction we were going to go in as an organization. There was so much scope, but the first step towards making any venture successful is narrowing the scope.

Here, we would suggest getting an adult advisor who is experienced in the field. Dhwani has really helped us find direction, and in this aspect, her guidance has been invaluable. 

Another aspect we struggled with was finding avenues for aid. We did not know who to go to for help, how to scout athletes, how to attract funders, etc. This is where research plays the most important role. A short-period of research about the field, about the economics of the field is extremely important. 

After that, MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS!! This is extremely hard, yet crucial. Although we had a hard time at first, with the support of sports pages, athletes, and coaches we have been able to build a network. 

After that, MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS!! This is extremely hard, yet crucial.

Q5. What’s your goal and vision for Baton of Hope in the coming years?

Our vision is to bring about tangible change at the grassroots level in sports. We want to support 100 athletes by 2022, and launch 2-3 other social movements such as anti-sexism in sports, a sports-psychology and mental health aspect, and much more. 

Our ultimate aim is to create a sustainable, suitable environment where sports becomes a profitable and desirable career for any talented athlete, regardless of their economic background.

We thank team Baton of Hope for giving this interview and it is our utmost pleasure to share their story on their our platform.

You can find Batom of Hope on :

Website:  https://www.batonofhope.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/batonofhope/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/batonofhope/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbagvpJYG6g7SBqUFHCPT9g?view_as=subscriber

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