Hepsiba, a girl from Chennai won 100 meter race at the Street Child Games held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. She has also won two more medals at the games.
Hepsiba is one of the many Children who participated in the sports meet for the Street Children. This 16 year old girl is credited to ‘run like a wind’, a skill which she claims to have picked up on streets of Chennai, where she lives. But her coach believes she is a natural sprinter.
This child prodigy earlier lived with her widowed mother on Sydenhams Road in Chennai, the same stretch on which, co-incidentally, Nehru Indoor Stadium is located. When they were evicted from the street, they moved into a shelter for the homeless run by the Chennai Corporation. An unexpected opportunity that came Hepsibah’s way finally took her to the global competition in Rio.
“We had organised a sports contest for street children, and this girl was sheer talent,” explains Paul Sunder Singh, of Karunalaya, an NGO that took a team of five street children to Rio for the games. “Actually, she just about made it; it was a miracle that her passport came through on time,” he says.
After that, with no sponsorship whatsoever, but with the international NGO Street Child United pitching in to some extent, Mr. Singh took a loan for the team to make the trip.
She trained with the Coach Prabhakar Suresh for about two weeks, after which she on went on to board her very first flight, one that would take her across the seas to Rio. The team spent one and a half weeks there, interacting with street children from all over the world.
Hepsiba says that she now has friends from Burundi, Pakistan, Egypt, Britain, Argentina and Brazil. That seems to her even larger than the win itself, which makes her “very, very, very happy”.
She also informed media that other two children – Ashok and Sneha too have won the medals at the game.
Usha, a member of the team, earlier spoke rousingly at the Street Child Games General Assembly about the need to protect children against violence. “Every day we fear the police. Police are supposed to support and safeguard us, but we don’t experience this. To protect children from violence at the hands of the police, street children need to be invited to speak at police training so they can understand and empathise,” she said, to loud cheers from the other participants.
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