PUBLISHED : APR 1, 2021 4:30PM EDT
Ladderworks is a publishing startup of diverse picture books with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews, by a character named Spiffy, with founders working on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our focus for April is on SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being. There is so much at stake, so let’s see what’s being done!
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be in Bangalore, India today, talking to a social entrepreneur working to make sports more accessible to children in rural and remote places. Join me as I welcome Nitish M Chiniwar, founder of the Bridges of Sports Foundation. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, Nitish! I’m excited to hear about your work! Can you tell me what challenge you are addressing with Bridges of Sports Foundation?
Nitish: Thanks so much for interviewing me, Spiffy! We are working to bridge the gap in talent identification in the rural and remote parts of India. There is a huge gap in opportunities for children from socially and economically backward communities to excel or even access basic learning in the field of sports. Our mission is to provide them equitable access to sports training, education, and nutrition, and provide them a platform to participate in state and national championships. We are currently supporting the Siddi, India’s only African community, based in the remote forest regions of Karnataka.
Spiffy: This sounds amazing! Can you tell me more about what motivated you to focus on sports and the Siddi community?
Nitish: Well, Spiffy, I come from a motorsports background. I started out working in garages in Bangalore just to learn the nitty-gritty of racing. I later moved to the United Kingdom to pursue my Masters in Motorsports Engineering, and build my career in the field of racing. Following my degree, I interviewed with numerous racing and formula one teams, but I was rejected because I was not European and they were reluctant to go through the process of sponsoring my work visa. This pushed me to think more deeply and everything just started falling into place. From equality in gender to equality in race, everywhere you look, certain segments of the society always have to work so much harder than others to achieve the same goals.
Spiffy: How would you say you and your organization are working to create a more equitable world?
Nitish: The Siddi migrated to India as slaves 400 years ago. Since then they have been living under the shadow of racism and lack the social and economic impetus to nudge themselves out of poverty. Even after India’s independence, they continued to live in the forest, away from mainstream society. In the 1980s, the government of India successfully supported them and tapped into their natural potential in sports, but the program was ended, and Siddis went back to being secluded. We are supporting the community, not just to ensure they get access to world-class sports training, but also to support their nutrition, education, and families through our kitchen garden initiatives. We are holistically supporting them to excel in sports and bring them out of seclusion.
Spiffy: Are there any new initiatives you’ve started—what kind of impact has it had?
Nitish: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all of the athletes’ families lost jobs and were subjected to difficulties—including struggling to meet their daily food requirements. We were able to support them with groceries and direct cash transfers, but we realized that we needed to develop a sustainable solution. This is when we decided to support the families in starting kitchen gardens. We realized that, besides having access to good nutrition, gardens could create a source of income: we decided to buy their produce for the hostel. We are proud to have helped the families develop long-term economic sustenance, especially because we believe these are critical factors that cause families to push their children into child labor. We want the families to support their children and allow them to follow their dreams in sports.
Spiffy: I’m always curious to know how social entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you, Nitish? Can you tell me about a time when you faced failure and didn’t give up? What did you learn?
Nitish: Well, Spiffy, during my journey in motorsports and running Bridges of Sports Foundation, I have faced failures several times—from fundraising, rejections, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic. When the lockdown started, we had to shut down all our operations. Since our work focuses on sports, most of our fundraising was cut too. But over the next 12 months, we were able to reach out and bring in more partners to support us—not just with emergency aid, but also with long-term support. My biggest learning is that serendipity is always just around the corner. If you keep your head down and keep working towards your goal, you will find the support you need.
Spiffy: Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom—and your inspiring work—with us. I’m excited to see how far you, and your athletes, go. It’s been a real honor, Nitish. Over and out!
Nitish M Chiniwar is an ex-motorsport engineer and the founder of Bridges of Sports Foundation. Nitish believes that we all have a responsibility to build an equitable world where everyone gets the access and opportunity to chase their dreams. (Nominated by Silicon Valley Exercise Analytics)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blogThe views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.