Zimbabwe swimming icon Kirsty Coventry celebrated the first anniversary of her HEROES programme as she continues with efforts to make sporting activities accessible to children living in underprivileged communities.
HEROES is a community-based programme that leverages on the power of sport as an effective method for tackling critical issues and problems in marginalised areas.
Last year, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic 200 metre backstroke champion and her husband Tyrone Seward launched HEROES, a programme designed to empower children through sport and in turn help build stronger and safer communities in Zimbabwe.
So far the couple has reached out to more than 6 000 children in different sporting disciplines and communities where Coventry and a group of volunteers provide free sporting activities to children teaching them life skills.
Coventry, a former champion athlete and now as an international sports ambassador is a role model and an inspirational figure to many women and young people across Africa and the world of sport.
“I am proud to announce the one-year anniversary of HEROES. This is our community-based program that offers free-structured sports programs to our children. Thank you to our team, our partners and our wonderful coaches for making this possible,” said the five-time Olympian.
It was in 2013 when Coventry and Seward toured Zimbabwe with the aim to “Inspire our youth to become their own heroes”
Coventry’s aim is to raise future sports stars in Zimbabwe.
“These children play basketball, rugby, soccer, swimming and volleyball but more importantly learn values and leadership. Thank you to our team, our partners and our wonderful coaches for making this possible.
“The inspiration Kirsty and Tyrone found from the children they initially set out to inspire has ensured they develop a scalable and sustainable model to save lives through empowering individuals through education and training, and uplift communities by providing safe centres to play sport,” she said.
The programme utilises existing facilities, schools, sports centres, fields and volunteer coaches to create a safe and fun environment where children can participate in sport.
The HEROES programme has been running in Chitungwiza and Kambuzuma, Dzivarasekwa among other locations.
Affectionately known as Zimbabwe’s “Golden Girl”, Coventry continues to invest her time and experience in Africa and has become one of the greatest icons in world sport.
She also insists that HEROES is a programme that seeks to redress social challenges.
“Our HEROES program is more than sport, it’s about creating role models and better opportunities in under-served and underprivileged communities.”
“A hero is someone who saves lives, helps others and is a good role model,” said Coventry.
She added: “Our Academy and HEROES programme is developing our youth by addressing many critical social issues while also providing children with a safe and fun environment to play.
“I look forward to working with Government, corporates and other NGOs and individuals as we continue to roll out our programs throughout Zimbabwe and soon the region. To do this successfully we need to tear down our silos and start working collaboratively for the benefit of our children’s future and our continents success.”
This year the retired swimming sensation, was appointed Chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission.
She was unanimously elected to the Executive Board replacing outgoing Chair, Angela Ruggiero, at the winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang early this year.
Kirsty is also is a member of the ANOCA Athlete’s Commission and vice-president of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.