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International Inspiration stays true to vision to help kids

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LONDON – Debbie Lye gets the chills telling success stories spawned from International Inspiration, a U.K. organization that helps children in Third World countries flourish via sports.

Rewinding to 2005, Lye remembers when Seb Coe, the chair of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, made a promise to inspire young children of underdeveloped countries through the power of sports.

Lye’s favorite part of International Inspiration is the success stories of that pledge.

“We want to enrich the lives of 12 million children and young people of all abilities, in schools and in communities across the world, through the power of high-quality inclusive physical education and programs,” Lye said.

So far, the results abound.

One shining example comes from Bangladesh, where 18-year old Noor Begum, a self-taught swimmer, saved a young girl from drowning. In Bangladesh alone, around 17,000 children drown each year.

Amazed by her story, International Inspiration invited her to take the first swim at the London 2012 Aquatic Center as an example of Coe’s promise coming to life.

Begum had never been on a plane, but before she knew it she was standing in Trafalgar Square to the cheers of hundreds inspired by her story.

Lye recalls Begum telling her she never fathomed opportunities, until International Inspiration.

“Knowing that young people have been touched in some way by the program is the best part,” she said.

To ensure more stories like Begum’s, U.K. Sport works closely with the British Council and UNICEF UK to strengthen the organization. A charitable foundation, International Inspiration exists through this partnership, private supporters and the II Foundation.

The program reaches 20 countries, such as Jordan and Malaysia, where opportunities for young children to prosper are limited.

“In Jordan, there are all types of seclusion,” said Tom Burstow, the head of International Inspiration at UNICEF UK. “Sports have been able to convene all sorts of children and break down those barriers that exist.”

International Inspiration aims to engage communities and help children overcome prevalent issues in their countries that may hold them back, such as crime, discrimination and gang involvement.

There are 273 International Inspiration schools overseas linked with the 273 schools stationed in the U.K. Overall, around 113,000 teachers, coaches and young leaders have been trained to lead in sports and physical education.

Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council, stresses the importance of international collaboration, the main goal of the foundation.

“It’s not just about ‘pen pals,’” he said. “It’s about working together, about young people becoming globally aware but also globally fluent and safe.”