Bringing Hope to Youth in Niger – The Hoops4kids Initiative
Sports have an uncanny way of bringing people together. Citizens of a big, metropolitan city would come together in a bar and cheer with each other as a family when their state’s team wins a game. A whole country’s activity may be halted, and in some places, even crimes are on pause to watch a national athlete win a victory. More than all of these beautiful, unifying moments, sports is also a hopeful pathway to a better life for many, especially the youth. This is the kind of opportunity that is given to athletic kids in Niger through Hoops4kids.
How Hoops4kids Began
Hoops4kids was launched in 1997 by former basketball player, Yacouba Sangaré and his wife, Tracy. Yacouba’s story began a few years back in 1993 when he was still playing for his country’s national basketball team. As a promising student-athlete, he was allowed to improve himself even more and study in the United States. Back in 2001, he graduated with a degree in International Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Hoops4kids began as a basketball summer for youth of Niger. As the years passed, 20 years in fact from when they first started, the program extended not only in Niger, but also in Benin, Mexico, and the United States. Hoops4kids was able to help 2,000 student-athletes secure a better future through basketball. When asked about Hoops4kids, Yacouba explained that he saw himself in the kids who participate in the program. He wanted to give back to his country, and his community and the plan was, for him, to build the best platform to do so.
All About Hoops4kids
Hoops4kids’ first camp was established in Niamey, Niger. The main goal of the program is primarily to improve the student’s athletic skills. In addition to this, the program also aims for the youth to be able to meet and learn from their peers who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Lastly, the program is meant to serve as a learning venue for young participants to learn more about health and enjoying physical activities. Niamey’s 2019 camp was special as 40 participants were given free board and lodging while in the camp in addition to sports accessories and equipment. Hoops4kids garners support from many of their partners like authorities, youth organizations, basketball leagues, and even international agencies and embassies. A notable partner is the European Union, where through their support, the Hoops4kids camp can enact the framework for Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism in their annual summer camp operations.
Hoops4kids is not only a venue for self-improvement, but the program also represents many things to the youth that take part in it. For some, it is a place where they could nurture their dreams of becoming professional basketball players in leagues such as the NBA. For some, like the five immigrant youth who attended the program recently, the Hoops4kids summer camp was a temporary haven before they could reintegrate back into their countries. Through bringing together many students and athletes from different countries and cultures, the Hoops4kids basketball summer camp program also hopes to present a positive message on migration.