Foulis church using cricket to keep youths grounded

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By Avenash Ramzan

The Foulis Elim Pentecostal Church is located at Third Street, Foulis, Enmore. On a good day, it has a congregation of about 60. Small you’d say, but the vision of the church leaders is quite the opposite.

The East Coast Demerara church, led by Pastor Mahendra Sharma, is using the game of cricket to channel positive energy among youths, many of whom come from broken homes and are usually susceptible to life’s dangers and negativity.

Efforts to have the youth arm of the church meaningfully occupied in their spare time began in 2014, with Pastor Sharma and his team contending that sport was a powerful tool that could help to minimise the negativity that youths of the community are exposed to.

That simple idea led to the formation of the Royal Rangers Cricket Club, which has constantly been growing in terms of its membership.

Pastor Mahendra Sharma guiding this youth on a proper technique

“If their recreation time is not being spent in a meaningful way, kids, because of their nature and energetic abilities, they try to utilise that in the other way. And one of the things that they could turn to is drugs, and from drugs it leads to crime and then what happens is that your community or the society in which you’re living in becomes unsafe and no moral attributes remain,” Pastor Sharma, a stickler for fitness and healthy lifestyle, explained.

He continued, “Our primary goal is to get the kids away from drugs and help them to become very good and disciplined individuals, and you’d agree that sport plays a key role in doing that.”

Leonard Joseph

Youth Leader Leonard Joseph highlighted that apart from having the youngsters participate in cricket and other disciplines (football, basketball, domino etc.), they have been very vocal in encouraging them to stay in school and earn a solid academic foundation.

“We’re very big on that. Every session we would encourage them and talk to them about the importance of school. Education is a must; it’s important,” Joseph said.

Joseph added that while he never had the opportunity to further his education, he understands how important it is to now be an advocate at the church. He pointed out that the church would usually assist the youngsters in whatever areas they may fall short, in terms of being properly equipped to function effectively at school.

Pastor Sharma said that apart from digging into their own pockets to fund the club, they have received support in the form of gear from former national wicketkeeper batsman Sheik Mohamed and his business Star Sports Trophies and Awards of Enmore.

The youths currently train in the church yard, but Pastor Sharma said they are hoping to secure the playground at 18th Street Foulis. He noted that a committee has been set up and is currently in discussion with the Buxton/Foulis Neighbourhood Democratic Council in this regard.

The ground the church is working to acquire

If this comes to fruition it would significantly help the church and the club to realise the long-term goal of producing well-rounded individuals who can make a positive mark on society.

“We want them to grow up to be good husbands, good fathers, and more so explore their sporting abilities so they can go to the highest level because everything starts from grassroot, and that is what we’re doing here. So we’re hoping they can utilise their capabilities and reach to that level where we can all be proud. We’re also instilling the spiritual attributes as well, because the church needs to get out to the community and that is one of the things that drives us,” Pastor Sharma explained.

Guyana Amazon Warriors players with the Royal Rangers Cricket Club youths

During the Guyana leg of the Hero Caribbean Premier League recently, the youths were special guests of Digicel, through that company’s Youth Cricket Series.

Apart from viewing the game against St. Lucia Stars at Providence, they were given the opportunity to interact with the Guyana Amazon Warriors players, a moment Pastor Sharma said they are indeed grateful for.

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