A long time ago, somewhere in Chennai, the kind gesture of a man changed the trajectory of life of an orphaned girl. He decided to support this girl in her education, a simple act of kindness. This helped her do well in life, have a family, raise children and settle abroad. Having seen the extent to which someone’s good deed impacted the life of his mother and his family, Shaun Jayachandran, took his step to give back.
Shaun is a basketball enthusiast and an educator in the US. Born and raised in Canada, settled in the US, he did not have much of a connection with India. But he had this strong calling to come to India and make a difference. For this, he blended his two passions, basketball and education, and founded Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy.
A basketball training session in progress
Crossover is about crossing over the various man-made boundaries – of classrooms, of social and economic divides, and of backgrounds and cultures. Every year, Shaun and his team of volunteers bring a group of students, faculty and coaches from the US to Chennai for a two week long basketball camp. Here, at the American International School, the group converges with a local group of children. These children come from lower income and marginalized families and also from well-to-do families.
Crossover creates a platform where children learn to forget their differences, pick up leadership qualities, learn to make mistakes and be aggressive. These children, who come from backgrounds that are strikingly different, are successful at creating amazing synergies. Also, there are boys and girls on the court, striking a strong 50-50 ratio. They pay no fees to learn, the only thing they need to shell out is their enthusiasm.
The excited children who can’t wait for the next 2 week session to begin in June
There is one group of children in Chennai who are totally waiting for June to come, for Crossover to come – the children of Government Primary School, Rangarajapuram. Last year, Ramabhadran Sundaram, a Teach for India fellow at this school, came to know about Crossover and thought it might be a good idea to take his students to the camp. His students come from underprivileged backgrounds and the roughness of their background tended to influence their behaviour. He wanted to see what a sport can do to these children.
To Ramabhadran’s great surprise, the Crossover camp had a tremendous impact on these children. Conflicts that usually ended up in fights, now started seeing matured ‘conflict resolution’. The values of courage, loyalty and friendship that Ramabhadran couldn’t have preached in a classroom, started effortlessly seeping into the psyche of these children. All this happened in the midst of non-stop fun and the children are now eagerly waiting for the next session of Crossover scheduled for this June. This year, Crossover will hold camps that will host over 200 students from Teach for India.
The students are also taught in classrooms
Crossover’s aim is not to produce world class basketball players. Through Crossover, Shaun wants to showcase the value that sports can bring to education. The children get exposed to various skills that are needed to succeed in higher education, get better at academics and help in their future employment. Also, as these children learn to dribble, pass and shoot the ball, they also learn to become better human beings.
In the next fifteen years, Shaun dreams to build a free of cost residential school for children from low income and marginalized families. Combining education, sports and life skills, he aims to impact the lives of many more children – indeed a great tribute to the man who educated his mother and changed the life of a family.