Sport can do the body and mind a world of good and its potential to bring about change in a person or community should not be overlooked. (image: Hoops 4 Hope)Playing sport has benefits that go far beyond the realm of physical well-being. From providing a platform where people can build their social skills to offering an outlet for frustrations and self-expression, sport can help participants to understand the world and the people in it.Sport can do the body and mind a world of good and its potential to bring about change in a person or community should not be overlooked.Hoops 4 Hope taps into this potential. The NPO uses basketball in particular to help youth overcome social and personal issues through its programmes, which run in South Africa and Zimbabwe.Along with its sister programme, Soccer 4 Hope, Hoops 4 Hope reaches an average of 10 000 children each year throughout the two countries. The organisations use soccer and basketball, respectively, to give these children the life skills necessary to beat the odds in communities plagued by poverty and other potential pitfalls.Run from two main offices in Harare and Cape Town, Hoops 4 Hope offers its programmes after school and during school holidays. It gives youth a constructive way to spend their free time, so helping them to avoid being lured by drugs, alcohol or gangsterism. These social ills plague the townships and villages from which many of the children come.Hoops 4 Hope was founded by the acting executive director, Mark Crandall, in 1995. “We’re using the power of sport to develop leaders, to prevent HIV infection, to achieve gender equality, and to help kids make the right decisions before they get into trouble,” Crandall explained.“We provide 10 000 kids a year at our centres in Harare and Cape Town with great role models, a number of whom have come through our programme [themselves]. The new director of our South Africa programme, Gcina Mondi, came up through our programme. He’s been with Grassroots Soccer, an American NGO in Africa, for the past five years.”PARTNERS FOR CHANGEGifted players are able to take part in annual tournaments held to identify promising talent throughout the continent.Through its partnership with Basketball Without Boarders (BWB), Hoops 4 Hope has grown and spread its influence to the most rural areas in the two countries. It has created a channel for some of the youth looking to pursue basketball as option for their future.Since 2006, its links to BWB and the National Basketball League (NBA) in the US have offered an avenue into the professional world of basketball. Gifted players are able to take part in annual tournaments held to identify promising talent throughout the continent.BWB is the NBA’s global basketball development scouting and outreach programme. It partners with entities such as Hoops 4 Hope to create positive change among global youth with the help of current and former NBA and WNBA stars acting as coaches and mentors.Though the partnership with BWB has been beneficial to the organisation in many ways, Crandall said that developing players for the NBA and other professional basketball leagues was never the objective; this was instead a possible positive outcome of the partnership. “The goal,” Crandall said, “is not to create the best athletes, but the best people.”GOING FORWARDRunning a programme that caters to more than 10 000 children in two countries poses its fair share of challenges, be these financial, logistical or just outright exhausting.The NPO, along with Soccer 4 Hope, is always in need of support and welcomes it in any form, be it donations of shoes, equipment, money or time to help in their operations.Anybody looking to support Hoops 4 Hope and Soccer 4 Hope should visit their website for information on how they can play their part in ensuring the sustainability of the programme and the ongoing support of thousands of children in South Africa and Zimbabwe.