MOHAMED Zulkhairi Putera, 13, developed a rebellious streak when he entered secondary school last year. He broke curfews, hung out with bad company and vented his frustrations on his parents.
At the root of his unhappiness was that he felt his running talent went unrecognised after his new school switched its focus from running to football.
"I was a sprint champion in primary school but suddenly my dream of becoming a competitive runner was dashed," he said.
His father put him into SportCares, a programme that uses sports to help at-risk youngsters build character and find purpose.
After receiving training under the programme, Zulkhairi eventually made it into the Singapore Sports School through running. He now volunteers for events such as the SEA games outreach programmes.
He is one of 5,000 at-risk or underprivileged young people who have gone through the SportCares programme in the three years since its launch in 2012, said Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Low Yen Ling in Parliament yesterday.
So far, individuals and organisations have donated $1.7 million to the programme. Others volunteer as mentors.
Employees from Changi Airport Group, for example, became trainers and mentors to students from Northlight School, playing football with them every Saturday night. The company also funded the rental of the football fields.
Besides organising football and running clinics, SportCares also roped in upper secondary and tertiary student leaders to teach values and character development to underprivileged children in primary schools, using sports.
Said Zulkhairi: "I have experienced for myself how sports helped me become more confident when my talents were acknowledged and I volunteer so that others can have those opportunities too."
This article was first published on Mar 13, 2015.
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